Mother Hilda Scott OSB says she was “awestruck” and “very humbled” by her election as the new abbess at Jamberoo Abbey. She said her recent installation and blessing as abbess was, for her, “A visitation of the Holy Spirit”.
“After I got over being awestruck—which really took a few days—what I felt was extremely privileged that the Father had, for his own reasons, chosen me to be shepherd of this community.
“I felt very humbled and I felt very enabled by the sheer goodness and willingness of the community here at Jamberoo. That’s essential. You can’t be abbess without the support of the community … their love and support was palpable,” Mother Hilda said.
Mother Hilda is well-known in the diocese for her contributions to the diocese’s Advent and Lenten publications and her weekly segment on the diocese’s Journey Catholic Radio show that is aired on over 15 local Christian radio stations around Australia to an audience of up to 70,000 listeners each week.
Mother Hilda is also much-loved around Australia as a result of her appearance on the ABC’s television series The Abbey in 2007 and her presentations at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, where she proved immensely popular with young people. She is known for her spiritual wisdom and insights, her down-to-earth approach and cheeky sense of humour.
After being elected abbess on 11 February by her fellow Benedictine sisters at Jamberoo Abbey, Mother Hilda then received the abbatial blessing from Bishop Brian Mascord on 25 March 2019.
At the blessing Mass, celebrated at Jamberoo Abbey on the feast of the Annunciation, Mother Hilda made solemn promises to lead her community “by love” according to the Rule of St Benedict.
“It’s straight out of the Rule of St Benedict…where it says that the abbess is to be loved, not be to be feared,” Mother Hilda said.
“Also, she must understand that she has taken on the care of souls and not tyranny of the weak…she is to organise all things so that the weak have nothing to run from and the strong have something to strive for. It’s Benedict at his best.”
She said the blessing ceremony was “very moving” and “very precious”.
“That was, for me, a visitation of the Holy Spirit … it confirmed the choice of the community,” she said.
Bishop Brian said that just as Mary’s life had been dramatically changed by the angel Gabriel’s announcement of the Incarnation, so too Mother Hilda’s life had been “turned upside down” by her election as abbess.
“Let’s just think back to the day of the election and how your life, Hilda, was turned upside down, and that of the community,” Bishop Brian said.
“Today Hilda, your life will never be the same again, but like Mary, God dwells within you and us.”
Mother Hilda was presented with five symbols of the Office of Abbess: a copy of the Rule of St Benedict; a key symbolising her role as head of the monastery; a seal demonstrating her official authority; a ring to signify her personal relationship with God and her new commitment to him; and a wooden staff indicating her duty as shepherd of the community.
Mother Hilda has taken “blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8) as her motto.
The 69-year-old is the third abbess at Jamberoo replacing Mother Mary Barnes OSB who retired earlier this year. Currently, there are 24 sisters at Jamberoo including 21 solemnly professed sisters and three novices.
We pray for Mother Hilda as she takes on her new role as shepherd of the community and proclaims her own fiat, “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Catherine Sheehan is an award-winning multimedia journalist. This article first appeared in The Catholic Weekly.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 (Issue No. 67) edition of the Journey Magazine.