Building Blocks of the Benedictine Community: Vowed Members and Oblates

We find life and energy in the relationship of vowed members and oblates and seek ways to nurture those connections. Those oblates who live near their monasteries are grateful for physical connection with the monastery: “being in the monastery makes me feel at home.” The vowed members and oblates provide companionship and mentoring for each other and learn from each other. Although each person expresses his/her own authentic way of living Benedictine spirituality, there is energy in being with the larger community.

Community provides opportunity for connection with people, others who share similar values and work on the same causes. It is a safe space for conversation and deep listening, even when disagree. There is a sense of belonging that sustains us.

Stability, a commitment to our own community, teaches us the value of not running from self but working through challenges and disagreements. This and other elements of Benedictine spirituality free us to become the fullest version of ourselves and we continually seek to nurture those aspects in our call to daily commitment.

We work to build relationships based on the Benedictine values of listening, humility, and hospitality and we look for ways to offer opportunities to share with others what we experience at our monasteries, and to learn about Benedictinism. Some of this is now done virtually.

Some of us would like more opportunities to live with vowed members, to experience their life of community, prayer and work. We long for the silence and solitude the monastery can offer.

There is general unease around the prospect of monasteries “coming to completion” and what will become of connected oblate communties. Some believe that a core, vowed monastic community is essential to the support of oblate life. Others are confident that as monasteries decline in numbers, new kinds of “communities” will arise, even in the digital world.

  1. How do oblates come to see their role as more fundamental and become self-directed? (This may be similar to the process of Vatican II Renewal for women religious.) What is blocking their taking on this responsibility—their other commitments and needs that come first? Feelings of inadequacy or lack of preparation (real or imagined)? The sisters not willing to cede control?

  2. If oblates are to “take more responsibility” for sustaining, leading, and sharing the Benedictine charism, what initiative/steps must oblates take and what spaces/tools could vowed members provide?

  3. How do we begin to envision possible new models of oblate leadership? How might those models co-exist with the leadership of vowed communities? Are there areas of shared leadership? What are they? What sort of leadership training is needed? Are oblates willing/able to make the time commitment it will take to exercise leadership? Are vowed members willing to recognize the leadership ability of oblates?

  4. How do we assist some vowed members to become more comfortable with oblates in leadership roles? How do we help some oblates realize they are not community members, sometimes vowed members need their own time?

  5. Vowed members know detailed histories of their monasteries. How much do oblates know of the history of their monasteries? Is this important for carrying the tradition forward or is general Benedictine history enough? Why or why not?