St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

Sister Cecilia Dwyer during 125th celebration Sister Cecilia Dwyer offers a reflection during 125th celebration Mass

What a grace-filled year it has been thus far!


Our celebrations in honor of our 150th foundation in the Commonwealth of Virginia continued with three final events. In March, forty-six Benedictine and Cistercian friends from twelve communities joined us for a day of camaraderie, keynoted by Sister Ephrem Hollerman of St. Benedict Monastery, St. Joseph MN. Sister Ephrem gifted us with a beautiful and inspiring presentation entitled “And God Saw That It Was Good – In Honor of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia.” A celebratory dinner and social followed; the atmosphere was absolutely electric with joy and pride in our shared Benedictine heritage and thanksgiving for our continued journey.

All Benedictine Celebration: left to right Sister Colleen Quinlivan, Sister Cecilia Dwyer, Sister Ephrem Hollerman, Sister Charlotte Lange All Benedictine Celebration: left to right Sister Colleen Quinlivan, Sister Cecilia Dwyer, Sister Ephrem Hollerman, Sister Charlotte Lange
Sister Lynn Marie helps to set up for the picnic Sister Lynn Marie helps to set up for the picnic

Friday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 4th were dedicated to the closing of our 150th Jubilee Year and the commemoration of our 125 years of establishment in Bristow. On Friday we welcomed former members of our community with a social full of story-telling, remembrances, food and the renewing of friendships. Saturday, May 4th was a beautiful, blue-sky day – a gift from God for the 125th Anniversary Mass and Picnic. Held outdoors on the grassy circle in front of the monastery, over 300 invited guests joined the sisters in thanksgiving for their history and continued presence in Northern Virginia. Bishop Michael Burbidge (Diocese of Arlington, VA) was the celebrant, with music lead by our Linton Hall School Choir and Oblates Debby Fancher and Lisa Fusco. The Knights of Columbus George Brent Council fed the joy-filled and hungry crowd who gathered at tables in our picnic grove after Mass. And everywhere our wonderful Oblates reflected true Benedictine hospitality as they attended to whatever need was at hand. We are, indeed, so very blessed by our God!

(l to r) Sisters Mary Clark, Kathleen Persson, Andrea Westkamp, Joanna Burley, Henry Marie Zimmermann, Lisbeth Cruz (l to r) Sisters Mary Clark, Kathleen Persson, Andrea Westkamp, Joanna Burley, Henry Marie Zimmermann, Lisbeth Cruz

In July, Sister Joanna Burley was installed as the 11th prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia in a public ceremony. Out-going prioress Sister Cecilia Dwyer presided over the monastic rite, with Rev. Raymond Studzinski, OSB, pronouncing the blessing of the Church. An interesting ritual for the Bristow Community is the turning of the ring during the installation. Our prioresses wear the community ring with the “IHS” facing away from the body; all other members have the letters facing towards themselves. During the installation, Sister Cecilia removed Sister Joanna’s ring and replaced it facing outward – a symbol of the commitment of the prioress to others. Sister Cecilia then turned her own ring inwards, a symbolic action of the transfer of leadership. Sister Cecilia (28 years) and Sister Andrea Verchuck (12 years) have served as prioresses of the Bristow community since 1979, so this election is a truly life-changing event for all of us. Joining Sister Joanna is Sister Andrea Westkamp, sub-prioress, and sisters Henry Marie Zimmerman, Lisbeth Cruz, Mary Clark, and Kathleen Persson on the monastic council.

Young volunteers for Ora et Labora program (l to r) Rachel, Madison, and Dabney

This summer, three young ladies from Saint Gertrude High School spent a week with us in our “Ora et Labora” program. Developed by Sister Andrea Westkamp, the week enables high school girls to learn first-hand about Benedictine life in community, prayer, and ministry. In a short time, the sisters and the girls formed bonds of friendship and respect that are already leading to more events!

Rendering of new monastery Rendering of new monastery

Finally, our plans for a new monastery are moving forward! We currently have raised just over 75% of our Capital Campaign goal; the sale of some of our land is nearing finality, banks and contractors have been chosen, and the day of ground-breaking we expect to celebrate early this fall. Please pray for us!

Monasterio Pan de Vida, Torreon, Mexico

This past year has been a busy and blessed time for us at Monasterio Pan de Vida.   After many years without much change on the diocesan level, we are now adapting to a new bishop and a new pastor. That of course has meant greater involvement for us in parish and diocesan activities. 

As a community we have become actively involved in the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults within the Catholic Church.  This has led us to accompany survivors of sexual molestation at CEDIMSE (St. Scholastica Center for the Development of Women) and develop protocols for their protection in the institutions that we sponsor.  Lizeth has been advising and advocating for the interests of a group of seminarians and ex-seminarians who have been victims of abuse.


