Known by Our Habit … of Seeking God Together

Let clothing be given to the brethren according to the circumstances of the place and the nature of the climate in which they live…  Rule of Benedict

When the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery decided to hang up their traditional robes and adopt the dress of the day nearly 40 years ago, they joined thousands of Catholic Sisters across the country who were doing the same thing. Their decision was in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call to women religious to renew their congregations in the spirit of their founders in order to meet the needs of the times. While a seemingly minor matter – Shall we wear a uniform or not? – the question continues to be debated by people everywhere today.

“I want to be one of God’s people, seeking God with others, and not set apart from others,” Sr. Bobbi Bussan, OSB, says. “That said, people know I’m a nun all the time. I’ll be in the checkout lane at a grocery store and the clerk will say, Thanks Sister. I’m not sure how they know. Maybe it’s our personality.”

That, and the gold ring engraved with IHS (the beginning initials of the Latin words

for Jesus, Savior of the World) worn on the left finger. Many Sisters wear a pin as well. But ask a Benedictine what she wants to be known for, and she won’t answer jewelry or fashion.

“When I was a kid, I wondered what the Sisters wore under their habits,” Sr. Bobbi says. “I wondered if they had hair, and what it looked like. I wondered how hot they got in the sun. It was very mysterious. But those aren’t the mysteries I want to be known for. I want to be known for loving and seeking God. I want my uniform to be that I pray and seek God together with my community.”

Postulant (soon to be Novice) Jackie Walsh says – like Sr. Bobbi - community was what drew her to the Benedictine monastic lifestyle.

“I chose this life with these women,” Jackie says. “If they had been wearing a habit, I would be wearing one, too. But the point for me is community. We live here together, pray together, eat together. Many communities don’t do any of that. The Sisters live their own lives in apartments. I lived alone for years. I wanted to share my life with those who were, like me, seeking God. That’s what it’s all about.”