Sister Judith Ann Criner

I first thought about religious life while in grade school at Sacred Heart in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. The Benedictine Sisters were the faculty for this parish school. My parents felt that I was too young to make a life decision, so they asked me to wait until after high school to consider religious life.

During high school, I was a normal teenager – doing what teenagers of that time did. I dated and went to dances, football games and interacted with “the guys”. However, as I approached the end of my junior year in high school, I still had the thought of religious life to deliberate. At Greensburg Central Catholic High School, I was taught by six orders of religious so I had a large selection to consider. I became very interested in the Sisters of Charity in Greensburg. After working at Seton Hill College for a summer, I realized that the Sisters of Charity was a large Community and I was really looking for one that was smaller and had a “family atmosphere”. My attention once again turned toward my grade school teachers – the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.

My immediate family was supportive, but my father tried to persuade me to consider other religious communities. He felt that the Benedictine Community was too strict (at the time I considered entering, Benedictine women did not go home to visit). He arranged for me to visit his friend whose daughter was home from her Community – the Sisters of St. Joseph. While I knew that not coming home again would be very difficult because of our close knit family, I really wanted to try the Benedictine life.

My friends and some of my teachers could not believe that I wanted to enter religious life. One of my teachers told me that he gave me only a week before I would return home. He felt that I was too outgoing to “be a nun”. Every time I see him I remind him that I am still in the Community.

I entered the Community on August 29 – Foundation Day - following my high school graduation. It was a “leap of faith” for me – and for my family. My Dad was particularly happy when the Community permitted Sisters to go for home visits. I was able to go home the spring after I entered.

Benedictine life has changed since I first entered the Community. Many of the rules that were designed for uniformity have been relaxed. I think that this has created a Community that is much stronger and committed to the Rule of St. Benedict and the Gospel. The Sisters realize that each one of us is responsible to each other and for each other on the Journey. The Community has grown more open to one another, more open to the world in which we live, and more open to inviting others to join us in our pilgrimage of faith.

I am passionate about helping others – through prayer – through work – through any means that I have that can assist someone else. Family and friends, a deepening faith life and good times and bad times have enabled me to become the person that I am. I was once told that I am too much of a Pollyanna – I have the tendency to see the bright side. This was not said as a positive statement, but it is a part of me that I value. I truly believe that God is present – in the good times and in the bad times. There is always something of value that can be taken from the bad times – a piece of wisdom that makes you a better person – a stronger individual – a beacon of hope for someone who has lost faith – lost hope.

The Rule of St. Benedict gives me a wealth to strive toward – day by day – I start afresh in “transformation” to achieve the status of “a good monastic”. That is one thing that really brings hope to me – the ability to “start over” when one has failed – to walk the journey with others who will be there when I need assistance and who will accept my help along the way. It is comforting to know that another walks beside you on the journey.


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