Sisters’ Words of Wisdom: Sister Agnes Trombley, OSB

When Sister Agnes was born, her name was recorded as Celeste Therese Trombley in the Sacred Heart Parish of St. Paul, Minnesota. Celeste Therese was the fifth of six children born to George and Agnes Trombley. At six months old, her family moved to North Minneapolis and joined St. Anne’s Parish.

1944: Four-year-old Celeste Therese Trombley

Sister Agnes recalled that “St. Anne’s was a very family-centric Parish. The priests I remember best were our Pastor Father Richard and Associates Father Eichinger and Father Murray. I recall that Father Richard was very kind and compassionate.”

At St. Anne’s Parish School, Sister Agnes was taught by Benedictine Sisters from grades 1-8. These Sisters made an impression. In fifth grade, Sister Agnes recalls considering religious life. “That was also the year my older sister, Doris Mae-whose professed name was Sister Laurent-joined the Community at St. Benedict’s Monastery (in St. Joseph, Minnesota).

“It was a lot more common, in those days, for girls to express an interest in vowed religious life. A lot of my classmates thought they wanted to be nuns, and a lot of them joined various religious orders. Sister Louise and Sister Mary Claire (Inhofer) are now at St. Paul’s Monastery with me. I can remember at least six others who became vowed Benedictine nuns.

1947: St. Anthony High School graduation

“As my ministry was in education, I attended the Diocesan Teachers’ College for two years. My first two teaching assignments were at both in St. Paul at Maternity of Mary and St. Bernard’s, after which I taught at St. Boniface in Hastings.

After teaching for about 15 years, I was sent to study theology and completed a master’s in Sacred Studies at St. John’s University. After graduation, I was assigned to teach religion at Hill-Murray, which at that time only taught high school-age children. After three years at Hill-Murray High School, I served as a Pastoral Care Worker at St. Raphael’s in Crystal until 1980, when our Prioress Sister Rosemary Rader, called me home to the Monastery to work in Formation. I also spent 10 years in Pastoral Care at St. Therese of New Hope before being called back to the Monastery to once again work in Formation when Sister Carol Rennie was our Prioress.”

“So, during this time, there are blessings to be found. We are never more drawn to the light than when we are surrounded by darkness.” Sister Agnes’ Words of Wisdom to all during the pandemic.

When I asked Sister Agnes what words of wisdom, inspiration or greetings she would like to relay, I couldn’t write fast enough; I should’ve had a tape recorder. Here are some of the beautiful things Sister Agnes told me.

“Since March, it has been a time to step back and ponder. I have welcomed the quiet, but my heart goes out to those struggling with all of the terrible impacts of this pandemic. It happens that I was in the hospital with pneumonia in late October. As I struggled to breathe, I continually thought of and prayed for those with COVID also struggling to do so.

“Our Community has never been more blessed to have one another. We have drawn closer in every way as a result of sheltering in place. We do not have to struggle with isolation though we certainly, as does everyone, miss seeing those of our friends and family not sheltering with us!

“There are trees outside my Monastery room that I watch change throughout the year. From the lush green and growth of summer to their dormancy now. But their dormancy is actually a preparation for growth. That is how I see this time of pandemic.

11 July 1950: Novice Sister Agnes with her “proud dad” George Trombley

“So, during this time, there are blessings to be found. We are never more drawn to the light than when we are surrounded by darkness.

“Whatever you consider your God or spiritual practice or path to be, you are not alone; and I urge you to use this time for your spiritual growth. Each day presents gifts and an opportunity for our faith to grow. And the gifts may appear as challenges. I must say, looking back on my long life, the things that were most challenging were those from which I learned and grew the most.

“Life is a gift. Faith is a gift. Let us continue to embrace and grow in the many gifts we are given; and trust, knowing we have a God who loves us. A God of infinite comfort, patience and strength.”