I am Sister Mary-Constance, an Oblate of the House of Initia Nova Benedictine community. Although our House in Bondville, Vermont is nestled among the mountains there, I live just outside sub-tropical Houston, Texas. We are a dispersed community with members in many states and the UK and yet it never feels to me that we are apart from our brothers and sisters.
The journey to full oblation was a long, circuitous one, without a map I was able to follow, but as the Rascal Flatts’ tune goes, “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”
Raised in Washington, D.C. by a successful band leader father and a great partner mother who worked for the Treasury Department, we were immersed in both a highly creative and extensively culturally diverse place. Political administrations and their visions came and went; existential threats of the cold war dogged us; protests of every stripe colored daily life. By and large though, the community focused on developing a sense of brotherhood and striving to create a better world as they saw it.
One of Dad’s contributions was to bring big shows overseas (for free) to entertain troops, so there were often musicians, dancers, singers and other acts visiting. Mama joined some of those trips and also participated in a variety of civic, patriotic and service groups, often engaging one or more of us three sisters in the process. While they did not attend church regularly given Dad’s work hours, I cannot remember a time when we were not serving to improve life for someone – serving dinner to soldiers at the USO, rolling bandages for missionaries home spell before returning, crafting items for the church fall festival. Service to others wove it all together. It was fascinating, energizing and fun.
Focus on serving continued through academic studies at Virginia Tech, in the heart of Appalachia, whose motto Ut Prosim (“that I may serve”) grounded everything we learned and did and continues today. Graduate studies, too, focused on improvement and in that process, I became a performance consultant. Gradually, I realized that politicians, business leaders and academics, no matter their character or promises, could not of their own will alone, bring about peace, justice, and a decent standard of living to all. Rhetoric, no matter how inspiring, of itself couldn’t do that either. What or rather Who could?
I entered spiritual direction for many years, became a sister in the Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK), and eventually met our Abbot Michael-John Austin and Sister Sophia when they began attending St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church nearby. A dear sister DOK invited me to dinner at the Abbey then in Houston. I grew to know community members over the next couple of years and began study. In 2015, I was received and in 2016 made my full oblation.
Aiming to live the Rule is challenging and yet enormously freeing. It is faithful to the Gospel and at the same time so very practical. It infuses daily life with the breath of the Spirit – directing, supporting and nourishing my professional work in the world, most recently in Mozambique – work done in His name and for His glory with thanksgiving.
You can find more about the House of Initia Nova here.