2018 was a year of challenge, change and constant grace for the members of St. Walburg Monastery.
Last year when we wrote our article for the newsletter we were happy and hopeful about our property sale project and the Sanctuary housing development for the 85 acres west of the monastery. Right after we sent the article to the Federation, some citizens of Villa Hills started a Defend Villa Hills campaign. The focus of their discontent was a four story apartment building to be built on the property. They felt that the apartment building was not in keeping with the bedroom community nature of Villa Hills with its one family homes. They were concerned about the increase in traffic and the need to make road improvements. Signs appeared throughout Villa Hills, and citizens came to three public meetings held by the City Council of Villa Hills and loudly expressed their point of view. When the City Council voted 4 to 2 on March 6 to make a zoning change so that the project could go through, the Defend Villa Hills instituted a suit against us, the developer and the City Council of Villa Hills. The suit went to Circuit Court and the judge has not yet ruled.
The group also formed a PAC to support the election of council members that were opposed to the development and in November, the mayor of Villa Hills and all council members except one were voted out of office. The project is now stalled and we are waiting for the judge to rule.
In May we did sell the 17 acres of the property to the east of the monastery to Madonna Manor.
On April 3 the community elected Sr. Aileen Bankemper prioress. She appointed Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, subprioress and treasurer and appointed Srs. Cathy Bauer, Christa Kreinbrink and Kimberly Porter to the community council. On May 5 community members elected Srs. Barbara Woeste, Denise Gough and Mary Rabe to the community council. Among other changes, Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup was appointed Director of the Infirmary.
Srs. Aileen Bankemper, Mary Catherine Wenstrup, Rita Brink, Dorothy Schuette and Kimberly Porter attended the Federation Chapter meeting in June. Sr. Kimberly Porter was elected to the Federation Council.
St.Walburg Monastery has a long-standing relationship with St. Bede Academy sponsored by the monks of St. Bede Monastery in Peru, Illinois. For past 3 years in July students from St. Bede Academy under the direction of Chaplain Father Ronald Margherio have travelled to St. Walburg’s on a mission trip to serve others through social agencies in Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. This summer eleven students with chaperones spent a week on such a mission.
Sr. Cathy Bauer, with her social work background, welcomed them and guided them through a week of prayer, reflection and services opportunities in a program called Living Out Loud. The students always spend a day at the monastery doing service work, praying, playing and dining with the sisters. They especially enjoy an art project with our artist Sr. Emmanuel. The art project provides them an opportunity to create something unique and take it back with them to St. Bede’s and their families.
They spent the rest of the week with other young people from the local area providing service in soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, respite care facilities, adult day care centers and in the ones of low income families. Fr. Ron says the purpose of the summer mission is to open the eyes of his students and allow them to get to know the less fortunate as individuals.
Fr. Ron also does a Mystery Tour with some of the students at St. Bede’s. The students on the tour are not told where they are going. This past fall eight students came to the monastery for an overnight stay on their way to another destination. Fr. Ron says the Mystery Tour builds trust and flexibility in the students.
On the afternoon of August 13 we discovered that there had been a burglary, and not only was cash missing but also 150 profession rings of deceased sister had been stolen. After Srs. Aileen and Nancy were interviewed by local reporters and we had reported the thief to the police and written about it on our Facebook page, we garnered a lot of publicity locally, nationally and internationally. Most people commented that they were appalled that someone would take the rings and we received messages of support and prayers. The rings have not been recovered.
From October 27 through November 2, Sr. Cathy Bauer had the privilege of being part of the last week of the 2018 Nuns on the Bus Tax Justice Truth Tour. She met the bus on October 27 in Washington, DC and continued on to Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Sr. Cathy found the experience both exhausting and energizing She began with words from Pope Francis, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of him/herself so that those who govern can govern.” She ended the tour by wishing to share the hope and joy that were shared at the site visits and the idea “that we are called to meddle into politics and urge our representatives to see that each policy that is passed takes into consideration how the most vulnerable individuals and families are affected.”
