14th prioress says God leads us with love

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Prioress Anita Louise Lowe hugs former Prioress Barbara Lynn Schmitz after Lowe's installation at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand on Saturday. Lowe will serve for six years as the Sisters of St. Benedict's 14th prioress.


FERDINAND — As Sister Anita Louise Lowe, 54, lay prostrate on the floor of the church gallery at Monastery Immaculate Conception Saturday, a sense of peace came over the order’s new prioress.

The moment came during the Litany of the Saints in Lowe’s rite of installation as the order’s 14th prioress. Lowe lay in the aisle amidst her fellow sisters — whom she will now lead — as they sang over her. Up until that point, Lowe recalled, her day had been hectic and full of nerves, with the exception of a few moments of quiet she took for personal prayer when she first woke up at 6 a.m. and right before lining up to process into the gallery.

“Now there’s a real sense of joy and peace about what’s next in the next six years,” Lowe said.

Lowe will serve a six-year term as the prioress of the Sisters of St. Benedict at Monastery Immaculate Conception, serving as the order’s spiritual and managerial leader, as well as the community’s official representative to the Roman Catholic Church and the community as a whole.

Although she was elected prioress in June after a yearlong discernment process within the community, her term did not officially begin until her rite of installation Saturday. The Mass — led by Rev. Kurt Stasiak, archabbot of Saint Meinrad Archabbey — began with the sisters processing into the church, led by former prioress Sister Barbara Lynn Schmitz, Lowe and Jeanne Weber, president of the Federation of St. Gertrude.

The federation consists of 13 member monasteries and two affiliated ecumenical communities of Benedictine women in the U.S. and Canada and serves as an avenue to collaboration for the communities.

After the procession, the Mass continued with a Liturgy of the Word that included readings from the Book of Wisdom, the Psalms, Philippians and the Gospel of John. Stasiak also delivered a homily in which he celebrated the time of transition for the sisters at Monastery Immaculate Conception and offered peace and camaraderie to Lowe, as he is himself the leader of a religious order.

Prioress Anita Louise Lowe lies prostrate during the Litany of Saints at her installation at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand on Saturday.

“Our task is an awesome one, but it is not impossible,” he said.

Following the homily, Weber led the rite of installation that officially transitioned leader of the monastery from Schmitz to Lowe. At the end of the rite came the Litany of the Saints when Lowe prostrated on the floor, a symbol of her role as a servant leader.

According to the Rule of Saint Benedict, Weber said during the rite, a prioress takes the place of Christ among her order, serving as a spiritual leader from a position of love and service to those she is leading.

The Mass concluded with the eucharist, communion and many blessings.

In the weeks since she was elected prioress, Lowe said, the refrain from the psalm selected for the Mass has stayed with her.

The psalm states, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should walk.”

“I do believe that God instructs each of us,” Lowe said in a press conference following her installation. “Love, I think is the way that God leads us.”

Trust, both in God and in the sisters who chose her to lead them, is another idea that has stuck with Lowe.

During her time as prioress, Lowe plans to lead according to the direction statements the community created in March. The biggest call in those statements, Lowe said, is focusing on the sisters’ identity as Benedictine women and what it means to live that life of service to others.

Rev. Kurt Stasiak, archabbot at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, leads the church in a prayer of blessing for Prioress Anita Louise Lowe during her installation at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand on Saturday.

Over the last few years, Lowe said, the community has been doing a lot of necessary construction and maintenance work on their facilities, shoring up their physical foundations. As that is winding down, Lowe said, the sisters are turning more of their focus to their community and shoring up their foundation as Benedictine women. Part of that, Lowe said, is recruiting new members and discerning how to respond to the changing needs of the community and world they seek to serve.

“The three really build on each other,” she said.

As Lowe leads Monastery Immaculate Conception over the next six years, she will draw on the wisdom of God and her sisters, as well as the wisdom she has gained over her 30 years in the order.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Lowe joined the order in 1987. Over the last three decades, she has been the director of liturgy, an English and French teacher, assistant director of communications, public relations manager, assistant director of vocations and a director of vocations.

She is the daughter of the late David and Mildred (Geywitz) Lowe. She has a sister, Teresa (Greg) Buehler, of Louisville, and two late sisters — Jane Lowe and Jean Lowe. Teresa and Greg attended the installation Saturday.

As Lowe embarks on her time as prioress, she said she plans to keep a call for wisdom and peace in the forefront of her mind, along with the recognition that God grants both.

“That gives me hope,” she said. “Hope to continue to trust that God is leading us.”

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