Meet Sister Jacquelyn Ernster
Meet Sister Jacquelyn Ernster
“I had been thinking of becoming a Sister before I had met the Yankton Benedictines, but I felt I wasn’t ready to make that commitment.” That changed in 1957 when Jacquelyn Ernster first encountered the Yankton Benedictine Sisters while taking classes at Mount Marty. She shares, “I was very impressed with how knowledgeable the Sisters were and how personable they were, so the combination of those two things led me to make the choice to stay here.”
There were a number of people that were influential in her call to the Benedictine way of life. “S. Eileen Neville was a mentor of mine. Many other Sisters were coming back from graduate school also, but I was in her English class.” Jacquelyn thought she was still in the process of discerning, but that process was fast-forwarded when S. Eileen made an appointment for her to talk to Mother Jerome (the prioress of the time). “I remember sitting down on the couch and Mother Jerome handed me a list of things to bring, so I thought, I guess the discernment process is over!”
Sister Jacquelyn shares, “Witnessing the sisters serving and benefiting from the wisdom of the elder Sisters, the openness of the community to new things, and having a place where I could grow and try new things, all brought me peace in knowing this was the right choice for me.” A huge benefit of religious life is that community is there for one in a variety of ways. It provides a sense of belonging, a sense of mentoring, and a sense of growing and living faithfully throughout one’s life. Also those sisters and community call forth from one strengths that one didn’t know one had.
Sister Jacquelyn shares her thoughts about the future of religious life: “The trend for Religious life in the US is on the downhill of the cycle; communities are getting smaller and so what excites me about religious life is that it is the belief that this is cyclical and it isn’t ending. If we are on the downside now, there will be new life in the future. It is a living out of the Paschal mystery. The task before us now is to let go of what was and think about what we can do to enable those younger to begin to plant a seed of what it could be; letting go can be a difficult process. With wise leadership it certainly can happen.
There are many cycles in Benedictine history where Benedictines flourished and it was on a decline. The new life came in a new form and then it built again. So we have the witness of the past to lead us into the future and bring us hope.”
She gives advice about religious life those contemplating such a step in life: “Decisions about life are made based upon relationships. If you are considering religious life, you need to find a religious that can speak to you, that can tell you why this might be a good idea. If there is a particular interest in a certain community involving the family into the discernment process, this can also help foster an understanding of “the call.”
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