Monasterio Pan de Vida: January, 2021
A Glimpse of our life during the Pandemic.
What began as a “normal” year with challenges and opportunities, by spring had become anything but normal for us and for the world.
In March, when the Covid-19 health crisis was beginning to get serious, our oldest member, Mother Mechtild Swearingen, surprised us with a brief illness followed in a month by her departure into God’s loving embrace. During her final days, when she couldn’t speak or swallow, Mechtild blessed us with her loving and patient smile. This monastic woman who little by little had been growing in her abandonment to God, continues to be a light for us as we journey toward the fullness of life. We experienced her heart “overflowing with love” in her silent presence and simple and stable service in community. And so, in her we have witnessed what it means to be a Benedictine to the end of our journey, and how God sustains our vocation and gives us strength and perseverance on the way to the fulfillment of the divine promise to “bring us all together to everlasting life”.
With these, and other events, we continue in training for life in the new normal that Covid-19 has brought. As we move forward with uncertainty and expectation, we ask God to guide us and make us a tiny ray of light and hope in our region. This virus that has paralyzed the world, has brought us face to face with the unexpected, our false securities, and, above all, with humanity’s vulnerability.
Back in March and April, one of our first concerns as a community was to check on our neighbors and those who live in the surrounding area, to find those in greatest need and respond in some small way by sharing what we have with them. At the same time some friends and small organizations approached us, who wanted to help and be assured that their donations would reach families in need. So, during these past months, we have been able to offer food boxes and take time for a brief conversation “at a safe distance” with some who are suffering not only material need, but also from isolation. The virus has helped us to open our eyes and make us aware of much hidden pain in our surroundings.
As the confinement continued, we became more adept at using ZOOM for spiritual accompaniment, vocation ministry, classes and workshops. We’ve become more tech-savvy in the process and have even shared prayer online a few times; but we have missed our onsite encounters and the mutual enrichment that comes from physically sharing prayer, reflection, work and fun.
We’ve dedicated community meetings to prepare for the election of prioress and visitation, that were scheduled for August and postponed until March, when we hope to combine in-person and online meetings.
On the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in August, Alejandra made her first monastic profession in an intimate community celebration. We will join with her family and friends to commemorate the occasion when it becomes safe to gather again.
Our virtual community retreat with Bonnie Thurston, theologian and poet, was a wonderful opportunity to listen with the ear of the heart and reflect on the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.
In November, at the beginning of Advent we were delighted that Ruth returned to community after four months spent with her family. Michele, with the help of Ale and Ruth, gave us a beautifully renewed Advent and Christmas hymnal.
At this time for us, as for many others, community life has become more intense, something like a second novitiate! We’re making new discoveries about ourselves and above all, having the opportunity to be surprised by each other’s gifts, some of which had gone unnoticed. One significant learning has been to trust even more than before, in each other’s contribution within the monastery and at the service of the larger community.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of confinement has been for us not to be able to say “Come to visit!” or “Come in!” and “Welcome! Join us for prayer and for a meal!” But the friendship, the mutual care, community support, prayer, work, study and fun-times together have kept us centered on our search for God and service of others.
In this sense, the pandemic has become a kairos, an opportune time to broaden our awareness and enrich the meaning of mutual care, as sisters and brothers in Christ.
This second year of living in our
Newark Monastery is a far cry from our “open door policy” of last year when the richness of our Benedictine Hospitality was so very evident.
The 2020 year of COVID-19 moved us, like so many others, into a more intimate enclosure of community living, community isolation and spiritual growth.
Social distancing is not that easy for us since we live in a much smaller community setting. Our community meals and prayers have not been altered although our environment is closed to most outsiders. The Parish, of which we have become an intimate part, has been off limits for over six months. We join together for Eucharist twice weekly in our own chapel or community room.
As the book of Ecclesiastes reads “there is a time for everything “ and in this unprecedented time of pandemic, we have become sensitive to and more aware of the great needs of others; we have concerned ourselves with those less fortunate who are suffering in our own local communities. Our community prayer life and petitions address circumstances we never dreamed existed but yet have become a very intimate part of our Benedictine life.
“Behind every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.” That has certainly been the case for our archives. Having to remain in place has enabled Sister Marylou Robino to reorganize sisters’ personal file boxes as well as all the materials in the file cabinets. It is a joy to open the files and see everything in order and easily obtained.
