Sister Mary Forman and Sister Kim Jordan
DescriptionSister Mary Forman (73) and Sister Kim Marie Jordan (66) talk about how they came to the Monastery of St. Gertrude. They share about being cancer survivors and the gifts that came with the disease, people who have inspired them and miracles they have experienced.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Sister Mary Forman
- Sister Kim Jordan
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
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00:00 I'm Sister Mary Forman. I am 73 years old. Today's date is Thursday, July 30th 2020. I am here at the monastery of st. Gertrude Cottonwood, Idaho and my conversation partner is Sister Kim Marie Jordan who is also a member of the community of the monastery of Saint Gertrude and she's been recently hired to be the operation director of the monastery. I'm the prioress which means the buck stops with me.
00:36 I'm Sister Kim Marie Jordan. I'm 66 years old. Today is Thursday, July 30th 2020 and we are talking to you from the monastery of st. Gertrude in Cottonwood Idaho. This is Sister Mary Forman. She's the prioress of our community. We are sisters not blood sisters but sisters and Community. That's right. Yes. So okay Kim. I've always been fascinated by your story and how you came to the monastery since you were a long before you can yeah, I
01:15 Actually came to the monastery for the first time in in 1997. I saw online when the internet was new, you know, nobody was really doing much with the internet back. Then I saw the pink Retreat volunteer program is called the monastic living experience and I applied and they let me come and I've never even known anyone who has been to Idaho. So I just came here and just with the intention of volunteering. I was taught by Benedictine sisters in it from in Kansas while I was growing up, right? Yeah, and so I just came here to volunteer for 2 weeks and it was a study it was a programmed it you it was it was about balance. You studied you prayed you worked with the sisters and you and you were created with them not to
02:15 Great, so I have no intention of becoming a sister but on my second day here.
02:23 I heard God's voice calling me here. And I was absolutely shocked. I couldn't believe that you know, God would want me to leave. I'm from Houston, Texas and I have my children were in their twenties back then and had left the home and I had a corporate job and a house and money and all this stuff and I just couldn't see how I could give it up. So I visited here a couple two or three times a year for 6 years trying to talk myself out of it cuz it was so
03:03 Different then coming from the fourth largest city in the United States and coming to a town that the populations about 900 and I didn't I kept trying to talk myself out of it cuz it was so countercultural.
03:21 But after about five and a half years I came and visited here with my dearest best friend who was also the pastor of my church in Houston Father John Robin and key.
03:38 You know kind of looked around the place and studied the sisters check that out. He said, you know, he said Kim I see you here and you will never know if you belong here or not, unless you try it. So he kind of gave me permission to two lives to the Williams Houston and come here and then he actually
04:06 Drove up here with me and my little Honda Civic and you know loaded to the brim with my stuff. We made kind of a week of it and then he became really good friends with all the sisters here and one of our greatest benefactor and we have his ashes he died in 2009 and his greatest wish was to be buried here. So we took an acre of Our Land by The Grotto up on the hillside of a resting place for agua dates and benefactors and Friends of the monastery to have their ashes Theory so frequently, I believe you too. Well, I love the story of how you came here because you had no intention. No no.
05:06 Diet help to start migrant clinic in Southern Idaho. And I had also been helping out with Retreats both when I was a college student and then afterwards I went to the vocation director for the diocese Father Bill wassmann whom I knew quite well from working on Retreats with him. I sat in this office and he said well, what are you up to? I said, well, I just want to know what I can do with my life. I could stay at the clinic. It's good work. I'm helping people. It's very fulfilling. What was your job then I started the pharmacy for a Ford Clinic operation to get it certified by the board would never had to do such a thing. But then I was always told you act more like a social worker than a pharmacist so you so we have this in common.
06:06 Anyway, I said to him I could continue at the clinics for filling work. I said or I really did want to get married, but the fellow I was in love with a pack of Seminary and the pillow I was dating was a wonderful human being but I didn't want to marry him or God help me. I could be a nun to me. Let's take the auction. You're pretty sure you don't want to do any said list all the reasons. You don't want to be a nun what I had a whole page and it came back several times and you look at the list and he said now you got to process each one of these what I discovered after processing each one of them talking to my mom talking to my friends said that wasn't reasons. None of them. They were all fears. So I had to work through the Pierce and then in the meantime, I started looking at some community.