After thirty years of serving the poor and homeless in downtown Covington through the Northern Kentucky Family Health program (late known as HealthPoint), Sr. Ann John Kotch retired from that ministry. She had established the Pike Street Clinic for the Homeless which became a central place for the homeless to receive medical care from TB tests to blood pressure check. Doing this work Sr. Ann John established working relationship with other social agencies in the Northern Kentucky area and the clinic was in a central location that enabled its clients to have other needs met in a seamless way. On November 16 she received the Msgr. Bill Cleves Award from the Family Community Pharmacy. See Sr. Ann John and Msgr. Cleves right. She had been on their first board and developed a free medical support system for the homeless and poor of the area. Sr. Ann John will be missed in Covington, but is thinking about opportunities for volunteering.
During the year Sr. Dorothy Schuette has been part of directed retreat teams at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Milford, Ohio. She has also offered silent directed retreats at the monastery Guest House as part of the Center of Spirituality offerings. Under the auspices of the Center of Spirituality, she and Sr. Kimberly have offered two presentations entitled Mindfulness, Meditation and Movement.
Other Center of Spirituality programs were a Lenten program Exodus: Finding God While being Seduced by Other ‘gods’ presented by Deacon Royce Winters (See picture left) from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a September program entitled Holiness in the Ordinary: Reflections on Pope Francis’ Exhortation Gaudete et Exultate presented by Msgr. Bill Cleves, a popular speaker from the Diocese of Covington. Both programs attracted many participants , including sisters, Oblates, friends and the general public.
This past summer Pam McQueen, Executive Director and Junior High/High School Principal of Villa Madonna Academy, attended the first Benedictine Leadership Institute in Lisle, Illinois. She and VMA Religion Faculty Member, Eileen O’Connell developed the Benedictine Exchange Program for Benedictine Schools. The program‘s goal is to connect teenagers from across the nation who have a shared philosophy and a shared sense of spirituality to meet and explore how to make the world a better place. From November 14-18 Villa Madonna Academy hosted students and faculty from St. Bernard Prep in Cullman, Alabama as the first venture of the program. The Cullman students stayed at the monastery Guest House, participated in Villa’s class schedule, besides seeing the sights of Cincinnati. They also joined the VMA students for the annual Tweed Twirl where the Villa DJ played Sweet Home Alabama. They came to the monastery for Sunday Eucharist and learned about the monastery’s history. They discovered similarities and differences between the two schools. Villa students will visit St. Bernard Prep in the spring.
In late November Sr. Rita Brink announced that St. Mary Parish in St. Marys, Pennsylvania contracted to purchase the 15 acres and buildings of St. Joseph Monastery where she has been the administrator since 2013. We are very glad that Sr. Rita will be coming back to St. Walburg’s soon.
Finally, seven members of the community died this year. It was a significant loss for us and has focused our thoughts even more on future planning for a smaller community. The sisters who died were: Srs. Philomena Rarreick (January), Esther O’Hara (February), Margaret Mary Dressman (April), Jeanette Frisch (June), Martha Feder (July), Cecilia Daigle (August) and Helen Hergott (December). We are sure all of them are enjoying eternal life with the Communion of Saints.
After a year of challenges, changes and constant grace we look forward to 2019 and wish the members of the Federation monasteries a joyful New Year blessed by all of God’s good gifts and graces.
What’s in a Name?
…For the Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore of Emmanuel Monastery,
there’s tradition, community, ministry, identity and prophecy.
First and foremost though, there is an experience of God who is always with us and a commitment to help others know of this loving God, Emmanuel!
It seems fitting for Emmanuel Monastery to be writing this article for the December Federation Newsletter. This is the season of Emmanuel, God’s promise to be with us, always. Even though our foundation as a monastery goes back to 1971, this name was not chosen- or had not chosen us- until 1978, when we sought independent membership in the Federation of St. Scholastica. As a group, we had spent many hours, and had a number of discussions attempting to come up with a name that seemed to fit, and we got nowhere. We were “down to the wire.” We needed a name if we were to be an independent monastery. During a break in our discussions one weekend, we were conversing with the parents of one of our sisters who happened to be staying with us at the time. They pointed to the bible in the guest area which just happened to be opened to Isaiah’s prophesy of a child to be born who was to be named Emmanuel! (Isaiah 7:14) This is how we wrote about that “coincidence” years later in a community newsletter from 1990.
Names are significant. They give us identity and help us to know who we are. They also help to identify us to others. Very often, names shape who we become…. As the community regathered to prayerfully reflect on a suitable name for our home and our community, we realized that our beginnings had the markings of an Exodus experience – being called by God to go forth into an unknown promised land. We were a pilgrim people on a journey. It seemed so appropriate that we should identify ourselves by our communal experience of God: Emmanuel, God With Us! In that choice of name, we were telling ourselves and others who God had been for us. Perhaps we were not as aware at the time that God was also telling us who we were to become for others.
