The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago have been finding new ways to welcome young women to the monastery. For National Catholic Sisters Week, Sister Belinda Monahan of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago decided to welcome young women to join the celebration. She organized an afternoon of knitting and fellowship invited women, 50 and under, to join the Sisters in making items for those in need.
Sister Belinda and Oblate Maureen Martin offered lessons to those who did not know how to knit or crochet. For more experienced crafters, patterns were on hand to create everything from hats to teddy bears. All the items are being donated to organizations for which the Sisters work who help those in need.
Throughout the afternoon, the young women chatted, drank tea, ate cookies, and got to know one another and the Sisters. Events like these have introduced many women to the monastery, including those who may be thinking about a vocation to become a Sister or an Oblate.
After a recent discernment retreat in which the participants asked if they could keep coming to the monastery, Sister Belinda began a book club so the women could gather for community and further discernment. It is called the “Spiritual Book Club” and women under 50 are invited to the monastery each month, whether or not they are discerning a vocation. This summer, the group has been reading Ronald Rolheiser’s book, The Holy Longing (and will continue with Henri Nouwen's "Discernment").
The monastery also offers periodical meetings called Young Women and the Word. These gatherings bring together those who want to explore the scriptures and learn how to pray Lectio Divina. Sister Belinda notes, “I organize these gatherings and invite young women to join us, but it is the Holy Spirit who puts the longing in their hearts for something more. I'm so grateful that our community is able to share with these women about the Benedictine way of life."
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“150 years and Building” is the tagline for our Jubilee Campaign as we prepare to embark on a capital campaign to build a new monastery. May 1, 2018 will mark the 150th anniversary of our founding. During the Civil War, Richmond, VA, ‘Capitol of the Confederacy,” was devastated and Catholic Schools were closed. In 1868 a dedicated parish priest traveled all the way to St. Marys, PA to get Benedictine sisters to reopen his parish school and he would not leave without the promise of three sisters joining him. Thus the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia were founded in the war torn, disease-ridden South. When they arrived on May 1st, the parish was in the middle of its May Day celebration and all gathered to greet the sisters. The sisters reopened the parish school and started a “finishing” school, named St. Mary’s, for young women. The first years were very difficult with cramped conditions, poor food, and rampant tuberculosis. There are thirty graves in a Richmond cemetery of very young sisters. Eventually, the “Motherhouse” was moved to Bristow at the invitation of the monks from Belmont, NC who had been given a large land grant there to educate children. Bristow was primitive farmland in the 1890’s and considered a much healthier environment for the sisters. Again, three sisters arrived in Bristow on May 1st, 1894. In an unusual tale between sisters and monks, Belmont Abbey eventually decided to bring their monks home and deeded over their 1700 acres of land to our sisters! If you have done the math, you will see that we Benedictine Sisters of Virginia have a huge year of celebration ahead!! May 1st, 2018 (the 150th anniversary of our foundation) to May 1st, 2019 (our 125th anniversary of being at Bristow.)
In all of these 150 years we have remained the only motherhouse of active sisters in the State of Virginia. Designated as mission territory because of the few numbers of Catholics, there are several orders of sisters working in Virginia who come from other places – mostly “up North”! In addition to our own two schools, Saint Gertrude High School in Richmond and Linton Hall School in Bristow, we established quite a few parochial schools throughout the Richmond and Arlington Dioceses. In the 1980’s and 90’s we turned our attention to social needs in our area and began the Benedictine Pastoral Center for spiritual outreach, Benedictine Counseling Services for affordable mental health care, our BEACON adult literacy program which now works with 400 immigrants, and our transitional housing program for homeless moms and their children. Speaking of anniversaries, this year will be BEACON’s 25th and Transitional Housing BARN’s 20th! Recently, because of the huge housing boom surrounding us, we declared our grounds a “Place of Peace” and built a labyrinth, turned two old silos into open chapels with a strip of stained glass, made gardens and walkways, placed a series of peace poles in different languages, etc. All visitors are welcome from sunup to sundown.
