Photo: Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB prays the suscipe where she begs God to receive her offering in response to the promise of eternal life. For more photos, please visit our blog.
Moments before the ceremony was to begin, Sister Jacqueline Steinbrenner, OSB leaned in close to Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB, took her gently by the hand and whispered, “You look beautiful.”
Sister Nancy Rose, her short brown hair covered by a delicate black veil trimmed in white, smiled with a glowing radiance and whispered back, “Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Sister Virginia Anne Argenziano, OSB pinned a flowered boutonniere on the lapel of proud father, John Gucwa, while guests entered with excitement into the sun-drenched Adoration Chapel of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Mo., on a gorgeous summer day.
It’s the closest thing to a wedding day a nun will ever have, and it was absolutely beautiful.
Then Sister Nancy Rose made her final monastic profession on Aug. 31 and sealed her commitment to a life devoted to Christ and her community of Sisters.
“This day of my final monastic profession is truly the happiest day of my life,” Sister Nancy Rose said after the ceremony.
The Staten Island (N.Y.) native and former finance professional made her first monastic profession in 2009. After serving in the military on active duty, she worked in banking and finance. She entered the Benedictine Sisters in 2006 and retired from the U.S. Army Reserves in 2008.
“This call drew you from your family home on Staten Island to destinations across the globe and ultimately to this monastery in rural Missouri,” Prioress General Sister Pat Nyquist, OSB said to her.
The rite of final monastic profession included Sister Nancy Rose’s promise to follow the vows of stability, conversatio and obedience according to the Rule of St. Benedict and to spend her entire life in generous service of Christ by serving her Sisters in community and God’s people through a life of prayer.
In the homily given by Abbot Gregory Polan, OSB of Conception Abbey, he congratulated Sister Nancy Rose on remaining true to her journey toward God’s calling, bringing together years of listening, waiting, wondering, deciding and discerning - all “at the invitation of God.” He smiled and said, “Your act of consecration gives all of us a chance to plunge deeper into our relationship with God.”
Abbot Gregory then echoed the thoughts of the desert tradition of monastic life, of how people are to remain in Christ, and said, “If a person does not say in his or her heart there is only myself and God in my world, that person does not know peace.”
During her admonition to Sister Nancy Rose, Sister Pat complimented her ability to give of herself freely and generously of her “God-given gifts.”
“Your acceptance of the strengths and weaknesses, the joys and sorrows, the plenty of the want of community life has been and is today a clarion sign of your desire and determination to bear fruit in and for God’s kingdom,” she said.
Sister Nancy Rose read aloud her profession document, which she signed and placed on the altar. Then she sang the musical suscipe with arms raised before the altar and sang the verse that begs God to receive her offering in response to the promise of eternal life, “Receive me Lord, according to your promise and I shall live; and disappoint me not in my hope.”
She then prostrated before the altar while the community of Sisters recited Psalm 51, asking God to create a pure heart and steadfast spirit, which are the monastic ideals.
Abbot Gregory then offered the prayer of consecration and said, “We implore you, then, to look with favor on Sister Nancy Rose, who stands before your altar and calls upon your name. Receive the prayer and offering which she makes today with repentance and tears. By your glorious power cleanse her of sin and fill her with our Spirit.”
Finally, Sister Pat placed a ring, a symbol of Christ, onto Sister Nancy Rose’s finger, cementing the bond to God and her community. “You are one who lives wholeheartedly,” Sister Pat told her. “Your exuberant response to this life is a witness and an inspiration to all of us. Hang onto that wholehearted exuberance even when the clouds and shadows appear, for surely they are the precursors to the grace of God breaking in. May this life, in all its fullness, be a source of God’s hundredfold blessing for you.”
Afterward, Sister Nancy Rose faced the audience, which erupted into applause, put her hands together in prayer and bowed slowly. Then she straightened, smiled and mouthed the words, “Thank you.” One by one, her community of Sisters lined up and hugged her with warmth and happiness.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a member of the first class that admitted women, Sister Nancy Rose was especially grateful to the family, friends and West Point classmates who attended the ceremony and witnessed this amazing part of her long journey.
“It made this special day even more special,” she said, “and I am deeply grateful to have been called to God to give my life to Christ and this monastic community.”