July 20, 2016 // Local

Fort Wayne woman professes perpetual vows to eremitical life

Sister Nancy Frentz prays during the litany of the Mass on the feast of St. Benedict who was himself, a hermit.

‘You need the quiet to hear Him’

“Only in a profoundly dark night do the stars brightly shine.”  —  St. Benedict

By Jodi Marlin 

Read Bishop’s homily here.

On the feast day of St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western Monasticism, a Fort Wayne resident committed her future to his example of interior transformation by removing oneself from the world.

Sister Nancy Frentz professed perpetual vows of diocesan hermitage on July 11 at the St. Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel, during a 6 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and concelebrated by Father Mark Gurtner, Msgr. John Seltzer and Father Adam Schmitt, with the assistance of Deacon Eric Burgener. The intentional simplicity of the evening’s event underscored the lifestyle to which Sister Frentz has ascribed.

It was in Subiaco, Italy, at the age of 17, that St. Benedict began his consecrated life and his life as a hermit, Bishop Rhoades told those in attendance. Later, many would follow him; he would found monasteries with communities of monks at Subiaco, and later at Monte Cassino.

“I remember visiting the monastery in Subiaco that was built around the original cave where Saint Benedict lived for three years as a hermit,” he said. Over the door of the entrance courtyard of the monastery is an inscription in Latin, which translated reads: ‘If you searched for the light, Benedict, why did you chose a dark cave? A cave doesn’t offer the light you desire. Why have you gone to darkness to seek radiant light?’ The answer is inscribed: ‘Only in a profoundly dark night do the stars brightly shine.’”

During those three years Benedict was transformed through his prayer in solitude, Bishop Rhoades continued. He grew in wisdom and holiness through the Holy Spirit’s action in his soul. While Sister Frentz will not live her eremitical life in a cold, damp cave, he noted, she will spend most of her day in prayerful solitude to allow the Holy Spirit to act in her soul.

“We pray today that, like St. Benedict, Sister Nancy will continue to grow in wisdom and holiness.”

Sister Frentz came to Catholicism at the age of 41. While fulfilling her roles as a mother and grandmother, she grew in the Faith; even exploring religious life, but discerning that it was not her calling. She also spent several years as a sort of assistant — called an “extern” — for another woman who had taken eremitical vows.

Now a great-grandmother, Sister Frentz said she has come into a great appreciation for quiet and silence as the best medium through which to hear the Lord speak and express His will for our lives. It was during such moments that she determined Jesus was asking her to spend the remaining years of her life in a lifestyle with which she was already somewhat familiar.

Sister Frentz acquires the title of “Sister” as an outward reflection of this life. Her new Rule of Life dictates that the majority of her time will be spent in prayer and reflection, including prayers for priests, the sick and dying, and for the holy souls in Purgatory. She will, however, also engage in limited forays outside of the place she calls home, receive news and information as she wishes; and engage in occasional communication by phone or Internet.

In the Old Testament reading for St. Benedict’s feast day, from the book of Wisdom, Sister Frentz, members of her family and friends heard sage advice about the search for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, which is like searching for a treasure.

“This search is important in our life, whatever our particular vocation,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Yet, the hermit’s search is a witness to all of us where we will truly find wisdom since, as Proverbs teaches: “It is the Lord who gives wisdom. A person’s heart must be in the right place. The heart is the place of encounter, the place of covenant. It is where God speaks to us.

“In the silence and solitude of her eremitical life, Sister Nancy ponders in her heart the Word of God, and her ears are attentive to God’s wisdom. Her life, the eremitical life, is a special vocation in the Church and reminds all of us of the importance of the encounter with God in prayer, of opening our hearts to the wisdom and love of the Lord.”

More photos available in the photo gallery.

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