Sister Harriet Pederson believes there were signs from her childhood pointing the way to her eventual vocation: to serve God and His Church through a life given totally to prayer. At age 11, she was the youngest member of her Presbyterian church’s prayer chain. She loved the Book of Psalms, and made up little tunes to accompany her favorites, singing them to herself every night. She also had an early love for the outdoors. “I remember taking care of a plant in our garden and reading the Gospels to make it grow, reasoning that if the Person those words contained were so essential for me, the plant would be better off hearing them as well!”
It was a chance encounter with the Rule of St. Benedict during a college course that changed the trajectory of Sister Harriet’s life. She immediately perceived its wisdom and beauty, so she created a do-it-yourself psalm scheme based on the Rule in an attempt to balance work, prayer, and study. Only when a Catholic friend, after seeing Sister Harriet’s DIY scheme, gave her a Catholic breviary did Sister Harriet realize that the Rule of St. Benedict was a living thing, that there were still communities governed by the Rule as part of an unbroken tradition stretching back centuries.
Having begun to pray with the loaned copy of the breviary led Sister Harriet naturally to the catechism because, as she put it, “I didn’t want to be supporting something I knew nothing about. [Reading the catechism] is when I first realized that the emptiness I felt surrounding my ‘communion’ in the Presbyterian church was because it was an empty shadow of the Eucharist, of Christ Himself. I joined the Catholic Church quickly after that.”
Sister Harriet’s exploration of Benedictine communities led her to Our Lady of the Mississippi in 2014. “The first time I visited, I knew I was home. It was the perfect mix of contemplation, communal prayer, manual labor, and intellectual study, in keeping with the Rule of St. Benedict. Jesus is so present there.”
She worked two jobs for years, living frugally and paying down her student debts as fast as she could. But it was the generosity of the donors to the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations that finally allowed her to enter the monastery as a postulant in 2017. It would have taken at least six additional years of working multiple jobs otherwise. She received the habit of a novice in February 2018.
Her gratitude to the MEFV is best expressed in her own words:
I am so grateful for the people who donate and make the grants possible! It is beautiful to realize that as I grow deeper and firmer in my complete gift of self to Jesus, you and the donors are also giving me to Him. I am convinced that through Mary’s intercession, and the faithfulness of Jesus, my vows of stability, conversion of life, and obedience will bear fruit for the whole Church. This whole two and a half years of formation since the grant allowed me to enter have been a continual marveling (on my part) at the wonderfulness of God, who calls me to serve Him in this way. I keep praying “Jesus, wow, thank you, thank you.” Maybe not the fanciest prayer, but definitely one that is overflowing from my heart! Thank you so much!
Thanks to your generosity, Sister Harriet made her First Profession of Monastic Vows on Sunday, February 23, 2020. As a Junior Professed Sister, Sister Harriet will continue in the process of monastic formation for several more years, taking classes in monastic studies, scripture, and theology, and being gradually entrusted with greater responsibilities before making Solemn Profession.