As we reflected together on our critical junctures in preparation for the Federation Chapter this past June, we realized even more, that when we as a community faced those critical times in discerning and faithful ways, our God, Emmanuel, was so present to us, constantly shaping us in trust and hope. We actually had “become” Emmanuel, a presence of God always with us! What a humbling and amazing, grace-filled realization!
Each year, on December 23rd as we pray the O Antiphon, “O Emmanuel…” we celebrate our community feast…who we are and who we have become. We gather in the darkened library, before an unlit fire in the fireplace. As we welcome the coming of light in the physical world at the winter solstice, we pray for the Light to come into our hearts and the heart of the community. The kindling for the fire is our individual prayer…slips of paper where we write those things within us that need to be handed over to the Light who is Emmanuel. We bless the fire and process into the chapel carrying that light as we light the Advent Candles and begin our Evening Prayer.
Both our Vision Weaving and our Mission Statement end with the prayer that we might be Emmanuel in our world. That prayer took on “flesh” in a very real way during Christmas week of 2010. We were blessed to experience our own “Christmas Story” (which many of you know) when Sara, a young pregnant woman seeking asylum was in need of housing. She, her son Amin born on January 6, 2011, and now her husband, Mohsin, reunited 3 years ago, and their daughter, Sakina who just turned 2, are a steady part of our lives. AWE (Asylee Women Enterprise) which came from this experience and in collaboration with other communities of women religious, is now an independent outreach helping hundreds of women, children and families as they seek safety for their lives. We have become connected to our Muslim brothers and sisters in this geographic area and have both shared and experienced the gift of hospitality and we continue to collaborate with other communities and outreach opportunities as we welcome the stranger into our midst. It is not unusual to find one of our oblates or sisters tutoring our Afghan friends in the English language and/or preparation for GED exams in our library or dining room on any given morning.
Programs offered at the monastery now include many of our oblates as presenters and co-facilitators. Some programs are co-sponsored with other groups in the Baltimore area. All offer opportunities to explore and experience the gifts of Benedictine Spirituality. Art, music, poetry, the Rule of Benedict and its values are incorporated in all offerings. Our geographic proximity to Washington, DC has led us to offer prayer services here at the monastery when large marches addressing social concerns are being held. This offers those who cannot physically be part of such events, a way to participate, and can draw numbers in excess of 60 people on a Saturday morning. Some of our sisters regularly participate in the Prayer Walks in Baltimore City inaugurated by Bishop Denis Madden. We regularly host a poetry group; various gatherings of ministers, staffs and personnel from surrounding churches and religious communities; offer opportunities for days of prayer and private or directed retreats and, as Benedict quotes in his Rule, “the monastery is never without guests.”
All of the above, and a deepening commitment to social justice and peace are part of our DNA. Hospitality is undoubtedly the gift we share and the gift that has been so nurtured through the blessing our name, Emmanuel.
May the blessing of Emmanuel, our God always with us,
be yours in this Advent/Christmas season, and all your days.
The first Benedictine women in America arrived in the United States in 1852 from Saint Walburg's Convent in Eichstatt, Bavaria and settled in Saint Mary's Pennsylvania. A house was opened in
Newark, NJ, in 1857. Seven years later the Reverend Henry Lemke, Pastor of Saint Michael's Parish in Elizabeth, requested and received sisters of the Newark community to teach the
predominantly German children of Saint Michael's. On September 29, 1864, three Benedictine Sisters, the first sisters of any community to live in the city of Elizabeth, New
Jersey, began classes for 72 children.
In 1868, the Elizabeth sisters became an independent community with Sister Walburga Hock as their first prioress. A year later the new community moved from Saint Michael's parish to a new Saint Walburga Convent built by Father Lemke on Magnolia Avenue. In 1923 the community moved to its present site on North Broad Street and is now known as The Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth at Saint Walburga Monastery.
To celebrate our 150th anniversary year, we opened on November 19, 2017 with a Mass and special dinner joined by our Benedictine Sisters from Baltimore and Ridgely, MD, Bristow, VA and Erie, PA.
