Sister Edith, who blogs at Monastic Musings, reports on a happy Graduation Day up at St Scholastica this month.
We celebrated graduation at the College yesterday, including that of one very special sister who has been living, praying, and sharing Tanzanian culture with us for the last five years: Sister Valentina Pilla, a Benedictine of St. Gertrude Convent, Imiliwaha, Tanzania. A colleague and I exhibited unprofessional behavior: we stood and cheered as she walked across the stage. We knew how much hard work, perseverence, and courage were wrapped up in that moment, and had to express our admiration.
Several years ago - almost a decade - our monastery began a twinning relationship with a congregation of African Benedictines. We are challenged and enriched in our understanding of monastic life by our encounters with these sisters from halfway around the world. They are also involved in health care and education, through clinics and schools that they operate - but their sisters also grow tea and farm, make their own clothes, run printing presses, do dental work, and, in general, are more self-sufficient than we could ever dream of becoming. Their way of life is certainly edifying!
The twinning program opened the door for some sisters to study at our college - if they could brave our Duluth winters, master the art of multiple-choice exams, and get over all the hurdles of living in the high-tech culture of modern America. Sister Valentina is the first to finish a program at our college, having prepared to teach history and social studies in a program designed to meet the Tanzania government's requirements.
In true African style, we have partied for three days - Friday with the faculty and staff who encouraged her, Saturday with her American Mom and other friends, and Sunday with the monastic community. Today, Sister Valentina flew home to see her mother and her own community. It was not farewell, though. Her prioress has asked her to stay on an earn a Masters in Education, so that she can be a resource to the other sisters who teach in her community's schools. Undaunted - well, not TOO daunted - she will begin in January.
Bravo, Sister Valentina: job well done! Read more and see the photos!