A New Paradigm Of An Old Tradition
Mutual Mentoring Inside a Monastic Community
Relationship between generations
Another example that my prioress gave me was novice Catherine. Catherine makes an effort to get to know both the young and the old in our community. She has struck up a relationship with our oldest member in community, Sister Carla, who is ninety-eight, and often you will pass by the community room and see the two playing checkers.
Benedict seemed to recognize the mutual mentoring that needs to transpire between the younger and the older members in a community when he said in chapter 4, "The Tools of Good Works," that everyone is to respect the elderly and to love the younger (RB 4.70-71). And again, in chapter 63, verse 10 he wrote: "The younger monks, then, must respect their seniors, and the seniors must love their juniors." I marvel at the mutual mentoring that I see happening every day between our younger members and our elderly sisters.
When I was in vocation work and would put a team of sisters together to be with the women who would visit us for a weekend or a week in the summer, I learned quickly that the women want to share with the elderly members as well as the young near their age. One summer one of our sisters, who was over ninety at the time, asked if she could be on the team. Well, I thought, why not? She was the hit of the week. The women would sit at her feet at night and listen to her stories. She, in turn, had an entirely new image of what we were trying to accomplish by having interested women visit us for a week. I think this helped her see the younger women who were looking at religious life in a new light. This ninety-plus sister also sold the rest of her age group on our vocation program. She told others, "They are not playing games all the time. My, they have deep discussions and really share about deep matters." She felt enriched by being part of the week and asked to help the following summer. I believe that our vocation weekends and vocation weeks have been wonderful opportunities of mutual mentoring.
Many of our new members will spend a lot of time visiting our elderly and infirmed sisters. In fact, we just began a companion program in which a younger sister is matched with a sister who can no longer drive and get around on her own. We also have prayer partners within the community. We mix young and old at the common table so there is mutual mentoring happening all the time.