07:06 But then the sisters Benedictine sisters from this community Corrine and Bernadette were working in the Nampa Caldwell area in Southern Idaho where the clinics works and I was teaching a religious education in Parish in each of those Town said marry. You have a car we have some women who want to come up to the monastery and make Retreat. Would you be willing to drive the car? I said, yes, as long as I don't have to make the retreat resistance what with a capital R and as I'm driving up here and it's about a six-hour trip because when you do the old white bird Hill with all the switch back and I turn the last corner and I see the towers on the monastery and I hear inside me. I'm home.
07:55 Do I did make the retreat?
07:59 And then I talked to the prioress mother Regina at the time and then I said well, how soon could I come and she said well, you could come anytime you're ready to come along. How long before you came. Well tell me about 2 months. Holy cow when I went back to find somebody to replace me. So I put an ad in the American pharmaceutical Association Journal advertising for someone who spoke Spanish would work among the poor and wouldn't mind living in a very rural area with in a couple of days of the journal coming out. I got a phone call and this woman said that she'd been the chief pharmacist mate on The Good Ship. Hope in Cartagena Colombia was currently working at Boston Children's Hospital and would love to come for a visit and the visit turned out she took the job and then I could move up here.
08:58 Wow, that's why the story so you did you keep working as a pharmacist. When did you go back to school and get your doctorate? Well, actually when I came the pharmacist downtown at arnzen drug heinous wife had been in a terrible car accident and they didn't have someone full time to work the pharmacy so buddy Hood Michelle's dad and I were alternative pharmacist keeping the drugstore running wild Francis and his wife regain their help. And then I did that for a number of years. I worked as a pharmacist St. Mary's Hospital in St. Benedict Hospital both of our hospitals that the time in Jerome and then the Federation president said to our prioress you need to start sending your women to school get master's degrees the four of us went to St. John's in Collegeville, Minnesota, which got a master's in theology.
09:58 Different area and mine they didn't have a degree yet in monastic studies, but that's mostly what I studied. And then I learned that father Terrence card on who was starting a program after his degree of San Anselmo the Benedictine College in room. I went to go visit him my last semester and I said, would you take me on as a student? And he said yes, so the next year I went and studied under him all the early monastic sources 1 week. I'd read a source the life of Anthony the next week. I read it in calligraphy notes in his university training and about halfway through the year. He says,
10:42 You need to get a PhD I said no. I said my we don't have a Catholic College in Idaho. We have one Catholic High School. What in the world would I do with a degree or Ph.D. He says you could become an independent scholar. Like I am I said my community and never go for that and he said will what if I write to the prioress in the council and ask for Duty he did. Okay. So you ended up where in richardton North Dakota. Okay surviving witcher's there the next year. I came back to study. He taught me Latin and French so I could get into the PHD program at the University of Toronto to the Center for medieval studies. And I spent 7 years in a program that normally takes 10 years to get a PhD
11:34 And I graduated with PhD in medieval studies for your smart. Well, I came to discover. I was when I had my first job here at the monastery was to work in our development office when they were replacing all the windows in the monastery. We did this Windows campaign for the elevator and the windows and we raise money for that. And then then I went back to school. I went about an hour away from here to Lewiston, Idaho and went to lewis-clark State College got my bachelor's social work in about 3 years, and then after that got my masters social work from Boise State and went to work at the hospital in Lewiston St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.
12:24 The social worker in the Intensive Care Unit, which was work that I dearly dearly loved and the work that I did it Saint Joe. I didn't tell a couple months ago when I when you called me home to the director of operations here at the monastery.
12:42 But in the meantime, both of us also had another adventure didn't we?
