Upon their leave for Florida from Pennsylvania, five Benedictine Sisters were told (in so many words): “If it doesn’t work, don’t come back.” The ability to house and feed nuns in those days was difficult. Replacing sisters and then having them return would be a challenge. Nonetheless, the courageous, pioneering foundresses of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, Sisters Josephine Felding, Agatha Geisler, Boniface Feldmann, Agnes Behe and Mother Dolorosa Scanlan, answered the call. Father Gerard Pelz, O.S.B., friend of one of the Sisters, had requested teachers for his fledgling school in the small village of San Antonio, Florida.
The Sisters arrived on February 28, 1889 and began teaching the very next day! Holy Name Academy, a boarding school for girls, was opened two weeks later. The Sisters’ work as educators and leaders would become one of their most profound legacies. The girls’ academy operated from 1889 through 1964 and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School for Boys from 1929 – 1959. The Sisters staffed parochial and public schools throughout Florida and conducted summer catechetical programs. Included also was early education programs with Priory Montessori School which was expanded in 1978 as Holy Name Academy Child Care Center.
The Sisters have served for over 128 years as messengers of the Gospel “listening with the ear of their heart,” as instructed by St. Benedict. Our lives of prayer, work, ministry and friendship are shared to help each of us seek a closer relationship with God. Our mission centers on creating an environment conducive to mindfulness, awareness of one another and the sacredness of all that God has created.
Part of that mission was the building of a new monastery which was completed in 2014 to accommodate the life and work in which the sisters are engaged today. With 14 professed members, a postulant and two live-in volunteers, the former 3-story building was too big and in need of considerable repair. The new monastery was built from the sale of that building to the Saint Leo University on land the Sisters already owned. An additional guest wing was finished in early 2017.
While individual Sisters are still engaged as educators, the Community responds with the compassion of Christ in a variety of ministries including counseling, and spiritual direction. They support and serve on the board of a local shelter for abused women and children, provide food and clothing for the poor and homeless, sew pillowcase dresses for girls in underdeveloped countries, run Daystar Hope Center, help with scholarship assistance to students at Saint Leo University and volunteer as board members for several non-profits in the area.
Our outreach is to migrants, the homeless, those who are alone and those seeking fellowship on this day of thanks and gratitude. The night before, volunteers help us peel 100 pounds of potatoes. St. Anthony School’s students make the colorful table decorations and a local caterer provides china, glassware and silverware. It is always a fun day of family and friends coming together in community to give thanks to God.
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida’s most recent endeavor is an aquaponics program. Aquaponics is the integration of animal and plant culture in an aquatic media. The fish waste has all the nutrients needed to produce rich, healthy, more robust plants. The system recycles its own water and no synthetic fertilizers are ever used. This is the perfect harmony of Mother Earth just as God planned!
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida now host aquaponics training programs for those who want to grow their own organic food (pictured right is Postulant Tracey Adams with her graduation certificate). There have been missionaries from around the country and outside it learning this best practices farming at Holy Name Monastery. The intention is for them to bring aquaponics to poor areas of the United States and third-world countries. It is exciting to imagine a small town or village feeding their population healthy food that is economically viable because of training received at Holy Name Monastery…all in keeping with our Corporate Commitment “to feed the hungers of the people of God.”
The Benedictine Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs have recently published a Special Edition of The Review, which celebrates their past, present, and future. On the inside of the cover, Sister Clare Carr, Prioress, outlines the significant happenings that are included in various articles in The Review. Among these topics are assessment of properties and the weloming of Sister Maria Plafcan into the Novitiate. To read more of Sister Clare's message and other articles, click on the link below.
A multitude of activities sponsored by the Benet Hill community are planned and described in their ministries catalog. Included are classes, workshops, and other programs planned through the spring of 2018. Other services listed include spiritual direction, bereavement education, Benet Gifts gift shop, and the Sisters' Thrift and Boutique. Among the events listed is the Chamber Concert Series, in which various musical performances are offered in the monastery chapel, and the Film Series, a partnership program with the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute. To view the details of the the ministry catalog click on the link below.
To find more information about happenings at Benet Hill Monastery visit their website at www.benethillmonastery.org.
As it has been recognized by many others who have come to know us, our
name, EMMANUEL MONASTERY, speaks to our call and response. In 1971 twenty-three faith-filled, courageous women left the monastery in Elizabeth, NJ and set out on a journey to a new and challenging future in a place that was unfamiliar and at a time when the Church was also being called to respond to the spirit of Vatican II. These 46 years in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have continued to be times of new growth and a call to openness to the ways of the Spirit. Truly our God has been with us!