This past spring we did some major repair work in the monastery and our formation house as a result of some minor flooding last September.  In spite of the fact that Torreon is a semi-desert, we have a lot of salt-peter in the soil and when we have excessive rain, it flourishes and eats right through the walls!

Sister Mariana baking pecan rolls in Atchison Sister Mariana baking pecan rolls in Atchison

Mariana spent three months with our sisters at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas and returned home with a knowledge and love our monastic roots and her English language skills much improved.  This past year she has studied Canon Law for Religious online with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia.  She also participated in a Seminar with more than a hundred other lawyers here in Torreon to study Alternative Solutions for Conflict Resolution.  She has been invited to work part time at the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal.  She is again coordinating a great group of local young adults who sponsor a summer program for more than 100 children.

Sister Rafaela with three Oblates Sister Rafaela with three Oblates

Lizeth is completing her Masters degree in therapeutic hypnosis and brief strategic therapy. Her expertise is put to good use at our Center.


Maricarmen, besides fulfilling the challenging role of prioress, continues to serve on the Theological Advisory Board to the Presidency of the CLAR (Latin American Confederation of Religious).   Although this brings extra travel and work for her, it is very stimulating and keeps us in touch with the broader Church issues in the Spanish speaking world.  She continues to take time to travel to visit her aging mother in Culiacán, Sinaloa. 


We all take our turn as “porters of the monastery”, but nobody does it as often or as well as Michele who truly embodies the spirit of Chapter 66 of the Rule,  as she  responds “with all gentleness  and provides a prompt answer with the warmth of love” to young and old, poor and rich alike.    She also continues to accompany our oblates in their ongoing formation.


Rafaela has become very active in Sacred Heart parish in downtown Torreon, at the same time that she continues to serve in vocation ministry at the Monastery and spiritual accompaniment at CEDIMSE.

Ruth receives the community's blessing Ruth receives the community's blessing

Patricia keeps busy as sub-prioress and formation director.  She goes to Mexico City at least once a month to lend a hand at the Benedictine schools there.


Mechtild stays healthy and enjoys participating in community prayer, meals and recreation.  She is always a welcoming presence in our community.


On June 16th, the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, at second vespers Ruth Quezada began her postulancy.  Ruth, who is from our parish, had been journeying with the community for the past year and a half and has been a catechist at our Center.   


Summertime brings opportunities for initial and ongoing formation and this summer is no exception.   


Ruth and Alejandra will be in Mexico, City, studying Biblical Spirituality at the Pontifical University.


Mariana and Lizeth will be attending a Monastic Formation Workshop in Guatemala organized by ABECCA (The Benedictine-Cistercian Association of the Caribbean and the Andes).  On her return Mariana will join the Mexican Benedictine Cistercian Union for another gathering. 


Patricia and Maricarmen will be attending a Formation Congress in Lima, Peru in August focused on Dreaming and Opening New Pathways for Religious Life. 


We continue to be blessed by many generous oblates and friends who call us to be true monastic women for this time and place and who make it possible for us to do the things we do and reach out to people in many ways.   We gratefully hold them in prayer.   

St. Gertrude Monastery, Newark, DE

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.

-Charism Statement

St. Gertrude Monastery Update
Federation web-site (2).pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [472.9 KB]

St. Scholastica Monastery, Boerne, TX


The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery  have submitted a PDF file of their most recent community newsletter describing their current activities. Follow the link below to download and view.

Benedictine Sisters' Newsletter Winter 2[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Erie, PA

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie seek God in community and respond in prayer and ministry. 

We are guided by a Corporate Commitment. 


A corporate commitment is a vision or goal that we agree to promote as a community and as individuals no matter where we are or in how many diverse ministries we might be engaged. The corporate commitment of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie is:

As Benedictine Sisters of Erie we commit ourselves to be a healing presence and prophetic witness for peace by working for sustainability and justice, especially for women and children.

Together with women religious throughout the nation we pray for our country and renew our commitment, through faithfulness to the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict, to help create a world rooted in love, acceptance, inclusion, peace and justice for all.


In keeping with our Corporate Commitment to work for sustainability and justice for all, especially women and children, and in being faithful to the Gospel of peace and justice we uphold and the Rule of Benedict that urges us to welcome all as Christ did, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie remain opposed to a border wall.


We object to the announcement of a national emergency that allows the transfer and irresponsible use of public funds to construct it. A border wall is unethical; it hurts people and damages the environment. The continued dehumanization of migrants, human beings in search of protection from violence and oppression, work and a better life is immoral.


We support building bridges that unite, rather than walls that divide—bridges paved in reverence and respect for all of God’s people, supported by principles of justice and equal rights for all, and painted with love and compassion.