12:49 You tell me. I can't remember what we both have cancer in 2010. I was diagnosed with cancer and 17 you have cancer that I've been about a year-and-a-half a little, you know, cuz for both of us and it involved surgery and chemotherapy and radiation or chemo and you know, I think that
13:25 Having cancer for me
13:28 Expose me to a level of vulnerability that I had never experienced before because cancer unless you're you know, you do the treatment but it really is kind of out of your hands and you have to really understand that God is there with you and going to bring you through but you don't really have a lot of control over what progressives with cancer there were I received a lot of gifts from cancer. I'm not sure about you but one of the things that happened is my son was living in in Brooklyn New York, and he actually quit his job and came out to Lewiston and took care of me for about 9 weeks for about 3 or 4 chemo sessions and
14:24 That enabled us to become attempt to develop a different level of relationship as adults with your mother and son and that has continued over the years to wear.
14:38 We're still very close. But at the time I was going to school full-time and doing chemotherapy surgery and radiation and it was it was tough. But you're pretty tough lady was that done all that and a lot of gifts and you know. Did you experience gifts during cancer treatment? Wait, I can name several. One of them was the fact that I had written to the other paris's in the country saying please pray for me and for the community because being the leader of the community and they're kind of going through it with you and there was tremendous support emails cards you name it. So I knew I was being held in Prayer lyrics no question in my mind and no matter what the outcome is going to be. I knew that this was a process where God was in the middle of it. No question.
15:38 When I lost my hair, my niece bought me six caps that she and her husband went to the least of it for me with the easiest part. Well, actually I had to have it shaved because it would hurt cats in as soon as they heard the prioress needed hat all kinds of people started sending apps and Taps, so I didn't work out. So I tried to have a scarf that sounds like you might have had to match my outfit so your shoes, but the interesting thing was is wherever I went people women, especially but men to wear Dick's gone to work cancer survivors would come up to me and
16:38 I'm a cancer survivor to I'm going to hold you inside up. It's me, too, and it was so unbelievably generous to hear that from people because they are trying to tell you know, you can tell when somebody doesn't have any hair or eyebrows cuz you know, there it is, but it was it was pretty remarkable. I know you think it was difficult for me that I have not made my final balance yet, and I asked to make my final because I was in a difficult position of not being in.
17:19 Well health and you can't make a decision like that according to canon law if you're not in total and complete help. So that was very difficult to hear but I didn't I didn't let it phase me because I was too busy. I was in school and just doing all of these other things and it was but it was a very good experience for me and you came down and stayed in Lewiston wonderful experience in YouTube. The awesome would come and pray over me while I was getting my wish in a fusions and that was very precious and I would say that the staff at the Cancer Care Center and also at the Cancer radiation Center, we're just marvelous. I got to know them as human beings.
18:19 In the whatever their faith seed nurse practitioner in a particular way with the deep space field women is a field women and we would talk about the journey that this is as a Journey of Faith and I love being able to have someone here and receive it and supported that was good.
18:41 So you've been in leadership now here at the monastery for five years. I'm just home after I've been home two months now and just after ten years after 10 years away and I've been thrust into leadership with you as my guide, but it's it's a very interesting way of living here because because of Cobra. Down now people aren't allowed in here, except our employees of protecting the health of our Elder sisters and our employees and the visitors to come to us.
19:34 I just one of the things I was on our monastic Council when you came home and became prior it and one of the things that I noticed that you just kind of slid right into the leadership and you never even actually missed a beat I gave that impression glad you did because I remember thinking, you know, you've never even been on the monastic Council. Well, one of the questions was asked at the discernment process and I said no I've never served on the council and you've never elected a prayers who didn't I said, however, I've been associate dean of academics in the School of Theology and I've been the chair of the department or the undergraduate Department of theology. I said and that man tour
20:34 An icing meetings dealing with conflict.
20:40 Setting up hundreds of schedules and learning to collaborate with fellow faculty members with students with other department chairs. So and serving on endless committees. That's the word. That's the key word is collaboration. You know, I noticed that used you rarely make a decision without collaborating with your with your leadership team or your executive team.