In February Benedictine monks from three NJ houses and other local clergy joined us for Vespers and Dinner. February also provided prayer and a brunch for our employees and a Lenten Reflection by our Archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin. In March we invited our Oblates and Academy Advisory Board for Vespers and dinner and in April we celebrated with our former Sisters.
In May we traveled to New York to celebrate with our two mission houses there. Women religious from other congregations joined us for the Feast of St. Benedict in July and over a hundred visitors came for an Open House in October. A special Remembrance Ceremony was held on the Feast of All Saints for our deceased sisters. As the year concludes on November 19, 2018, family and friends-like-family will join us for our closing Mass and a festive dinner. It has been a full and fruitful year to remember!
The work of the Sisters expanded and changed from its original mission to German immigrants. At various points in our 150 year history the community has had mission houses in New Jersey, New York, Washington, DC, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Ecuador. At present our community ministers within New York and New Jersey.
Benedictine Center for Spirituality
Benedictine Center for Spirituality offers an oasis in the city. It is a place to be apart, to enjoy the peace of a monastic atmosphere and the warmth of Benedictine community at Saint Walburga Monastery. Through the Center we hope to share the spiritual resources of the monastery with those seeking a deeper relationship with God. The Center invites others to join in the listening to God through retreats, spiritual direction, daily Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours with the sisters.
Benedictine Academy, a Catholic college preparatory high school in Elizabeth, New Jersey, founded by the Benedictine Sisters, educates young women to be responsible leaders of the 21st century. Focusing on academic growth and character formation in the Benedictine tradition, the Academy challenges students to become life-long learners who are intellectually curious, rooted in the gospel and committed to justice and integrity.
Combining Catholic values with their belief in the necessity for quality preschool education, the Benedictine Sisters established the Benedictine Preschool in 1996.
Benedictine Preschool promotes, expects and encourages kindness and love, respect, integrity and service to others. It strives to develop well-rounded students by encouraging the cognitive, social, physical and spiritual growth of every child, through a process oriented, developmentally appropriate program. It is a state licensed preschool, awarded 4 stars through the state’s quality rating improvement system, Grow NJ Kids.
At St. Walburga Monastery, Oblates meet once a month. Meetings are open to anyone. Those who make the commitment of Oblation formalize their intention to live the Gospel values found in the Rule, and they share in the spiritual life of the community. Oblates do not live in the monastery or make vows, but are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to reflect and pray with Scripture daily. Some Oblates may join the community in praying the Liturgy of the Hours or in working on some particular project. It is especially important for each to discover the application of Benedict’s teaching in his or her own life. The meetings include both conferences and time for discussion so that Oblates may share their experience of applying the Rule to life outside the monastery.
So far this year, the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center has provided housing, meals and gathering space for the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses (CBP) and the Federation Chapter. In January, the Cullman community welcomed forty Prioresses of Benedictine monasteries from throughout North America. Sr. Tonette Sperando, Prioress and a member of the CBP Coordinating Committee, played a major role in planning the event that took place with a grand Mardi Gras flair.
In June the General Chapter of the Federation of St. Scholastica, which had sixty participants, congregated at the retreat center in Cullman. Sr. Lynn Marie McKenzie, President of
the Federation and member of the Cullman community,
chaired the meeting and was re-elected for another four-year term of service. The week-long gathering concluded with a special banquet featuring Umbrian fare in
honor of the Italian homeland of St. Scholastica. Images of St. Scholastica
greeted participants all along the passageway to the dining room and several statues of Scholastica were prominent features of the dining room décor.
In addition to these two large gatherings, the community hosted the Federation of St. Scholastica Council in April and the Executive Committee of the North American Association of Benedictine Oblate Directors (NAABOD) in May.
Thirty-five years ago, an unexpected ministry came to birth on our monastery grounds Benedictine Manor. At that time, the Sisters had learned of the need in our area for independent living options for seniors and decided to bring such a ministry to life in one of our newly-empty college dorms.
During these years, many changes have taken place in residential options available to seniors. While these shifts are positive, it has meant that fewer people are seeking the independent living option provided by Benedictine Manor, and over the past several years the need for this ministry has decreased substantially. After careful analysis of all available information,thorough exploration of all options,and much prayer and discernment,the Sisters made the difficult decision to close the Manor before the current realities affect the level of service we can provide to our residents. Now, the blessing that has been Benedictine Manor will continue in other ways as the remaining residents take the blessing with them to their new places of residence, and those who have been blessed to serve at the Manor share the fruit of that blessing in new ways.
