Exciting News for DioNEB from Br. James Dowd
The time has arrived for me to share, with great joy, some important news of my life and vocation with all of you. As many of you know, during these past two years, I have been discerning the direction of my vocation, sensing that God was calling me in a different direction than my community – the Order of the Holy Cross. Throughout this process, there has been no doubt that I am a monk and would continue to be one. Monasticism is so central to who I am that I cannot imagine living my life in any other way.
But there are many expressions of the monastic life and it has been becoming increasingly obvious that I had to respond to that call. Hospitality is central to Benedictine life, and, in fact, in Chapter 53 of the Rule of Benedict (the Rule that Benedictine monks live by) it states that “Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received.” That connection of offering hospitality to and being present with both the poor and the seeker (pilgrim) has defined for me what it means to be both active and contemplative. And, in order to do so, a change had to be made.
And so, after much prayerful discernment I have requested that my membership in the Order of the Holy Cross be terminated. That request was granted late last week. I will be forever grateful for Holy Cross – for many years of prayer and service alongside good men. While this is not easy for any of us, it became very clear that it was the right thing to do.
On Tuesday, January 30th, I renewed (re-upped, if you will) my vow as a Benedictine monk with Bishop J. Scott Barker and the Diocese of Nebraska at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, with my vow of stability being planted here in this diocese. My call to live a contemplative life combined with service to the poor and marginalized of our culture has been fully embraced by Bishop Barker and this Diocese. For me, this combination of the contemplative and active is exactly right and I am incredibly grateful to Bishop Barker and so many in the diocese for affirming and encouraging this call.
Our goal is nothing less than planting Benedictine life in the Diocese of Nebraska. We see that as a three-step process:
The first step is, well, me. By living here, paying here, and being given the great privilege of having already ministered in this geographically vast diocese, we have begun to establish the presence of Benedictine spirituality.
The second step is well underway and is called the Benedictine Service Corps which is scheduled to commence in August of this year. The Benedictine Service Corps (BSC) is a new Christian community plant in the Diocese, living in the context of Benedictine spirituality, according to a modified Rule of Benedict. Young adults interested in growing their lives of prayer, service and hospitality to community, especially among the poor and those searching for God, and the care for creation will be the members of this community. Already we have young adults who have committed to this year of service and others still who are seriously discerning it.
The third step will be called the Community of St. Benedict and will be a way of life for monastics and non-monastics to seek and serve God in the context of Benedictine spirituality. More on that in the next few months!
To serve God as a Benedictine monk is, for me, an awesome calling. It brings me so much joy that it’s sometimes hard to contain. With each passing year of my vowed life, I have often been more and more humbled by the “awe-someness” of what it means to be a Benedictine monk. I am eternally grateful to all those who have helped me to be that monk. But there is so much more monastic to “become”. Please pray with me during this time of transition and as we dive joyfully into the future. Peace in Christ.
Br. James, OSB