The Community Welcomes Two Postulants

(L-R) Sister Stephanie Schmidt, Postulant Director, Sister Marilyn Schauble, Vocation Director, Sister Anne Wambach, prioress, Postulant Jennifer Koo and Postulant Gen Frazer (L-R) Sister Stephanie Schmidt, Postulant Director, Sister Marilyn Schauble, Vocation Director, Sister Anne Wambach, prioress, Postulant Jennifer Koo and Postulant Gen Frazer

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie welcomed two women into the postulate. Jennifer Koo, an accountant and business owner from Singapore and Jen Frazer, an artist and art teacher from the Boston, MA area became postulants in a ritual ceremony celebrated on Sunday, January 13. Sister Marilyn Schauble, Vocation Director, who journeyed with both women through their discernment, said: “It has been an honor to work with these women and today is a special day for them and for us.”


Sister Stephanie Schmidt, Director of Monastic Formation, now journeys with Jennifer and Jen as Postulant Director. She and the community offer support to the new postulants by their example of faithfulness as Jennifer and Jen continue to deepen their understanding of and commitment to the monastic way of life.


Sister Anne Wambach, prioress, captured the moment very simply: “Jennifer and Jen, we welcome you to this community. We thank you for responding to God’s call. May you serve God with the gifts you have been given so that in all things God may be glorified.”

Novice moving forward

Novice Kathleen McCarty, OSB Novice Kathleen McCarty, OSB

Novice Kathleen McCarthy will be moving forward into the third stage of initial monastic formation: the Scholasticate. Each stage of initial formation is accompanied by continued vocation discernment. Discernment led Sister Kathleen to request first monastic profession and continue her journey of seeking God in community with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. With the blessing of Novice Director, Sister Marilyn Schauble, the Prioress, Sister Anne Wambach, the monastic council and community, Sister Kathleen will profess first monastic vows on March 15.


“We are so pleased to welcome and uphold Sister Kathleen as she prepares to move into the Scholasticate as a professed monastic,” said Sister Anne Wambach. Sister Marilyn Schauble added: “We are stronger because of Sister Kathleen’s presence and commitment.”

Everything on earth is filled with sacred presence

Sister Anne McCarthy, OSB Sister Anne McCarthy, OSB

The first presentation in the 2019 Enrichment Series at Mount St. Benedict Monastery drew a group of people interested in hearing about “Climate Crisis and Humility: Benedict’s teaching as a guide.”


In her presentation, Sister Anne McCarthy, coordinator of  Benedictines for Peace and staff member at Benetvision and Monasteries of the Heart, presented a fresh look at St. Benedict's 12 steps of humility as a foundation for deep transformation of consciousness and action.

Using the Rule of Benedict, Chapter 7 on Humility, Sister Anne outlined how Benedict’s steps of humility can lay the foundation for the personal transformation and spiritual growth that will allow individuals and groups to forge a new relationship with a planet in crisis. "By recognizing God as the ground of all being, knowing ourselves as a sacred part of creation, and acknowledging our role as co-creators, we will be more able to listen to the cry of the earth, learn from the earth, and be the voice for the earth through choice and advocacy. “If we can fall in love with all of creation we will care for it with passion,” said Sister Anne. “We must transform our consciousness to believe and act on love for creation, truly believing that everything on earth is filled with sacred presence.”

Erie Benedictines honor Edwina Gateley with their annual Prophet of Peace Award

Edwina Gateley is a poet, theologian, artist, writer, and lay minister. She is a single mom and has been described as a modern day mystic and prophet. The Benedictine Sisters of Erie awarded the 2019 Prophet of Peace award to her for the extraordinary manner in which she uses her gifts for the good of others.


“Edwina’s efforts are clearly aligned with the community’s  Corporate Commitment,” said Sister Anne Wambach, prioress. “She has given her life working for women and raising the issues of sexism and racism in church and society internationally, nationally, and locally.”


With prayer and praise Edwina was acknowledged as a woman whose commitment to justice, peace and women’s issues is reflected in the responsible and caring mission that she daily embraces. In accepting the award, Edwina said: “I have simply tried to bring God's face to the world . . .a big God who is something of everything God created . . . I am grateful to the Erie Benedictines who continue to share my journey . . . thank you.”


Click here to read the reflections and award presentation given by Sister Anne Wambach.



Fall/Winter Magazine

Click here to read the latest edition of the community's magazine: THE MOUNT.

St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL

The mission of the Benedictine Sisters is reverence. Through common prayer, stewardship, hospitality, and mutual respect, we seek to find and honor God present in each person and in all created things.

We chose "reverence" as the spirit of our mission for its Latin roots that mean "to see again."  Join us in taking a fresh look at life. Discover God in yourself and in the world around you.

