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Emmanuel Monastery's Blessings of "Being Small"
Emmanuel Monastery, founded in 1971 in the aftermath of Vatican II, has never been a big community. We began with, were founded by “23 faithful, courageous women” which in itself has been an anomaly of sorts. Most new foundations are founded by someONE, not a group of individuals. Today the community numbers 12 and, like most other monasteries, is experiencing the challenges of diminishment and aging. At the same time we are experiencing the blessings of new kinds of growth, energy, creativity and expansiveness. A paradox indeed!
Because we have always been “small,” we have always seen ourselves as bigger than only the Sisters who comprise our monastic community. Because we have always been “small,” collaboration and networking is in our communal DNA. Because we were never in a position to take on institutional commitments, we helped begin intercommunity staffing in the schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and our sisters were part of the very first “cluster schools” in Baltimore City catholic schools. When the Justice and Peace office was closed in the Catholic Center, Emmanuel Monastery was a founding member of the P. Francis Murphy Justice and Peace Initiative that became a collaborative ministry of 16 religious communities for 16 years. We did not have a chapel until 2001, so were always dependent on the generosity of other communities/ area churches for any big celebration we had. Our beautiful chapel is still small, so we remain dependent on that continued generosity. For more than a decade we have journeyed with the monasteries in Bristow, VA and Newark, DE (formerly Ridgely, MD) in a Tri-Community Endeavor, sharing resources and supporting one another.
As we struggled through fund raising for a monastery addition in the 1990’s, we became aware of the impact our “smallness” had on those around us. Dependency on others taught us the grace of hospitality…given and received. Our willingness to share the little we had, especially in the areas of prayer, spirituality and social justice, shaped us further into a presence of Emmanuel for so many. Humbled, blessed and graced to see our gifts through the eyes of others, we received new energy to continue to be that presence here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and surprisingly to us, throughout the larger world.
A simple “yes” during Christmas week of 2010 to a young, pregnant women from Afghanistan in need of housing opened literally a whole world to us. Many of you know the story of Sara and her little boy who lived with us for over 2 years. Her experience made us aware of the plight of women who flee their country seeking asylum here, the struggles and odds that they face, and the dangers that often confront them. Once again, in collaboration with other communities of women religious, we were founding members of AWE, Asylee Women Enterprise. Today AWE is a free standing organization, offering a wide span of services and support to women, children and men seeking refuge. Our Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin co-directs a choir, the Hope Choir of Nations, and Sr. Kathleen White serves on the AWE Board. Over the past decade we have offered housing to 3 other women asylum seekers and a refugee family.
Of the women who lived with us, 3 are married and have children, and remain part of our lives. Sara was reunited with her husband in 2015, and they now have 2 children. She became a US citizen this past August, an event in which the community and several Oblates participated, and will graduate from Towson University with an IT degree in December.
Through Sara, we have been introduced to Islam and its traditions, prayer and spirituality. Tina continues to bring her relatives from both Rwanda and Kenya (where her husband comes from) to visit us. One of our Oblates was part of a mission trip to teach the deaf in Zimbabwe in 2016. Recently, the village where she stayed sent us pictures of the “Benedictine nuns oven” which they built with the contributions our community and Oblates sent with Susan, an oven that bakes bread to feed the village and surrounding area A Nigerian family who stayed with us is now in Virginia, and calls periodically to keep in touch. And we, as a community, continue to marvel at how the larger world is so much a part of our lives. Who are we (this little community in Lutherville), Creator God, that you should love us so, trust us so?.(Ps. 8)..to extend our hearts so far and wide beyond ourselves into this suffering world?
Our Sisters and Oblates have been participating in the Oblates for the Future Symposium in Cottonwood, ID for the past 2 years. The program and the dedication and creativity of our Oblates have led us to explore more deeply the vocation of “Oblate” and its role in the future of monastic presence in the Baltimore area. Two of our Oblates approached the sisters 2 years ago about “moving deeper” in commitment to the community and its vision. Mary Jo Piccolo and Beth Taneyhill, in response to the Spirit’s call in their own lives to Isaiah’s prophecy, “See, I am doing something new…” will ritualize their commitment of fidelity to continue to seek God with our community on December 8th. They will continue to live in their own home, contribute personally and financially to the community, a format similar to covenant commitments in other religious communities. As Anam Cara (Soul Friends) of the community, they participate in liturgical ministries, program facilitation and attend community gatherings and meetings. Other Oblates continue to explore personal ways of moving more deeply into their own commitment and understanding of the Oblate vocation.
Emmanuel Monastery is so much bigger than our smallness in number, so much bigger than the little town of Lutherville, MD, and reaches so much further than we had ever imagined possible. For this we offer humble gratitude and renewed commitment to be Emmanuel to our world.
