Sister Carmella Luke is a Benedictine Sister from Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton. She entered the monastery in August 1999. This month, we learn a bit more about this gifted and enthusiastic sister.
Q. Tell us a bit about your family and where you grew up.
A. I grew up on a farm near Marion, South Dakota. My dad, John, farmed and in my younger years drove the feed truck for the local elevator. He is now retired but still lives on the family farm. My mom was a farm wife, amazing seamstress, and babysat many kids. She passed away in 2014. I am the youngest of six children, two of which are deceased. I am the aunt to eight amazing nieces and nephews and 10 grand nieces and nephews. I have been blessed with a very close-knit family.
Q. How did you get your call to the religious life?
A. When I was a child, my first experience with religious sisters was when some Presentation Sisters from Iowa came to my parish to teach summer Bible school. I was struck by how joy-filled they were and how they just seemed to enjoy spending time with us. I think the seed for religious life started to grow in me at an early age. When I went to school at Mount Marty, I met the Benedictine Sisters, and it seemed to be where God was calling me to put down roots and grow into the person I am meant to be.
Q. What did you do before you became a religious sister?
A. After graduating from college, I worked as an assistant with developmentally challenged individuals in a L’arche community in Iowa and as a house parent at St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain.
Q. What is your work as a religious sister?
A. For 18 years, I ministered as an elementary teacher in both Nebraska and South Dakota. Two years ago, I began my current ministry as the director of vocations for my community. In this role, I’m called to help people discern their vocation in life no matter what that might be and to accompany women who may be discerning a call to be a Yankton Benedictine. I also work part time in the monastery orchard and garden and help care for our small flock of chickens.
Q. Who was most influential in your life?
A. The most influential people in my life have been my parents, John and Marie. They were great examples for me of a faith-filled couple, and they always demonstrated for me how to live a life of service for others. My dad is in his 80s and still helps friends and neighbors by driving them to appointments and doing other chores. Being there for others brings him great joy. He helps me to see the blessing in serving the sisters in my community.
Q. Why did you choose the Benedictine Sisters?
A. While spending time with the sisters during my years in college, I grew to love and value living in community. Theirs was a simple lifestyle where they shared in daily life and prayer. For me, it seemed so much like family. I also felt like I was being called to this community of religious sisters because it was where I could be the best version of who God created me to be. They also seemed to be joy-filled women.
Q. What’s your favorite part of being a religious sister?
A. My favorite part of being a religious sister is to celebrate with my sisters, whether it is a jubilee of profession, a holiday or liturgical feast, or just a time of fun playing games or sharing our talents. I think these are times when our love for one another and our love for God and God’s people comes together to create great joy. I also love to serve my community of sisters in whatever way I am called, even through the small chores that keep life moving in our monastery. And I can’t forget the joy I experience in spending time with my feathered friends. I call that “chicken therapy.”
Q. What’s the most challenging thing?
A. As Benedictine Sisters, we live closely with one another in community so, just like it might be in a family, the challenge is to live in patience and love with one another. We might sometimes disagree or hurt one another, and the challenge is to make amends and continue on in love.
Q. What’s the biggest blessing?
A. In many ways the greatest blessing is the same as the challenge: living together in community. Though difficult at times, while journeying together toward fullness of life with Christ, we support and challenge each other. I know and experience being loved by my sisters.
Q. What is something most people don’t know about you?
A. Most people don’t know that I’ve always dreamed of being a country music singer, and that the person I most want to meet in life is Barbara Mandrell.
Q. How can the people of the diocese best help you be a great sister?
A. I would so much appreciate the prayers of the people of this diocese for me to remain faithful each and every day to my call as a Yankton Benedictine. And of course, being the vocation director, I would love for them to encourage young people in considering a call to religious life.