We came to Baltimore mostly as teachers and worked in Catholic schools wherever there was the greatest need, bringing the concept of inter-community staffing to the schools, and freeing us from institutional sponsorships. Ensuing years broadened our calls to various ministries, again often involving us in inter-community as well as ecumenical and inter-faith endeavors. Along with teaching, we found ourselves branching out into retreat work, parish work, social service ministries, peace and justice studies and activities, and a variety of initiatives in Benedictine hospitality and spirituality. The latter was greatly assisted by the establishment of a permanent monastery in 1986 in Lutherville, MD.
From the very beginning, hospitality has shaped who we are. In our early years, living in a large convent in Severn, MD, we were able to provide a home for a young pregnant woman, a single mother and her baby, and a family in need of shelter among various other opportunities. A more recent experience during Christmas week of 2010 truly changed our lives and focused our hospitality outreach even more.
We received a request to provide housing for a young pregnant woman from Afghanistan who was seeking asylum in the United States. The facility where she had hoped to stay was full… “no room in the inn.” Sara came to Emmanuel Monastery on New Year’s Day, 2011. On January 6th, Feast of Epiphany, her son, Amin was born. They lived here with us for 2 ½ years, enabling us to experience first-hand the wonder of the growth of a child from birth, the forming of a friendship that is as strong as any family ties, and the broadening of understanding and relationship with our Muslim sisters and brothers as we experienced the beauty of Islam . Sara’s husband was able to join her about 2 years ago and they have a little daughter now as well. The community has been further blessed with having 3 other women live with us over the past few years, and a family from Nigeria during this past year.
Sara’s experience made us aware of the difficulties that women especially face when coming to this country seeking asylum. In March of 2011, only 2 months after Sara’s arrival, our development director Molly Corbett suggested we gather with other women religious in the area to talk about collaborating in a ministry to women seeking asylum in the US. From this AWE was born, Asylee Women Enterprise, which today serves a multitude of asylum seekers, men, women, children, families in myriad ways. For a fuller account of this whole story – a new Christmas story - visit the Global Sisters Report http://globalsistersreport.org/news/migration/transformations-follow-after-nuns-take-mother-and-child-946.
With eight other religious communities, we continue to be involved in the work of AWE, most especially during these precarious times in which we live. AWE today offers a wide variety of services to asylum seekers in addition to housing: employment services, medical and health services, ESL classes, career development, case management, community networking, and legal assistance…and this is only part of the story. Visit their web site at www.asyleewomen.org .
Another formative experience of which we are a part is the “Tri-Community Endeavor” along with St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow, VA and St. Gertrude Monastery in Ridgely, MD. Only two hours apart from one another geographically, these three communities have been in dialogue to develop ways to ensure that the Benedictine charism will be carried on in our part of the country. Our prioresses, councils, and the membership from all three monasteries have been meeting regularly, developing relationships and exploring new insights in a variety of areas. Our direction statement captures our hope and our purpose: As three communities of Benedictine women we commit to deepening our monastic life in our individual monasteries and together as a tri-community entity, attending especially to sharing of resources, formation of membership and temporal affairs. Visit our blog during the liturgical seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter for reflections on the Scriptures. Community members and our Oblates contribute to this endeavor: 3OSB Connections https://3osb.wordpress.com. A joint committee is presently working on the development of a website for the Tri-Community Endeavor.
Emmanuel Monastery is also blessed with a large number of Oblates and PACEM members (People Associated with the Community of Emmanuel Monastery) who share in facilitating our programs and in activities and life around the monastery. The monastery offers a variety of programs to the larger community. Our sister Eileen facilitates a weekly Lectio Prayer Group which meets each Monday morning at the Monastery. Other programs offered at the Monastery include VISIO DIVINA, the Heart of the St John’s Bible; Vespers and Quiet Prayer for Peace the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Co-Sponsored Programs include HOLY LIVING, LIVING WHOLLY: Exploring the Rule of Benedict for the 21st Century; Mary Oliver Series: Listening to the Voice of the Mystic; and THE SOUL’S JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF. Programs are facilitated by community members working with our oblates and other facilitators
It is with humility and gratitude that we say again that we have been aptly named:
“Emmanuel Monastery,” for truly God has been with us. We pray we may be that Presence to those who come here.
The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago have been finding new ways to welcome young women to the monastery. For National Catholic Sisters Week, Sister Belinda Monahan of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago decided to welcome young women to join the celebration. She organized an afternoon of knitting and fellowship invited women, 50 and under, to join the Sisters in making items for those in need.
Sister Belinda and Oblate Maureen Martin offered lessons to those who did not know how to knit or crochet. For more experienced crafters, patterns were on hand to create everything from hats to teddy bears. All the items are being donated to organizations for which the Sisters work who help those in need.