By Sister Rose Ann Barmann, OSB
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something”. This quote best expressed the feelings and sentiments of over 200 walkers who gathered at Lewis Palmer Stadium on June 8th to participate in the Barefoot Mile Walk; a fund raiser for the prevention of human trafficking. Families, friends and people of all ages came to raise awareness about the travesty of child sex trafficking. Together we collected $13, 064 for Bakhita Mountain Home (a local home for adult women survivors of trafficking), Joy International and the Human Trafficking Task Force.
Benet Hill Community, dedicated to our mission of providing support for oppressed women and children, sponsored this event along with District 38 and the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Local Knights of Columbus councils from St. Peter’s in Monument and Holy Apostles in Colorado Springs provided a delicious barbeque and drinks for all the walkers.
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Over 30 million women and children are trafficked each year providing billions of dollars in profits and making human trafficking as lucrative as the selling of illegal drugs in our society. Human trafficking is a “real life issue” that exploits human beings for profit.
By Vincent Crowder, Project Manager
No doubt many of you were wondering about all that mess on the drive up to the monastery near the lower parking lot since early June. To make a long story short, the wastewater septic/leach field system that was installed when the monastery building was originally constructed in 2009 was beginning to fail. So last summer we began researching options to remedy the problem. A new leach field located in a different location was not desirable as it would have required the clearing of several hundred trees from a large area of the forest.
Our search for a solution led us to choose and install the advanced wastewater system manufactured by Orenco Systems. This system makes raw wastewater up to 98% cleaner, thus meeting stringent regulatory requirements and also reducing nitrogen output significantly.
Wastewater that is treated and filtered through this system produces a clear, odorless effluent that is ideal for dispersing underground where it is absorbed in the biologically active soil layer. There is no surface contamination, no ponding, no run-off, no bad smells! We not only preserve the trees, but also redistribute treated water through drip lines that are laced through the forest. Even though this system is more expensive, it is a win-win for everyone concerned as we return more water to the ground water streams that supply our well and the wells of all our downstream neighbors for miles.
Our new system is the most favorable means of disposing wastewater available today and fits perfectly with our Land Ethic which mandates our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and environment. Please join us in gratitude for this improvement.
Sister Anne Madeleine Brost has been a member of the Benet Hill Monastery Community since 2009. She became a Visitation nun after high school in St. Paul, Minnesota and taught mathematics and religion at the Visitation Convent School until 1971. At that time, she came with two other Visitation nuns, to Whitewater, near Grand Junction, Colorado, to begin a new Visitation Monastery.
The plan for a new Visitation Monastery could not be fulfilled, but the sisters remained in their new location and continued to live the monastic way of life as sisters in the Diocese of Pueblo. They are known as the “Whitewater Sisters.” In 2009, the Whitewater Sisters became Benedictine Sisters and the Whitewater Community is now a mission of Benet Hill Monastery.
An especially significant event in Sister Anne Madeleine’s Benedictine life was her trip to Einsiedeln, Switzerland in 2011 to attend a conference on Jungian psychology. There she visited the chapel of the Black Madonna in the Benedictine Abbey Church. People come to this “Black” Mary praying for help in difficult times. It seems that Mary helps one to bear pain and sorrow, but does not necessarily remove the suffering. Relating to this aspect of Mary, Jesus’ mother, helped Sister Anne Madeleine to realize the presence of the Divine in everything, even in the most difficult events of life. Sharing this awareness of God in All and All in God is a basic message that Sister Anne Madeleine tries to bring to retreatants who come to the Whitewater Benedictine Community.
It has been said: “Life is a cycle. We return to the place where we began.” That certainly has been true for me. I grew up with five brothers and two sisters, speaking Spanish and sharing all that we had. We grew up in a faith filled environment where church and God were the center of all we believed and did. I learned early in life about the Gospel call to service. My sisters and I fed the hungry when they came to our door and we cared for the elders in our neighborhood. Both my sisters and I volunteered to travel with the sisters on their mission routes to help teach catechism to the children who didn’t come to our school.
When I entered Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in Atchison, Kansas, I discovered that life as a Benedictine sister was a whole new world. The scheduled prayer life, the education and the community work were all geared for growth in the faith. I loved it all.
My teaching days were a blessing. I loved the children. I loved telling them stories, teaching them a craft and watching them at play. Joy always came when I looked into their eyes and saw a magnificent replica of Jesus. In my years of peace and justice work I tried to live the words I spoke. The poor and powerless in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia and Guantanamo Bay taught me the true meaning of simplicity. I have been privileged to see the face of Jesus in the eyes of the hungry, the poor and the oppressed.
My ministry in Albuquerque brought me back full circle to the place where I began. I ministered to the well-to-do and powerful, as well as the poor and neglected. I taught by example (I hope) that each person can help the other to grow in Christ’s service. Together we see the needs of the other and, with kindness and generosity, we walk in each other’s shoes for a day, a week or a month and fulfill each other’s needs.