An interview with Sister Tonette about Benedictine Manor may be found in the latest issue of Benedictine Update. See link below.
The Eucharistic Celebration, during which the Rite of Perpetual Monastic Profession was celebrated, was held at Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Rev. John O'Donnell, O.S.B. presided over the Eucharistic Celebration and offered the homily. Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., Prioress of the monastic community, led the Rite of Perpetual Monastic Profession, received Sister Michelle’s vows, and offered a reflection on this important step in the life of every monastic. Joining the monastic community for the celebration were Sister Michelle Renee’s sisters, Paulette Haynes and Annie Scarborough, along with their families, as well as Oblates and friends.
To read more of this article, click on the link to the Benedictine Update below.
Other articles published in this issue of Benedictine Update include:
25th Jubilee celebration of Sister Kathleen-Christa
Sister Lynn Marie's trip to South Africa
Sister Margaret Mary Liang's work with the community in Colony, AL
Death of Sister Margaret Frederick
Activities of pecan industry volunteers
In a ritual before evening prayer, on May 29, 2018, Sister Mary Bratrsovsky appointed Sister Barbara Pavlik as Administrator of Queen of Heaven Monastery in Warren, Ohio. Sister Mary and the Warren Sisters also thanked and blessed the outgoing Administrator, Sister Agnes Knapik, for her five years of service.
We continue our outreach program for our sisters and the general public
Tuesday Nights with the Sisters
We invite you to Tuesday Night with the Sisters. Programs take place in the Monastery Chapter Room from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
2018 Theme: The Diversity of Benedictine Life -how sisters, monks, oblates and lay people live their Benedictine Life.
April 10: Monastic Prayer
Let's take a look at and appreciate the prayer life of monastics.
Presenters: Sisters Mary Bratrsovsky, Christine Kouba, and Sharon Marie Stola
May 8: Stability and Environmental Stewardship: Think Global, Act Local
Jean-Marie Kauth will describe her work with environmental stewardship at Benedictine University and elsewhere and discuss the connection with the Benedictine hallmark of stability.
Presenter: Jean-Marie Kauth, PhD
June 12: What Makes a Homily Good?
Homily means “dialogue.” So let’s really talk.
Presenter: Fr. Becket Franks
August 14: LISTENING: “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Mk 4:23, Mt 11:15)
Most of us spend considerably more time each day in listening rather than in reading, writing or speaking, yet we listen at only 25% efficiency. To truly implement the Benedictine values of hospitality, justice, respect and stewardship, we can benefit from learning very specific steps to increase/improve our listening skills.
Presenter: Cindy Power
September 11: Peace on Earth: Exploring the call of Pope John XXIII
The anniversary of September 11th is a painful reminder of how far we are from peace on earth. Join the oblates of Sacred Heart Monastery as we explore Saint Pope John XXIII's call for peace on earth in his 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris" and celebrate our own prayer service for peace throughout this entire planet we call home.
Presenters: Jane Doyle, Beth Hemzacek, and Cathy Lentz
October 16: The Great Silence
In this age and culture of Twitter storms and constant outrage, we could benefit from the wisdom of St. Benedict regarding Restraint of Speech. This presentation examines the value of silence in a well-lived life.
Presenter: Chris Fletcher
November 13: Bridge or Barrier? Mary and Christian-Muslim Relations
Moving through early, medieval, and modern times to travel across Western Europe and the Balkans to the Middle East and India, this talk will explore how Mary's role in Christian-Muslim relations has constantly shifted from bridge to barrier and back again.
Presenter: Rita George-Tvrtkovic
“Almighty God, we ask your blessing upon this restoration project, its builders and its donors who helped Villa St. Benedict and Sacred Heart Monastery make this possible. As we bless this project with holy water, send your guardian angel, placed before this building, to bless us and all those who live and work here. May this project keep us safe from all water damage as we continue to minister to the needs of one another. May we look kindly on all who enter."
“O God, in Your wise providence You are glad to bless all human labor, the work of our hands and of our minds. Grant that all who plan to conduct business in these offices be guided with Your support.
May all who work in these offices greet one another and receive others as if they were Christ Himself. May our core values of Hospitality, Respect, Stewardship and Justice be the guiding force of all our communication and decisions.”