Throughout the afternoon, the young women chatted, drank tea, ate cookies, and got to know one another and the Sisters. Events like these have introduced many women to the monastery, including those who may be thinking about a vocation to become a Sister or an Oblate.
After a recent discernment retreat in which the participants asked if they could keep coming to the monastery, Sister Belinda began a book club so the women could gather for community and further discernment. It is called the “Spiritual Book Club” and women under 50 are invited to the monastery each month, whether or not they are discerning a vocation. This summer, the group has been reading Ronald Rolheiser’s book, The Holy Longing (and will continue with Henri Nouwen's "Discernment").
The monastery also offers periodical meetings called Young Women and the Word. These gatherings bring together those who want to explore the scriptures and learn how to pray Lectio Divina. Sister Belinda notes, “I organize these gatherings and invite young women to join us, but it is the Holy Spirit who puts the longing in their hearts for something more. I'm so grateful that our community is able to share with these women about the Benedictine way of life."
For more about upcoming programs, click here:
To learn more about becoming a Sister, visit:
“150 years and Building” is the tagline for our Jubilee Campaign as we prepare to embark on a capital campaign to build a new monastery. May 1, 2018 will mark the 150th anniversary of our founding. During the Civil War, Richmond, VA, ‘Capitol of the Confederacy,” was devastated and Catholic Schools were closed. In 1868 a dedicated parish priest traveled all the way to St. Marys, PA to get Benedictine sisters to reopen his parish school and he would not leave without the promise of three sisters joining him. Thus the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia were founded in the war torn, disease-ridden South. When they arrived on May 1st, the parish was in the middle of its May Day celebration and all gathered to greet the sisters. The sisters reopened the parish school and started a “finishing” school, named St. Mary’s, for young women. The first years were very difficult with cramped conditions, poor food, and rampant tuberculosis. There are thirty graves in a Richmond cemetery of very young sisters. Eventually, the “Motherhouse” was moved to Bristow at the invitation of the monks from Belmont, NC who had been given a large land grant there to educate children. Bristow was primitive farmland in the 1890’s and considered a much healthier environment for the sisters. Again, three sisters arrived in Bristow on May 1st, 1894. In an unusual tale between sisters and monks, Belmont Abbey eventually decided to bring their monks home and deeded over their 1700 acres of land to our sisters! If you have done the math, you will see that we Benedictine Sisters of Virginia have a huge year of celebration ahead!! May 1st, 2018 (the 150th anniversary of our foundation) to May 1st, 2019 (our 125th anniversary of being at Bristow.)
In all of these 150 years we have remained the only motherhouse of active sisters in the State of Virginia. Designated as mission territory because of the few numbers of Catholics, there are several orders of sisters working in Virginia who come from other places – mostly “up North”! In addition to our own two schools, Saint Gertrude High School in Richmond and Linton Hall School in Bristow, we established quite a few parochial schools throughout the Richmond and Arlington Dioceses. In the 1980’s and 90’s we turned our attention to social needs in our area and began the Benedictine Pastoral Center for spiritual outreach, Benedictine Counseling Services for affordable mental health care, our BEACON adult literacy program which now works with 400 immigrants, and our transitional housing program for homeless moms and their children. Speaking of anniversaries, this year will be BEACON’s 25th and Transitional Housing BARN’s 20th! Recently, because of the huge housing boom surrounding us, we declared our grounds a “Place of Peace” and built a labyrinth, turned two old silos into open chapels with a strip of stained glass, made gardens and walkways, placed a series of peace poles in different languages, etc. All visitors are welcome from sunup to sundown.
God has been very generous to us in blessing our ministries through our community as we constantly strive to determine the needs of our neighbors and how we might use our resources. The latest turn of events has been the development of a close relationship with the local Muslim community. We were able to offer them a safe haven in our school gym for their nightly Ramadan prayers and we are supporting them at the county hearings for their proposed building of a mosque on the road behind us – a very tough fight for them.
Ours has been a 150-year history of responding to the Spirit’s call and direction in the monastic tradition. Throughout these years, our sisters have dedicated themselves selflessly and we so honor and appreciate those strong women who have gone before us. As women continue to join our community, we “face forward in hope” to see what is next on our horizon!
Stay tuned for notice of the 150th anniversary celebration events!!
Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
The Benedictine Sisters of Boerne moved into their new St. Scholastica Monastery last September. The Monastery, constructed around the Sisters’ iconic Kronkosy Tower, is a 17,483 square foot complex that includes eco-friendly natural lighting, low-e glass, window shading, chilled water HVAC, and solar panels.