21:11 And I rarely make a decision without collaborate. I think that's that's who I am and that is one of the gifts I brought to the department which was predominantly men used to email chair who you know, they said this is what we're going to do and then with some resistance to follow through that I would say no, let's have a conversation about it and they were just kind of rolled her eyes and go but I found it decisions were better if everybody had him put into an even if the final say-so wasn't what every single person wanted. They had an opportunity to say and to listen to the others and then we sometimes came to a whole different decision than initially we had explored and I trained with the council with leadership team and other
22:10 Smitty's I serve on or off and is an ad-hoc person that those are the best decisions because they're
22:19 Decisions discerned and decided on together
22:27 Well who was one of the most influential people in your life? Well, I mentioned it before and that would have been.
22:40 On my religious life to you know, he was a priest and and I became a sister and it was funny because we didn't live in the same city anymore. But because he was a priest and because our sister we became even closer and could share the realities in the hardships in the the struggles of living in community him with Grease the movie with sisters and but as far as sisters that had an effect on my life here at the monastery, I would say that would have been our sister Wilma who was
23:19 The redheads. Yeah, she was in charge of our raspberry festival and she was so unbelievably loving and giving to me she's to come up to me and take my hands in hers and look right in my eyes and say I am so glad that God brought you to us because I love you. She would tell me that every single day and that's many times what got me through the difficult days of learning how to be in our community and the study and the the change, you know a secular life to a monastic life so has gone on to heaven now that she died six weeks. So I lost two people quickly that had enormous influence on my life.
24:14 How about you will when I was in formation in the early 70s, I had eight formation directors in six years. So am I always knew there were different ways of looking at everything you bet to him. And so I worked in the end in our infirmary doing night duty tonight so we can I also put up all the meds naturally just that's what I was trying to do. But sister Nancy Otto was one of my favorite mentors because first of all she was from Switzerland. She's just a few inches over 4 ft tall little tiny. Feisty came. I just loved her and she retired from the cook on Mission at 75 took up yoga so she could take care of the older sister.
25:10 And she would be in the bedroom while I was putting up the medicines and she can look at me up and down and she's safe. And how's the weather up there might be saying fine not climb and then should wait till I told her what was the matter?
25:29 So one time I told her that I got into this misunderstanding with one of the other older sisters. She looks at me and she says novice married.
25:40 You if you lived and profess yourself in this community, you can be a gracious woman of God, or you could be a bitter old lady you choose which one did you choose? I chose the feisty off option where you are pretty pricey. You're not much taller. Do you know that she was she had a way of putting things in memorable ways another time. I remember standing in the dining room waiting to go to the line. She was towards the end of the line and she had a little hands under scapular and she was looking at everybody going to the line. See. What are you doing? I'm watching The Sisters I said and what are you learning?
26:31 I'm learning how gracious some women can be and I'm learning otherwise.
26:40 She didn't appreciate the complaining about all the griping about the food. She never could tolerate that because know you just got to be grateful for whatever was Sister Mary Kay was like that to stand up at our house meetings and say that you know, it was very distressing to hear people complaining about the food because we had food. Yes, and I learned a lot from that. My other favorite story of of Nancy was she was feeding one of our older sisters who was quite obstreperous. I love that word and this sister used to come to Eucharist and at the intercessions pray for the sister was mean to her that warning out loud sisters names, but we all knew who she was one day. She was still muttering when she was going outside of Chapel complaining about something.
27:40 Wheelchair and they were just ahead of me as I was feeling another sister out once he stops the wheelchair. So I have to stop walks around to the front of the Sister Sister. You just came from you first. You just received the body of Christ you just Proclaim that we are the body of Christ. How can you talk about Christ this way and brought it back then start Wheeling or down the highway so she's one of my favorite elders and I have wonderful stories and because most of her way of expressing things. I got fascinated with the desert stories of the early monastics who were just as purse in their explanations just as biblical in their understanding that you are cute. Yes, I did the others.
