by Romple Emwalu
Mount Angel Seminary is a good place of work for Sister Judith Bloxham because she enjoys meeting with students, priests from different dioceses, Benedictine monks and other religious who are sharing the same faith and striving for the same goal. Sister Judith is from the Order of Saint Benedict and is the Associate Director of Human Formation at Mount Angel Seminary.
She is very blessed by having the privilege to work close to Queen of Angels Monastery in downtown Mount Angel, which is the religious community where she lives. “I am in a community where we pray together and we work together in so many different ways,” says Sister Judith.
Sister Judith and Father Liem Nguyen, OSB, have been working with the human formation team that was established several years earlier by Father Terry Fitzgerald from Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a rector of Mount Angel Seminary. “It was an exciting moment to be on the formation team and to work together; Abbot Nathan Zodrow was the director of formation at that time,” says Sister Judith. The formation team continues to work together and develop the formation program.
Sister Judith is now more involved with the organizational process in terms of working with the dioceses. She sets up the program in the summer and the agenda for the regional meetings for the whole year. In the admissions process she receives the seminarians’ materials; she reads all of them and then she writes a brief biography for each one so the formation team will have a clearer a picture of who the seminarian is.
As part of her job, she also sets up the evaluation schedule for the dioceses and assists Abbot Peter Eberle, OSB, the Vice-Rector of Graduate School and Director of Human Formation, in editing seminarians’ evaluations. “It is a wonderful experience and a great inspiration to me personally being an Associate Director for Human Formation,” says Sister Judith. She loves to work with the formation team as well as the seminarians. She is inspired by the seminarians’ stories. “Reading the seminarians’ stories is more like doing my lectio divina,” says Sister Judith. Caring for seminarians is one of the important aspects that motivates her in her spiritual life.
She grew up in California where she was educated and learned from the sisters of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Sister Judith wanted to be a sister, and she joined the religious life when she was 18 years old. She has been connected with Mount Angel Seminary since she came to Oregon to earn a Master of Arts degree in the 1970s. “This move was clearly a work of the Holy Spirit,” says Sister Judith.
Sister Judith was not supposed to come to Mount Angel; she was enrolled at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. However, she broke her arm, and she needed to come later. Sister Judith and her superior decided that she would come to Mount Angel. They then found out that Mount Angel Seminary offered a summer Master’s program in the 1970s, which confirmed her decision to come and try it. She began working with Mount Angel Seminary in 1994. Sister Judith says, “Benedictines are stable; they stay in one place, so it is wonderful for me to be working here.”
Before transferring to Queen of Angels Monastery, Sister Judith prayed for her own personal discernment. After Sister Judith transferred to Queen of Angels Monastery, she was assigned to work as a supervisor for the seminary in 1979 at Saint Mary Parish in downtown Mount Angel as part of her summer assignment. One of the first seminarians Sister Judith supervised was the late Father Jerome Young, OSB.
Sister Judith sees formation work in two ways. In her experience she sees that by being on the formation team, she’s learning a lot and is growing much deeper in her faith by interacting with seminarians, vocation directors and bishops from different dioceses. She sees that she is not only helping the seminarians, but seminarians help the team as well by sharing their vocation stories.
Sister Judith sees that seminarians also contribute to the seminary; they give the formation team ideas and ways to be able to develop the program significantly. “We all here to help form the seminarians to grow deeper in their faith and also to be able to share that wonderful experience about the life of Jesus they are learning in the seminary,” says Sister Judith. Sister Judith looks forward to continuing to work with the students and the formation team.