Friday, January 9, 2009

Meet Sister Neva, O.S.B!

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Sister Mary Gibson (r), who last Tuesday received her habit as a postulant in the order of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, also received her new religious name: Sister Maria de la Neva (Sister Mary of the Snow, or, Sister Neva for short). Being a "cheesehead" who got her degree from St. Thomas, that's a pretty fitting name. Thanks to her proud Dad, Jack Gibson for the information.


The first step of formation is admittance as a postulant. The word postulant comes from postulare, to ask or to demand a chance. The aspirant requests admittance as such, and begins to live with the community. She receives a Miraculous Medal, which continues to be worn through each stage of our life, wears a black dress with a leather belt, and a short veil during postulancy. No commitments are exchanged. She is given a course in basic spiritual and doctrinal principles, and learns the ropes of day-to-day living. The postulant is asking God and asking the community to receive her into this particular family. If, after several months she has discerned that she “belongs,” she may ask to be clothed in the habit and be admitted as a novice.

Her petition having been accepted, the postulant approaches her clothing day, or “Investiture.” St. Gertrude called the day of her Investiture the beginning of her conversion, and rightly so. Here, a decisive break from the world occurs, though prudence and Canon Law prohibit vows until the candidate has proved herself. The postulant dons a wedding gown to embark upon the long journey of her final and resolute espousal to Christ. She declares her intention before the community, her family and the Church. Her hair is cut as a sign of her renunciation of self, and she retires to replace her wedding gown with a long, black tunic. Each additional part of the habit is given to her with a prayer, including the white veil. Finally, as a sign of the new life which she has begun (hence the word “novice”) she is given a lit candle and her new name. Two years of intense prayer and preparation, with more detailed studies and formation in the monastic virtues follow.


When her time of novitiate is complete, the novice prostrates before the community to ask our prayers and permission to make her vows to God and before her Prioress for a period of three years, hence, the term "triennial vows". If accepted, the novice processes into Mass on the day of her First Profession with a lit candle, just as she exited her Investiture with one. Her profession by which she vows Obedience, Stability and Conversion of Life is within the context of a very symbolic and very rich, traditional ceremony before the Offertory verse of the Mass.

As it is too long to describe, you are encouraged to request of us copies of the Mass and ceremony for your enjoyment. She receives a black veil as a symbol of her death to the world and her candle is offered to the Bishop as a symbol of her oblation.


The three-year period is to ratify with time, the earnestness of the Benedictine. It is a measure of prudence the Church requires as a confirmation of a genuine vocation. The intention of one who makes First Profession is always to be able to persevere unto Final, or Solemn Profession. She continues her studies and formation. In fact, Benedictines are always studying and being formed one way or the other! Web Page

The Stella Borealis post on her investiture may be found here.










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