Becoming an oblate is one option open to women exploring a religious vocation. Nancy Rodgers, a Benedictine oblate from Fort Wayne, said oblates often don’t look any different than other women: They are not cloistered, desiring to work among the people. They don’t wear habits or outer accoutrements. But they do use their mighty gifts of prayer for others as they follow Jesus in His ministry.
Rodgers is a Central Catholic High School graduate with a bachelor’s degree in French from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, an M.A. in French and linguistics from the University of Notre Dame and teaching certifications in Spanish and Latin from Connecticut College. Rodgers was in her mid-50s when she first heard the call.
“I had been making retreats at St. Meinrad Archabbey for a few years, and decided to commit more fully to Benedictine spirituality,” she said. Her father had been a member of the Third Order of St. Francis.
“Father Meinrad Bruno was the oblate director at the time, and I expressed my desire to become an oblate to him. He welcomed me and after a year as an oblate novice, I made my oblation, taking the name ‘Corazon,’ which combined my love for the Sacred Heart and for Spanish, which I was teaching at the time.” She professed her vows in the presence of Benedictines in the Archabbey Church at St. Meinrad, along with two other oblates.
Rodgers volunteers at Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic and dresses in street clothes, preferring that her work and attitude speak for her beliefs and practices.
“I do wear a St. Benedict medal though, and consider it as precious as my wedding ring,” she said. She is celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary this year with her husband, Bill.
She became attracted to Benedictine spirituality not so much because of the person of St. Benedict himself, she said, but rather his ideas of moderation and frequent prayer drew her to the community.
“Every priest and brother at St. Meinrad that I met was kind, calm, prayerful and given to interesting, reflective conversation. One of my favorite contemporary writers is Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister. And if I were to say that I was drawn to a particular saint, I would have to mention St. Teresa of Avilla, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Dorothy Day.”
When asked what being a Benedictine oblate entailed, Rodgers shared her life of reflection.
“We are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours — vespers, lauds and compline — and to read and meditate upon the Rule of St. Benedict, practice lectio divina, visit the archabbey at least once a year for a retreat, and manifest our Benedictine life by service to our parish and community,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers also is a well-seasoned global traveler, frequently visiting France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, Mexico, Guatemala, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Canada and Poland. She still attends St. Meinrad retreats, which are “wonderful, thought-provoking, and lead to a sense of calm and renewed commitment,” she said.
“Think of a really good university-level lecture with a prayer intro and time for discussion. They are coed; some are mid-week, and others are on weekends. St. Meinrad also offers special retreats for select groups.
“What I take away from them is a sense of fellowship with other oblates, new and renewed enthusiasm for growing closer to God and for loving those He has created.”
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