In 2014, I retired and returned to Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs. I am coauthoring a book on the fifty-year history of Benet Hill Monastery and restored the Stations of the Cross I helped design and carve with other sisters thirty years ago. Today, I am serving the asylum seekers in El Paso, Texas. The refugees and immigrants come to us with stories of violence and fear. Although I am 80 years old, I am compelled by the Gospel message of Love. I try to bring the love of Jesus to the people. My work here is with an urgency to help our country do the right thing by these people who desperately need and are asking for our help and our love. We must open our hearts and our doors to these our brothers and sisters who are showing us the suffering of Christ.
Jesus to the people. My work here is with an urgency to help our country do the right thing by these people who desperately need and are asking for our help and our love. We must open our hearts and our doors to these our brothers and sisters who are showing us the suffering of Christ.
I thank God for my call to religious life. I thank God for the grace to respond with my life these sixty years. I thank God for my family, my sisters in Christ, and my many friends who have made this life of love possible for me.
In July of 1957, I answered God’s call to monastic life and along with sixteen other sisters, professed my vows at Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in Atchison, Kansas, on January 26, 1959. A native of Aguilar, Colorado, I returned to Colorado as a founding member of Benet Hill Monastery in 1965. I received a BA in History from Regis University and a diploma in Pastoral Liturgy from St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer, Indiana. I have also completed many courses and workshops in the areas of education, spirituality, liturgy and religious education. I was a primary teacher for 36 years in schools in Iowa, Missouri, and Colorado.
During that time I enjoyed working with young children especially in the area of sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation and First Communion. Finding the unique talents of each child in the areas of religion, liturgy, and various forms of prayer was most rewarding as I watched them grow in their relationship with Jesus and carry it into adulthood as active members of their parishes. Teaching young children kept me energized and always looking for new and innovative instructional approaches in order to meet the diverse needs of my students. While engaged in the teaching arena I always strove for collaboration in building a faith community among the students, faculty, and staff members. I was a consultant to faculty members in matters of liturgy, church updates, and in finding ways to raise awareness of the poor and marginalized.
In 1987, I was asked to serve as coordinator of liturgy for the community at Benet Hill Monastery. During this time, I discovered a new love for the liturgy, especially the Liturgy of the Hours. I enjoyed creating the environment for various liturgical events and the many forms of prayer and hospitality that flow from it. I worked in this capacity from 1987 until 2000 during which time I served on the Colorado Springs Diocesan Liturgical Commission and committees planning the Diocesan celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I also served as Minister of Vocations for twelve years and was part of the vocation team in the Diocese. I reentered the teaching field in August of 2001 as the second grade teacher at Pauline Memorial Catholic School and served for nine years. In 2009, the community moved from the city to the Black Forest. On August 16, 2009, I celebrated my Golden Jubilee of 50 years as a member of the Order of St. Benedict. Currently, I minister as the Director of Liturgy for Benet Hill Monastery.
Sister Mary Glenn was born in Port Angeles, WA, and began her religious life in 1965 at the Visitation Monastery in Federal Way, WA. In 1971, she moved to western Colorado to begin a new monastery and in 1978, she and another sister became an independent religious community under the Bishop of Pueblo. They lived a simple lifestyle and offered retreats and hospitality to local groups.
In 2009 Sister Mary joined Benet Hill Monastery and continues to live in Whitewater as a mission of Benet Hill. She enjoys working on the property at Kannah Creek cutting wood and making fires in the wood stove and offering spiritual direction to their guests.
New Members--Mount St. Scholastica has two new members, but they are familiar names to the federation. Sister Jeanne d’Arc Kernion has arrived from Louisiana. A longtime member and former prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery in Covington, Louisiana, she had remained there for work and family commitments but will now be a member of the Atchison community which had previously welcomed several of her sisters, including three other former prioresses, all now deceased. The second new member, Sister Agnes Helgenberger, came from more nearby. She was the prioress of Queen of Angels Monastery which was located in Liberty, Missouri.
Keeler Women’s Center, a center sponsored by the community to educate and empower women in Kansas City’s urban core, has a new location. Still in Kansas City, Kansas, Keeler has moved to a building that provides more space for group meetings, classes, prayer, and private counseling or spiritual direction in the ground floor of a senior apartment building. Sister Bridget Dickason, OSB, director, reports, “All of our partner agencies and their programs have moved with us and we plan to continue to serve our former clients along with new guests from the building and the neighborhood.”
On the other side of the state line, Peace House has been a residence for Atchison Benedictines in Kansas City, Missouri’s urban core since the sisters opened Lillis High School in the 1940s. When the school closed, sisters continued to live there as they worked in other ministries and sometimes welcomed women in need to share their home. Recently, the community was approached with a proposal to help another group of women in need. The building has now been sold to “Journey to New Life” a program that will provide housing and re-integration assistance to women who are returning from incarceration.
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055
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