Wendy Olin makes Final Monastic Profession
Sister Wendy Olin made her Final Monastic Profession on Saturday, August 9 in the presence of family, friends and her Benedictine community of the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. “The highlight for me was the Suscipe,” said Sister Wendy, referring to the prayer sung on her knees at the altar. “It’s that total giving: ‘here I am.’ I sang it and the community sang it back. It summarized me giving myself to God and to my community for life – and my community receiving me.”
Her vocation as a Benedictine Sister began developing when she was a college student at the University of Nevada, Reno. At that time she had plans for her future – none of which included becoming a Catholic nun. But then circumstances led her to her first encounter with a Catholic church. Her sorority little sister, Denise, asked for a ride to the hospital to visit her grandmother who was in critical health. On the way home, she told Wendy to drop her off at the cathedral so she could attend Mass. When they got there, her friend invited her to come in with her. Never having set foot in a Catholic church, Wendy was reluctant. She agreed, however, feeling it would help comfort her friend.
Inside the cathedral, Wendy remembers feeling the overwhelming presence of something bigger than her. She returned to attend Mass every week afterward and joined the Catholic Church in 1975. Two years later, Wendy took her first elementary teaching job in Grandview, Idaho. While attending a teacher’s workshop in Sun Valley, she met Sister Mary Anne Glodowski, a Benedictine nun from St. Gertrude’s. They became friends and Sister Mary Anne invited her to visit the Monastery of St. Gertrude in 1986. “From the moment I walked into the chapel, I felt I belonged here,” recalled Wendy. “I felt I’d prayed these prayers and sung these songs before.” She then began to visit more frequently, hearing an ever-growing call to the monastic life. Sister Wendy made her First Monastic Profession in 2010.
She then served as curator at the Historical Museum of St. Gertrude. In 2012, she came to deeply consider a question that is often heard around the Monastery: What gives me life? In her discernment, Sister Wendy realized that working with people, especially children, gave her life; as well as having variety and the opportunities to be outside. Soon she received an opportunity to train as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist (PSR) and now works in a Special Education classroom. “I thoroughly enjoy it,” she says. “No two days are the same. It is a ministry and a mission to work with these kids.” Sister Wendy has a wide range of educational experience. She spent 14 years as an elementary teacher in a variety of settings – from a regular classroom to a two-room school house in Ola, ID.
As an educator working with children with behavioral challenges, Sister Wendy spends her days teaching kids to be peacemakers. Her guidance addresses not just interactions among the students but with negotiating the conflicting impulses from within. “I teach coping skills and communication skills,” she explains. “I tell them to take ‘never’ and ‘always’ out of their vocabularies – to regard the big scheme of things.” She beams as she recounts a story of a boy who was shoved out of line by another student and then volunteered to go to the back of the line to avoid a fight. “They have to choose their battles.”
She appreciates that her job also gives time for her to meet her monastic obligations as a Benedictine Sister and participate in her local Boise community. She serves in the music ministry at her local parish playing the flute and guitar. This summer, she worked helping to feed troops in training in Fort Grayling, Michigan.
For Sister Wendy, her Monastic Profession ceremony inspires an orientation to service. “I laid myself on the altar as Christ did. My life is no longer my own.”