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida were looking for a “somewhat” slower summer, but it hasn’t been thus. Retreatants, prayer groups, an evening with guest speakers, volunteer service for the homeless, our annual retreat … the activities go on. We are blessed to have this new monastery/home and retreat wing. Visitors talk about what a peaceful experience they have and that Benedictine Hospitality, which we strive to provide, is warm and welcoming.
June was especially blessed with the acceptance of Sister Tracey Adams into our community as a Novice. In her own words, Sister describes how she came to be at Holy Name –
My path to this life has not been a straight shot or direct route. There have been plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, calamities and God-sends. As I now know, the timing was in God’s hands: I have arrived here neither too early nor too late. And it was in awe, and not a few apprehensions, that I approached this turning point. Would I be equal to the task of continuous spiritual dedication my new vocation asked of me? Would my world seem alternately too small within the semi-cloistered walls of Holy Name, and too large in context of my new-found responsibilities to the world-wide community of the human family? Most importantly, would God accept this flawed and feisty woman into this most blessed of his homes? But as I was encouraged to choose the hymns and psalms that would make up the liturgy for my entrance into the novitiate, I became calmer in the knowledge that this is where I was meant to be – where I could be part of a community dedicated to making a difference.
For Sister Tracey, the novitiate will be a year of study and prayer. Of course, there will be some internal ministry involved as well … we wouldn’t be Benedictine if we left out service to each other. Balance in these aspects of Benedictine life is what she will strive to achieve and continue as she goes on in religious life. It will be a joy for the Community to watch and help Sister Tracey become the person God is calling her to be.
The Prayer Service and reception were attended by Sister Tracey’s mom, Sharon La Fave, other family members, friends and her parish priest and spiritual director from St. Petersburg, FL, Father Tim Sherwood. Lots of welcoming hugs from everyone followed and then a special dinner.
We are excited and very pleased as well to have received one of our affiliates, Marietta Dinopol, as a postulant during Sunday evening Prayer, July 15th.
From February until June and before the summer got too hot, the Aquaponics garden gave forth God’s bounty in vegetables of every kind including peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, beets and herbs. Sister Miriam and a few volunteers harvested 604 pounds of food and also sold an added 108 pounds.
July 26 through the 31st brought Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, O.S.B. to lead the Sisters’ annual retreat. The theme was “The Benedictine Life and the Paschal Mystery.” In addition to daily sessions, we were able to have private conferences with the Abbot and Eucharist daily, time for reflection or walks on our spacious grounds.
“Uno means nothing.”
“I only needed one more card to have a run!”
“That can’t be a word, I don’t care what the book says!”
These are sounds heard on Sunday evenings in the monastery when we have Family Night. We gather in the multipurpose room to play games and enjoy each other. Currently, we have three games going: Uno, Phase 10, and Scrabble. The games played are changed periodically. These stress-free evenings are filled with much laughter, especially Sister Mary Romana’s giggles. Like with any family, we are brought closer together.
Family Night started in 2010 and is now an institution. We don’t let too many weeks go by, even if busy, before having our night of fun together. Guests, volunteers, and anyone who happens to be around can join in.
Music has always been an integral part of the ministries of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. Even when first opening Holy Name Academy for girls in 1889, music education was part of the curriculum. The Sisters who taught in schools throughout Florida brought their love and appreciation of music to their students. Sister Helen (who is looking forward to her 105th birthday on September 28th) has fond memories of writing musicals, teaching all the parts to her elementary students, and joyfully watching their performance development.
The free Monthly Concerts hosted on Sunday afternoons have brought not only those familiar with the Sisters and our ministries, but also many people who would not otherwise think to visit here. The concerts are presented from September through April and feature different choirs from local churches. The music varies: Gospel, traditional, chants, music of India, bells, and even a few quartet groups. The Sisters usually sing a piece or two as well.
The choir directors love having their groups sing/play in our chapel because the acoustics are exceptional.
One said tearfully that her choir sounded the best she had ever heard them!
Fall is not right around the corner for us, but we do look forward to fewer days of 90 degree weather soon. We certainly don’t get a super visible fall season, but even little changes that come in November are beautiful. The air gets crisp and fresh so sitting outside and watching one of our spectacular sun sets is a highlight of the day. Did you see the “Strawberry Moon” on July 27th?
