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Abbey of St. Walburga nun solemnly vows her life to Christ the Bridegroom

On July 22, the Feast of Mary Magdalene, Sister Assunta Kunz of the Abbey of St. Walburga made her solemn profession of faith as a Benedictine nun and thereby vowed herself perpetually to Christ the Bridegroom.

Her profession was the second this year for the Abbey of St. Walburga, an idyllic monastery nestled in the quaint hills of Virginia Dale at the northern border of Colorado. The nuns there commit to a life of obedience, stability and to the monastic way of life where they live out the Benedictine charism of ora et labora — prayer and work. These religious women are as comfortable contemplating the mystery of the Trinity in a chapel as they are driving tractors and tending the horses in the stables.

Sister Assunta was born with the name Hillary Kunz on January 17, 1990, and was raised in Austin, Texas. She graduated from Baylor University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Education, having majored in Recreation and Leisure Services. After college, she worked at a camp in Texas, and then at a nonprofit in Austin as a Program Coordinator.

Suffice it to say that becoming a nun was not on the list of Kunz’s aspirations for her life. It wasn’t until college that she was exposed to idea of becoming a nun as a potential vocation.

“Considering the fact that my only ideas of religious life were formed from watching the Sound of Music, I did not actually think about it as an option for me at all until college, when I learned for the first time that religious communities of nuns still existed, and some of them were even in the United States, not just in faraway Europe, as I had imagined from the Sound of Music!” Sister Assunta shared.

Raised in a home that was split between the Methodist and Catholic churches, faith was always a mainstay in Kunz’s formative years. She accepted Christ as her savior as a teen, but it wasn’t until her junior year of college that she began to fully pursue and embrace her Catholic faith that was given to her by her father.

“I will never forget the RCIA class when Father Anthony talked to us about the religious life — specifically when he spoke of the symbolism of why nuns wear veils and rings because they are spouses of Christ — and something touched my heart and made me long to be consecrated to Jesus in that way, even though it seemed like an impassable chasm existed between me and that vocation, since I had only just then learned that nuns even existed, and didn’t know of a single one in person!” Sister Assunta said. “A seed of desire had been planted in me, which I promptly stuffed deep down into the soil of my heart, since it terrified me.”

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Following college and after working in the world for a time, Kunz took an extended leave from her job to do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. All the while, the seed planted in Kunz’s heart remained there, waiting to be cultivated.

“After several years of the Lord being very patient with me as I tried to avoid letting this little seed of desire come to the surface, there came a day that I knew I couldn’t go on trying to avoid this longing in me to pursue a religious vocation any longer,” Sister Assunta recalled. “It was during my last week there that I at last received the grace to say ‘yes’ to becoming a spouse of Christ. From Spain I flew to Italy to visit my cousin who is a Benedictine monk and priest in Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, and fell in love with the Benedictine life.”

Following this, she then visited several other religious communities before entering the Abbey of St. Walburga on September 8, 2015, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She made her First Profession on September 14, 2018, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and received her religious name, Sister Assunta. 

“I have loved the Abbey since my first weeklong visit here, and have never stopped loving it,” Sister Assunta said. “Since my three-month live-in experience, I’ve had the sense that this is the place where God wants to plant me — I’d been an acorn for so long, bouncing from one place to the next, and finally the time had come for me to take root and grow. The vow of ‘stability’ we make as Benedictines is so good for me.”

Sister Assunta has fond memories of attending summer camp growing up, both as a camper and a counselor, which she says is one of her favorite places in the world. Prior to monastic life, she hoped to open and run her own Christian summer camp one day. So it’s only fitting, and indeed, an outpouring of God’s faithfulness and providence, that in a way, Sister Assunta gets to live her dream of being a “camper for life” at the Abbey of St. Walburga.

“The very things I loved about life at camp — being away from the city and so close to the beauty of nature, starting every day with praising the Lord in our little chapel by the lakeside, singing songs, sharing meals with the same people I worked, played and prayed with, having limited use of technology so that I was forced to be present where I was, loving and being loved, forgiving and being forgiven — all of these elements are what made communal life at camp so authentically Christian, and all of them are present in my life now as well,” she said. “It seems that I am getting my dream of being a ‘camper for life’ after all!

Sister Assunta and the Bendictine nuns at the Abbey may live as humble and meek a lifestyle as can be, but their very existence is cause for hope. Sustained by their prayer and work, the archdiocese can rest easy knowing these women have answered God’s call without reserve for their lives, and in so doing, are changing our world for the better.

“I have always loved that saying, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ And I don’t mean that I became a nun so that everyone in the world will become a nun! I mean that I became a nun to give God the first place in my heart, and to follow where I felt He was leading me,” Sister Assunta concluded. “This is the change that I wish to see in the world — that everyone will give God the first place in their hearts, and follow where He leads them, whether it is to the consecrated life, married life, or single life.”

Aaron Lambert
Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the former Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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