(left) Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, and Archbishop Kucera, OSB after her Abbatial Blessing in 2003
(right) Portrait taken by Timothy Hurst in 2023
The year 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s service as Abbess of the Abbey of St. Walburga. And truly, her leadership is that of a servant, modeled after Christ who “came to serve, not to be served.” We are so blessed to have such a good shepherdess for our community. On honor of 20 years, here are 20 fun facts about Mother Maria-Michael:
- Her birthday is February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter – what a prophetic date, since as Abbess she is the “rock” (petra) of our community, as St. Peter is the rock of the Church.
- Mother’s family is of Irish descent, and she was named “Kerri” by her parents after County Kerry in Ireland.
- She has a twin sister who lives in California (their home state), and whenever she comes to visit the Abbey and the two of them get started on a work project, they are unstoppable! It’s incredible what they can accomplish together.
- When she was 17, she prayed a novena to know God’s will for her life, and on the day her novena ended, a priest told her after Mass that God had a place for her in the United States (rather than Africa, where she had thought), and that she would be there very soon. Within a few months she heard about the convent of St. Walburga in Boulder and went for a visit, and then entered soon after, at the age of 17. Oh that everyone’s call would be so obvious and responded to with such abandon!
- She got her name “Maria-Michael” because she always had a special love for the Blessed Mother even as a young child (she took Mary as her Confirmation patron), and she loved the name Michael since she was about 6 years old and learned that Michael was a name that God, not man, chose, in naming the Archangel Michael. Her respect for the Archangel grew even more when she learned of his deep love for God, and how he challenged Lucifer after his rebellion, and was put in charge of God’s army to fight evil.
- Soon after she made her solemn vows she was made the farm manager, a position which she held for over 20 years, until she was elected Abbess on July 17, 2003, and she traded in the tractor for a crozier and pectoral cross (although she still finds excuses to drive the tractors on occasion!).
- Her Abbatial Blessing ceremony took place on September 6, only two days before her Silver Jubilee Profession Anniversary (25 years as a professed nun); needless to say it was a special week for her!
- She is an impressive guitar player – Without touching a guitar for a year she can still play “Take Me Home, Country Roads” like it was yesterday.
- One of her more surprising gifts is that she can weld. Last year she fixed the hinge to our cemetery gate when it broke, and one wonders how many Abbesses could do that?
- Her current favorite book is Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ, a series she highly recommends to all.
- She has a great devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and started a weekly 3:00 a.m. Holy Hour a few years ago for any interested Sisters in our community, which is still going strong.
- Mother is the kind of person whose “Plan A” is to be available to her Sisters for whatever they need, and whose “Plan B,” which is the long list of temporal things that need her attention, is accomplished with what time remains.
- She is an excellent dog trainer – she even taught Simon, her last Grate Dane, to dance!
- Even amidst all the demands of being Abbess, Mother is very dedicated to praying the rosary every day. If you are looking for her in the early afternoon, it is very likely that she is on her “rosary walk.”
- She has a gorgeous voice, and it seems to run in her family since one of her biological sisters is a member of a barbershop quartet!
- One of her special projects as Abbess has been to create a beautiful courtyard in the Sisters’ enclosure, decked with so many kinds of rose bushes and fruit trees and plants – a little Eden.
- She daily encourages her Sisters at breakfast with reflections based on her lectio divina prayer time, using her gift of contemplate prayer to build up the body of Christ in our community, and outside our community on the website blog.
- According to Mother, there is a time for everything, including snow sledding on days that the hillside next the Abbey is freshly packed!
- One of her favorite things she gets to do as Abbess is serve the Sisters at the Holy Thursday Last Supper meal each year, and wash their feet afterward.
- Anyone can tell you that Mother has a spiritual gift of joy; she is always smiling and passing her contagious joy to others, regardless of the heavy burdens she may be carrying.