God has been very generous to us in blessing our ministries through our community as we constantly strive to determine the needs of our neighbors and how we might use our resources. The latest turn of events has been the development of a close relationship with the local Muslim community. We were able to offer them a safe haven in our school gym for their nightly Ramadan prayers and we are supporting them at the county hearings for their proposed building of a mosque on the road behind us – a very tough fight for them.
Ours has been a 150-year history of responding to the Spirit’s call and direction in the monastic tradition. Throughout these years, our sisters have dedicated themselves selflessly and we so honor and appreciate those strong women who have gone before us. As women continue to join our community, we “face forward in hope” to see what is next on our horizon!
Stay tuned for notice of the 150th anniversary celebration events!!
Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
The Benedictine Sisters of Boerne moved into their new St. Scholastica Monastery last September. The Monastery, constructed around the Sisters’ iconic Kronkosy Tower, is a 17,483 square foot complex that includes eco-friendly natural lighting, low-e glass, window shading, chilled water HVAC, and solar panels.
An important part of the transition included moving relics, memorabilia, and documents collected throughout the Benedictine Sisters’ 106-year history. More than 100 boxes were moved to the Kronkosky Tower which will house the sisters’ archives.
Realizing the enormous responsibility that lay ahead, including the tasks of sorting through decades of material to be researched, digitalized, re-catalogued, or discarded, the Sisters reached out to an archive consultant, Sister Rebecca Abel, OSB, from the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand, IN. Sister Rebecca spent 2 weeks at the Monastery offering guidance on how best to tackle the work at hand. The Sisters are grateful to Sister Rebecca for her time and expertise. They are making progress in the new archival space to preserve their extensive history for generations to come.
In true Benedictine spirit, the Sisters of Boerne have long been advocates for social justice and corporate responsibility. Issues including human rights, human trafficking, energy and environment, health care and health care reform, U.S./Mexico concerns, predatory lending practices and fair pay concerns have remained priorities, especially for Sister Susan Mika, OSB.
Sister Susan and Ruben Lopez, both with the Benedictine Coalition for Responsible Investment (CRI), faithfully attend monthly Interfaith Welcome Coalition immigration meetings in San Antonio. Through strategies and networking, they focus on the plight of undocumented immigrant women and children in South Texas detainment centers. The coalition’s member groups provide hands-on support of at-risk immigrant communities, as well as advocacy on legislative agendas.Sr. Susan and Ruben create monthly immigration updates outlining proposed legislation, outcomes of ongoing judicial review at the national and local levels, and article summaries that document what is happening. Sister Bernadine Reyes, OSB (Prioress) and Sister Frances Briseño, OSB also advocate for immigrant women and children by visiting them at one of the south Texas detainment centers.
Sister Ursula Herrera, OSB has been the Director of the Benedictine Sisters’ Caridad de Corazón, ministry since it first began in 2000. This life-changing program helps thousands of poor and disenfranchised people living on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border near Eagle Pass, Texas. In collaboration with group and individual volunteers, the Benedictine Sisters provide essential services to men, women, children, families, and orphans. These services include the distribution of food provisions, household goods, clothing, and medical equipment; educational scholarships that support youth who might otherwise not have the opportunity to continue their education; prison outreach; and home improvement and repairs.
The Sisters own a “mission house” that is available to church groups, university students, families, and volunteers from various regions of the United States seeking service work in the area. Recent activities include (clockwise): Sister Ursula, collaborating with Operation Christian Love, delivering chicken to Alex Villarreal, director of Paz y Amor orphanage in Piedras Negras, Mexico; Sister Ursula with college graduate, Nalleli Sanchez, who was sponsored through the Caridad ministry; and adults and youth volunteer mission groups from Houston with local family. The adults (from St. John Vianney Parish) mentored the youth (from four different Houston high schools) while working together on the family’s much needed home repairs.
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055