28:38 Because she was my desert mother very much. So interesting thing about sister Wilma who I spoke about was that part of her face was deformed and she applied to has like five different convents to enter in the late thirties and no one would take her because they thought her deformity meant that she was somehow mentally and not up to par but our community took her cuz she had two blood sisters in this community to and she turned out to be a gold mine of of goodness and one of the people to which all kinds of people would come just to see or say hello to her or to be with her out in the garden or in the rest. And she she wavered as a domestic servant in for us as a cook the house cleaner and agar.
29:38 I find that amazing.
29:45 As God grants gifts
29:49 Irrespective of how many degrees one has and she was probably one of the most gifted women I've ever met here because she understood.
30:01 How to talk to people if she didn't matter who she spoke with she zeroed in on what was important to them and it was always about the other and I learned a lot from that to take my mind off myself because it really just like, you know, you're quiet a lot you can become kind of like, you know, but with sister woman you did you just didn't do that because it was always about the other person.
30:32 She was the embodiment of hospitality. Yes, you are finding Christ and sharing Christ with the other and she could really sell raffle tickets Lottery raffle tickets.
30:49 I remember she used to worry about me going off her PhD cuz she said, you know, those other sisters that have gotten degrees. They don't come back and I said, well, I will come back. So after I got my degree and I spent two years here at home doing various things. She looked at me one day and she said Sister Mary. I'm so glad that you have come back and you want to stay with us. I said never been a question in my mind, but I know it was in yours. You got that made you pray all the harder and she just smiled what you spent many years away from here in Minnesota that you always. Oh and you lived in Prague with other religion has a Unity that you always considered yourself and Idaho Benedictine, didn't you? Yeah. I remember saying to me are you thinking of transferring to st. Ben's cuz I live there the longest for 15 years, and I said no cuz I'm a cottonwood Benedictine and I'll always be a cottonwood Bennett.
31:49 And then he said, you know, you always talk about your community. That way you are a cottonwood Benedict it is of course I am one of them is about stability and stability means you know that we are routed to this place at this time in this era and we study that you know, I'm formation really do begin to understand what that means because I have no desire to be anywhere else than here in the beauty of our place, you know is just phenomenal. Yeah, we have our own woods and beautiful grounds and can look over the prairie Prairie and see the Mountains of Montana in the distance. It really is idyllic here very much. So, so how has your life?
32:49 Been different than you thought it would be when you were younger.
32:55 Well when I was younger, I was not going to be a nut so quick and how long have you been in the 40 some-odd years see if it's only been Seventeen. So I'm new to this life relatively speaking relatively and since we're both under 80 or 90, we're still young Jeff retire never never know. We just get recycled into other job or what happens with sisters that that aren't engaging in the one they retired to praying for us and for the needs of the world. So no one is retired here and there's always the 90 something year old who Sister Mary. Is there something I can do for you?
33:46 I know. How does that feel to you when when someone in their 90's wants to do something for you. I want to cry because I know the love witch that question is coming.
34:01 And I remember one of our privacy Suits now our sub prayer is saying one of the elders would come and knock on her door and offer and she would say to sister. I would like you to pray for this situation. She wouldn't name specific or I'd like you to pray for sister someone so and I have no doubt whatsoever. That that sister did we get prayer requests from all over the country? Every single prayer request is print it off and put on our prayer board and all the sisters than they look at the prayer for before they going to pray As We Gather to pray three times today and they look at the prayer requests and pray for them.
34:56 So every prayer request we get is as precious to us because the sisters really do pay attention and Sister Barbara Jean who answers the prayer requests coming in through the website very much honors and praise for each person that has made a request. She's phenomenal that way sometimes she has so many in the day. She'll just say please pray for all the requests we got today, but she answers somehow each person.
35:33 When Teresa asked me who could do that because she's doing so many other things. That's the first person I thought of I just looked at one of the questions here.
35:45 It's not one we talked about but have you experienced any miracles in your life?
35:59 When I was born, my mother was an advanced stages of toxic poisoning and she heard the doctor say you better get her husband in here to say goodbye because she's not going to make it and I don't think I can save this baby at 6 weeks. I start 6 weeks in my mother's womb to go and my mother heard the doctor witch as a nurse years later. She knew never to say anything to an unconscious patients because hearings the last thing to go, but she said God if it's my time to go find a good husband for my for my husband Good Wife for my husband and a good mother for this child.