An important part of the transition included moving relics, memorabilia, and documents collected throughout the Benedictine Sisters’ 106-year history. More than 100 boxes were moved to the Kronkosky Tower which will house the sisters’ archives.
Realizing the enormous responsibility that lay ahead, including the tasks of sorting through decades of material to be researched, digitalized, re-catalogued, or discarded, the Sisters reached out to an archive consultant, Sister Rebecca Abel, OSB, from the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand, IN. Sister Rebecca spent 2 weeks at the Monastery offering guidance on how best to tackle the work at hand. The Sisters are grateful to Sister Rebecca for her time and expertise. They are making progress in the new archival space to preserve their extensive history for generations to come.
In true Benedictine spirit, the Sisters of Boerne have long been advocates for social justice and corporate responsibility. Issues including human rights, human trafficking, energy and environment, health care and health care reform, U.S./Mexico concerns, predatory lending practices and fair pay concerns have remained priorities, especially for Sister Susan Mika, OSB.
Sister Susan and Ruben Lopez, both with the Benedictine Coalition for Responsible Investment (CRI), faithfully attend monthly Interfaith Welcome Coalition immigration meetings in San Antonio. Through strategies and networking, they focus on the plight of undocumented immigrant women and children in South Texas detainment centers. The coalition’s member groups provide hands-on support of at-risk immigrant communities, as well as advocacy on legislative agendas.Sr. Susan and Ruben create monthly immigration updates outlining proposed legislation, outcomes of ongoing judicial review at the national and local levels, and article summaries that document what is happening. Sister Bernadine Reyes, OSB (Prioress) and Sister Frances Briseño, OSB also advocate for immigrant women and children by visiting them at one of the south Texas detainment centers.
Sister Ursula Herrera, OSB has been the Director of the Benedictine Sisters’ Caridad de Corazón, ministry since it first began in 2000. This life-changing program helps thousands of poor and disenfranchised people living on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border near Eagle Pass, Texas. In collaboration with group and individual volunteers, the Benedictine Sisters provide essential services to men, women, children, families, and orphans. These services include the distribution of food provisions, household goods, clothing, and medical equipment; educational scholarships that support youth who might otherwise not have the opportunity to continue their education; prison outreach; and home improvement and repairs.
The Sisters own a “mission house” that is available to church groups, university students, families, and volunteers from various regions of the United States seeking service work in the area. Recent activities include (clockwise): Sister Ursula, collaborating with Operation Christian Love, delivering chicken to Alex Villarreal, director of Paz y Amor orphanage in Piedras Negras, Mexico; Sister Ursula with college graduate, Nalleli Sanchez, who was sponsored through the Caridad ministry; and adults and youth volunteer mission groups from Houston with local family. The adults (from St. John Vianney Parish) mentored the youth (from four different Houston high schools) while working together on the family’s much needed home repairs.
In February, Benedictine College art students, while working on a study of the monastery’s St. Scholastica Chapel, organized a liturgy which brought more than 400 students and faculty to celebrate Sunday Eucharist with the sisters. All are hoping to make this an annual event. In addition to this project, Benedictine College students are often present, including: architecture students who come regularly to study and sketch the many beautiful spaces, Prayer Partners who join the sisters for vespers one evening a week, nursing students doing a rotation in Dooley Center, and numerous groups, sports teams, and individuals who come to give volunteer service.
The sisters at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, are getting ready for a once in a lifetime experience. The total solar eclipse on August 21 will occur directly over their city at the ideal time of midday. People from around the world are expected to gather in the area on that day and the sisters will be hosting a watch party for friends and family on the monastery lawn. It will include a talk by theologian and astronomer (fellow of the Vatican observatory) Aileen O’Donoghue, a picnic lunch and a prayer service. Dr. O’Donoghue will be giving a retreat at Sophia Center, the sisters’ spirituality center on the campus, during the preceding weekend, culminating with the eclipse.
Postulant Jennifer Halling will soon begin her novitiate. On the day she entered community at a short ritual in the dining room, she brought several gifts symbolic of her life. One of them was a lantern because she is the great-great-granddaughter of one of the men who patrolled all night to protect the sisters from threatened violence when they arrived in Atchison in 1863 during the Civil War.
Lots of new Facebook friends have been getting acquainted with the community following the launch of a new ad campaign and vocation microsite: BeANun.org.
The Atchison sisters have a special commitment to care of creation. A new array of solar panels near the garden were recently installed in addition to previous installations on the roofs of buildings. The sisters also support ecology research and projects at Benedictine College and Maur Hill-Mount Academy in honor of Green Belt founder Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner and graduate of Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College).
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055