Julie Notburga Simpson – The 7-Hour Oblate
Julie Simpson became an oblate novice in February of 2018. It was a big step toward fulfilling her longtime desire to become a Benedictine oblate of Mount Angel Abbey. That November, she had a tumor removed and in December, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer. The doctors told Julie she likely had about a year to live.
Julie was ready to make her full oblation in February of 2019, but renovations of the Abbey’s guesthouse postponed the retreat when oblate novices make their final commitments. In March, after more scans, Julie learned her tumors were growing in number and size. There was nothing more to be done; Julie had less than two months to live. The desire to make her oblation – her full act of commitment to live as a Benedictine oblate – became urgent.
When I learned of Julie’s situation, I decided to make the trip to her home in Washington state and receive her oblation on Monday of Holy Week, April 15.
By Friday, April 12, the family was told Julie had
just hours to live. By Saturday, she had only moments of coherence, and on Sunday, she was moved to the hospice unit of Providence Hospital in Everett, Washington.
On Monday morning, I arrived at the hospital as friends and family gathered for the Oblation
Mass. In the homily, I reminded Julie that as we celebrate Holy Week, we look toward the feast of the
Ascension. As Jesus rises into heaven, beyond this earth, we pray, “Where the head has gone before in Glory … the body is called to follow … in hope.”
After this, Julie’s oblate mentor, Darlene Goodwin, presented Julie for oblation. Since at this point she was unable to speak for herself, the entire group
of her relatives and friends voiced Julie’s desire to become an oblate and associate herself with the monks and works of Mount Angel Abbey. Darlene read the oblation promises and Julie took the name of an Austrian saint known for her charity, Notburga. I accepted Julie’s oblation and placed a medal of St. Benedict around her neck, which she was able to grasp in her hand.
At Communion, Julie received a drop of the Precious Blood as Viaticum for her journey. Before the Final Blessing, everyone assembled and anointed her with nard, as Mary had anointed Jesus in the Gospel reading for that day’s Mass.
Seven hours later, Julie Notburga Simpson, oblate of Mount Angel Abbey, passed from this world to follow where Christ, her Redeemer, has gone.
– Fr. Ralph Recker, O.S.B., Director of Oblates