St. Scholastica Chapel interior (photo by Eric Allix Rogers) St. Scholastica Chapel interior (photo by Eric Allix Rogers)

Canonical Visitation

(l to r) Sisters Kathy McNany, (Baltimore) Visitator; Benita Coffey; Jacquelyn Ernster (Yankton) Visitator; Kathy Maloney; Lynn McKenzie, (Cullman) Federation President; and Judith Zonsius (l to r) Sisters Kathy McNany, (Baltimore) Visitator; Benita Coffey; Jacquelyn Ernster (Yankton) Visitator; Kathy Maloney; Lynn McKenzie, (Cullman) Federation President; and Judith Zonsius


From October 17-20, 2018, the Federation of St. Scholastica paid our monastery a canonical visitation. This assessment provided us collaborative feedback offering support, advice, and direction. The Federation Visitators confirmed that the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago continue to do extraordinary work. We are grateful to our Visitators and the Visitation Committee for their guidance and preparation. 

Recent Newsletter

In our most recent newsletter, Sacro Speco, we featured a timeline of all of the prioresses of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago (1861-present) as well as the five living past prioresses and the current prioress.  Our rich history is shared with many other monasteries in the Federation of St. Scholastica as some of our early members helped to found other Benedictine communities in the United States.


To view the Sacro Speco newsletter, please visit our website.

Highlighted Ministries

Alumnae- Our Development and Communications office continues to spearhead an opportunity for each Alumnae Class of St. Scholastica Academy Chicago to celebrate a Reunion weekend every five years after their graduation. In fall 2019 we will celebrate those alumnae from classes ending in ’_ 4 and ’_9. Our two academies have closed, but the Alumnae continue to support one another and our Benedictine community by attending Reunion weekend and our annual fundraising dinner (gala).  


Archives- Sister Virginia Jung, OSB, Community Archivist has hosted a Chicago Open Archives event each of the past two years and continues to work with DePaul University student interns and other undergraduate and graduate students on various projects to enhance our Archives and to continue to preserve our history.


Oblates- Sister Benita Coffey, OSB, Director of Oblates, and Sister Mary Susan Remsgar, OSB new liaison to the Colorado Oblates, continue to foster Benedictine Spirituality with our 130 active Oblates of St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL who live locally in Chicago, IL or in Pueblo, CO.


Social Justice- Social Justice Promoter, Sister Benita Coffey, OSB, who is active with Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, planned and participated in the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Responding with Love, Mercy, and Justice event at Catholic Theological Union in September, a discussion of current immigration and detention issues. Sister Patricia Crowley, OSB was a featured speaker at one of the breakout sessions; she addressed the birth of Bethany House of Hospitality and described how this organization cares for immigrant women seeking asylum. On September 21st, the community marked the 70th Anniversary of the UN’s International Day of Peace with an evening prayer vigil. And in November, our Sisters attended area-wide events commemorating the Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life victims at a local synagogue.


Vocations-Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, Vocation Minister, spearheaded an important panel for young Catholics and Vocation directors. During the live-streamed event, You Talk. We’ll Listen, And Together We’ll Grow younger Catholics discussed the church’s challenges and gifts and described how ( the) vowed religious can better connect with them. Sister Belinda also has hosted monthly Discernment discussion groups for young women and continues to offer two Discernment Weekend Retreat opportunities for young women (18-50) who are discerning religious life.

To learn more about the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, please visit our website or follow or like us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

St. Walburg Monastery, Covington, KY

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.

Sister Aileen Bankemper Sister Aileen Bankemper

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

Students show off their artwork Students show off their artwork

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.

Sister Aileen meets Pope Francis Sister Aileen meets Pope Francis



On September 8 Sr. Aileen Bankemper attending the 8th International CIB (Communio Internationalis Benedictarum) Symposium met Pope Francis face-to-face for 10-15 seconds. 

Sister Cathy in Raleigh, NC Sister Cathy in Raleigh, NC

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.”

Sister Ann John with Msgr. Cleves Sister Ann John with Msgr. Cleves

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.

Deacon Royce Winters Deacon Royce Winters

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.

St. Bernard Prep students with Fr. Bede Marcy, OSB at the Guest House St. Bernard Prep students with Fr. Bede Marcy, OSB at the Guest House

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.

Emmanuel Monastery, Baltimore, MD

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.

St. Walburga Monastery, Elizabeth, NJ

Celebrating 150 Years!

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.

St. Walburga Monastery Community photo at the Opening Mass St. Walburga Monastery Community photo at the Opening Mass

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!

Guests from opening Mass on November 19, 2017 Guests from opening Mass on November 19, 2017, including Benedictine Sisters from Baltimore, Ridgley, Erie and Bristow
Opening Mass celebration Opening Mass celebration
From the Vespers and dinner with Benedictine monks and clergy From the Vespers and dinner with Benedictine monks and clergy
Celebration in New York

Mission and Ministry                 

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

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.


Benedictine Preschool

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.

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