36:44 But if it's not my time to go I'll be the best mother. I know how to be
36:50 So she woke up five days later and I was born C-section and she was alive but she sweat out all the toxins and to change your bed several times a day the first thing she did and she took me in her arms when she could get out of bed walk down the hall to the Blessed Mother Chapel at the Statue and said she's yours and she named you married. Yes, but she never told me that story until after I made final profession because she did not want to interfere with whatever God's plans were for me and when she told me that story that you were walking down the road and she showed that straight I said, Mom.
37:34 You were being Hannah to Samuel. That's the only way I could understand that so that it was a miracle that I live and a miracle that she lived and I remember telling a doctor one time. He was doing a whole lesson at the clinic on toxemia, and he says I've never known of anybody to survive that I put up my hand.
38:01 Wow, that was something back in the forties at the corner store. That's a great way to start. Well. Yeah, but you know takes two years kind of just telling your mother even have more children not exactly and that was her miracles to
38:32 Shanahan Pregnancy Center of us survive
38:37 She's a deep woman of trade and eventually I think that through my father who has been Mormon to ask to become Catholic and I once when he was struggling with cancer and I was driving the car when I was in high school so we could go to daily mass. I said dad what made you decide to become a Catholic? You said something always happens when your mother prayed and I wanted to know what that was. Did he find out if you found out when I was born for one thing, but he wanted to have a deeper appreciation for what did it mean to have a personal relationship with God?
39:20 And he was drawn to that. He didn't understand what it was. He was drawing too, but eventually you took instructions one day. When do I receive communion? I'm yanking on my mom's coat that's not supposed to do that instructions the third time last night and this morning. It was a surprise.
39:58 You love surprises, especially surprising my mother.
40:07 And what about you? Have you ever experienced a miracle?
40:13 I don't know if I have or not.
40:16 Well, actually yes, I think it was a miracle that that I actually left Texas and came to live here because
40:28 I don't see how I could have ever done this without a miracle because there were so many ties to me in Texas and I've lived there since I was 16 years old and it's very established and very comfortable but and I would come up here and visit and try to talk myself out of wanting to live here and I'll go back to Texas and it would just wash over me again for six years. I mean it was it was it is very very persistent. And I think that I was sent a mentor to help me decide because
41:18 He was the only friend that ever came up here to visit with me to let me know that that that it was this could be a life for me. And I tell you I've never ever ever never wanted to go back to Texas. I've never been regretful for one minute that I chose this life my children come and see me what when you were open and they take me on trips and I'm still just as close to probably closer to them than I was when I came here.
41:55 So and my sister comes to visit and brother and she's even written it was about the grease that she went through when when I came here to live and She interviewed almost every sister and Community about their calling story. So that was the first. After many second act with what they've done with their calling. It's a very profound play.
42:30 I just have always been so grateful.
42:37 I was welcomed here. And I've Been Loved into a new kind of being here and I wouldn't trade it for the world know and what I've noticed is.
42:54 When Community recognizes you have a gift they pursue you to pursue the gifts, right and encourage you and provide the tools that you need to be able to do that. And so
43:09 You said earlier, you know, are you surprised by things? I'm surprised by the fact that when I'm the prioress right now, I'm surprised by many many opportunities. I've been given that I could not have imagined myself doing and being and I believe that for each sister. They opportunities each one needs to be fully who she is.
43:39 Well, I was so grateful that you called me home because I came home to serve the sisters here and I came home to do what I could to enhance our lives and to make our lives.
43:54 Fuller and better and whatever I can do is
44:02 My plan, well, I think one of the gifts you bring as you Joy Joy. Yes kind of infectious It is Well, I appreciate that. I like to have a good time. You notice that we can't have a movie without popcorn and I like to show documentaries like it. We just watch the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is called RBG. So wonderful.
44:41 Well, I think that's what we have to say to each other.
44:47 That long enough