Hurry-up and get here Fall!
Mission Statement: "We are a community of sisters rooted in the Gospel and the Rule of St. Benedict, applied to our time in Call to Life. We accompany those around us, with a preferential option for impoverished women; and in this way contribute to building more humane relationships in Mexican families, in society and in the Church."
We have accepted the challenge of living our monastic life in a semi-arid climate, closely surrounded by neighbors, small businesses and street vendors. It has taught us to create silence within, to be centered and walk in God’s presence in every situation and to be very respectful of each other’s needs. We have learned to care for creation and help the dry and solitary land rejoice and blossom (Is 35,1)
Our external ministries begin at and flow from CEDIMSE, St. Scholastica Center for the Development of Women, located down the street from the monastery. At the Cnter we offer a variety of services to women and their families, such as shared prayer with lectio divina, spiritual companionship, counseling, workshops for those who are grieving the multiple losses that they face, brief courses on women in Scripture, human development, social analysis with a gender perspective and peace-building.
When women are asked what they need, many of them reply that they want help with their children. So, what began many years ago as a space for women, has grown into a family center, which includes summer programs for grade school children, youth groups focused on self-esteem, building healthy relationships, avoiding addictions etc. Our library offers many services besides lending books. It is a cool, quiet space where the young can get help with their homework and children can find a game to play. Since some children won’t cross the avenue that separates our Center from the adjoining neighborhood, some of our young adult volunteers set up a reading and play space one afternoon a week on the wide median strip in front of our Center.
Beyond CEDIMSE we reach out in service within our Diocese with classes and conferences at the Seminary, the Institute for the Formation of Pastoral Ministers and Catholic Charities, two Women’s Study Groups and a civil organization dedicated to helping families find their members who have “disappeared” in recent years due to drug violence or police brutality.
We have renewed our long-distance involvement in three Benedictine schools in the Mexico City area and continue to participate in Religious life in general and Benedictine life in particular on a national and international level. Maricarmen continues to serve on the theological team of CLAR (Confederation of Latin American Religious) and Mariana is the secretary of the Mexican Benedictine-Cistercian Union.
Attentive to the continuing call of the Spirit and the summons of our vow of conversion, we commit ourselves to daily Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio and Worship. As Benedictine women, we strive to listen to the message of the Gospel, the Rule and the Wisdom of one another as we respond to the challenges of our communal life, our Church and the needs of those around us.
For the fourth time in our community’s history, we are transitioning to a different geographical area and a new monastery. Having spent the last 5 years praying, searching for and purchasing property, working with architects, planners and builders, we finally broke ground on November 1, 2017. We anticipate that we will make the move from Ridgely, Maryland to Newark, Delaware by the end of 2018.
Soon after the sisters arrived, St. Gertrude Academy was opened on the convent grounds - continuing what would become a long tradition of educating young students.
In addition to teaching in Newark and Ridgely, the sisters further expanded their ministry over time to teaching in schools throughout the Diocese of Wilmington.
A new school was built in 1964, replacing the old Academy and was followed by the Habilitation Center and the Open Community Program. Today these programs are collectively called the Benedictine Program and Services.
After Vatican II, the sisters, again responding to the needs of the times, pursued additional ministries in nursing, social work, counseling, and library science.
In 1982, under the patronage of St. Martin DePorres, several sisters began collecting and distributing food, clothing, and other necessities to the poor of the area- it was the beginning of St. Martin's Barn. In 1993, St. Martin's House was opened as a transitional residence for homeless women and children; both ministries are still very active today.
In 1982, Sr. Miriam Ruth Wilk initiated the Oblate program at St. Gertrude Monastery. Today, this fulfilling ministry has grown to over 35 Oblates who gather for monthly meetings at the monastery that include prayer, Mass and brunch with our sisters, study of the Rule, lectures on Benedictine values and retreats.
Our sisters and our Oblates currently share a blog with 2 nearby monasteries, Emmanuel in Lutherville, MD and St. Benedict in Bristow, VA. 3 OSB Connections provides seasonal reflections with posts by members of each community throughout Advent and Lenten seasons.
The concept of this new TriCommunity effort is to deepen our charism and foster commitment “to creating collaborative relationships to support one another in living and stewarding this gift now and into the future."
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055
CIB Resources- Bulletins