Sister Sandra Brunenn re-elected prioress by Rock Island Benedictine community
ROCK ISLAND — Sister Sandra Brunenn, OSB, has been chosen by the Benedictine community at St. Mary Monastery to continue as prioress for the next four years. She was installed during a simple ceremony immediately after her election on April 4.
A festive brunch followed for the community’s 39 members and their guests. Among them were Sister Kerry O’Reilly, OSB, president of the Federation of St. Benedict, who presided at the installation, and Sister Mary Jane Vergotz, OSB, facilitator of the discernment process that led to Sister Sandra’s re-election.
“I have felt the last four years, being leader, was a very humbling experience for me. I have been in awe of the willingness of the Sisters to participate in leadership in whatever ways I have called on them to do,” Sister Sandra said, noting that this is what gives her the strength and the courage to accept another term as prioress.
The process of selecting a leader started in March, when the Benedictines held a daylong session to set the direction in which they wanted to go as a community. Not only did they discuss how to deepen and broaden their relationships with their volunteers and Oblates, but also how to enrich ministry at Benet House as a center of prayer, among other things.
“It’s all coming out of our deep sense that we are a community of hope,” Sister Sandra told The Catholic Post. “We are embracing the future by deepening and building these relationships and being very proactive in the ways we do that.”
Even though the community — like many other religious communities — has had the experience of becoming smaller, she said that doesn’t make them any less hopeful.
“We have gifts to share among ourselves and in the larger community and we hope to continue that now and into the future,” Sister Sandra said. “We see it as a time of transition and transformation, rather than a time of diminishment.”
The discernment process that took place last weekend allowed vital time for reflection on the gifts and skills that would be important in the next prioress, to do some sharing on that and really listen to each other, and to pray. In the end, this created a strong sense of unity and commitment, she said.
“The experience of the active support of the community to work together for what’s the best for us has been a great source of satisfaction,” said Sister Sandra, who is the 13th prioress of St. Mary Monastery. She also cited the enthusiasm of the newer members of the community and the commitment all of the Sisters have to be a community of hope in the future as causes for joy.
Sister Sandra professed her first vows with the Sisters of St. Benedict, then located at St. Mary Priory in Nauvoo, on July 11, 1962. Her ministry in the Diocese of Peoria has included teaching at Holy Family in Peoria, St. Anthony is Atkinson, St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo, and Alleman High School in Rock Island, and serving as a campus minister at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois.
She was pastoral associate at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Coal Valley when she was first elected prioress in 2012.