BETHLEHEM – Mother Lucia Kuppens was elected Mother Abbess of the community of contemplative Benedictine women at the Abbey of Regina Laudis on Feb. 1. She succeeds Mother Abbess David Serna, who now holds the title Abbess Emerita.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair celebrated a Mass with the community before presiding over the election in the Abbey Church Jesu Fili Mariae.
Also present were Father John Lavorgna, secretary to the archbishop; and Sister Mariette Moan, vicar for religious.
Twelve of the 28 nuns at the abbey who have professed their final vows were eligible as candidates in the election. The 12 have taken their solemn vows of stability, conversion and obedience to God in the context of the community, and are under the age of 75.
Before casting a paper ballot, each nun placed her hand on the Bible and took a vow to vote in good conscience for the candidate she felt was best suited to lead their community. A two-thirds majority of the votes was necessary for one of the nuns to be named the new abbess.
In three more months, Archbishop Blair will return to Regina Laudis to confer the abbatial blessing on the new abbess. The ritual for the blessing of the abbess will not confer any new authority upon her. Rather, it is an opportunity for the monastic community and its new abbess to gather with the diocesan bishop, who is the head of the local church, and the faithful of the wider community and pray for God's blessing.
Mother Abbess Lucia Kuppens entered the abbey in 1979, when she was known as Patricia Kuppens. She has a doctoral degree in English, with an emphasis in Shakespeare, from Yale University, according to the book Mother Benedict: Foundress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, by Antoinette Bosco.
Mother Lucia is the third abbess of the community that was founded in 1947 and led until 2001 by Mother Benedict Duss, the first woman religious in America to receive the abbatial blessing.