We didn’t let the virus affect any of our celebrations. Four of our Sisters, Marie Becker, Gerard Falkowska, Mary Agnes Dugan, and Vincent Schroeder each had a very festive 85th birthday, and Sister Ann Miller celebrated her 95th with lots of cards, goodie bags, and smiley faces. How blessed we are to have our senior sisters.
In order to assure that the oblates and inquirers would remain connected with the community, meetings were and are held on Zoom. The plan is to continue using Zoom into the coming year. We would prefer to be together, but oblates and inquirers have noted that they appreciate the opportunity to connect with others. Ridgely and Newark now have their own deans, and a director has been appointed to work along with the present Sister director. Being prepared for the future has been a top priority for our oblates and its council. May the rest of your 2020 be happy, grace-filled, and safe, and may we all bid a grand farewell to the Coronavirus in 2021.
Ministry in the age of Covid-19
The 2020 Virtual St. Scholastica Academy, Chicago Reunion, offered opportunities for our Alumnae currently living in diverse places such as Croatia, Ecuador, Italy, and througout the United States to gather together and share about how life has been over the 10-70 years since graduating from SSA.
Learn more about our alumnae here:
Our Oblates gather monthly via Zoom for fellowship and Lectio Divina. We welcomed new Oblates in Pueblo, CO (once it was safe to gather) and we look forward to welcoming a few more to our Chicago group of over 150 Oblates total for St. Scholastica Monastery.
Learn more about our Oblate program here:
To learn more about the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, please visit our website: www.osbchicago.org and Like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
St. Walburg Monastery, located in the rolling hills of Kentucky, is home to 37 women seeking God through community, prayer and work.
The community continues to enjoy magnificent sunsets, spectacular views of nature, and a variety of wildlife. Activities abound as we adapt to life with Covid-19. Special dinners, bingo, card tournaments, movies, birthday celebrations, and weekly spiritual offerings enrich life in community.
The community welcomed two new members this past year. We are thankful for their choosing us. Ministry these days, spiritual direction, parish work, vocation ministry and oblate programs occur mainly through internet and phone conversations. This fall our Academy celebrates its third Blue Ribbon Award. The south west end of the property sold last year to a developer is presently being transformed into a subdivision bringing new neighbors to the area. Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup is a recent recipient of a Papal Honor, the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Life at St. Walburg Monastery is busy, enriching, and filled with activity as we look forward to once again being able to welcome family, friends, oblates, and acquaintances into our presence.
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery hold you in prayer.
After gathering in the monastery dining room for the evening meal, the Sisters pray together a special table prayer for Lent.
A recent Good Zeal blog by Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB for our monastery website discusses the "different kind of Lent" that all of us are experiencing at this time. And, on the evening of March 31st, the daily reading from the Rule of St. Benedict was chapter 49 on the observance of Lent. The coronavirus causing COVID-19 has indeed made this Lent like none other in modern history. However, through it all, we find ourselves comforted and strengthened by the unfolding of the Paschal Mystery that draws us all into communion with one another and with God.
Our monastery, like so many others, has been closed to guests and to most of our employees since March 18, 2020. The Sisters remain at home at all times unless an individual Sister has an authorized reason for venturing beyond the front gate. The environment of the monastery is much quieter than usual, which has facilitated an atmosphere of deeper prayer and awareness of the suffering world around us. The horarium has been slightly modified, but the heartbeat of common prayer throughout the days and weeks remains steady and strong. Various members of the community have taken on tasks usually done by employees—extra dish duty, more phone duty, assisting in the Infirmary and kitchen, household cleaning of public areas, preparing meals, and attending to financial matters. Sanitizing handrails, handles, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces have been added to the round of daily manual labor. And, all this has been carried out with a spirit of genuine charity, no murmuring or grumbling in the ranks!
The Sisters sit further apart in chapel and in the dining room, yet somehow there is a more intense experience of communion with one another and with the world. We are all in this together. All of us are in this sacred moment together. Sister Tonette, our Prioress, has been in touch regularly with other Prioresses. Sister Lynn Marie, as Federation President and CIB Moderator, has kept in touch with communities of Benedictine around the world. What secular society has dubbed “social distancing,” has in reality joined us all together in a more profound solidarity: solidarity within our Benedictine family; with the poor who struggle and suffer daily whether there is a pandemic or not; with those who long for access to the sacraments but are denied that access for reasons beyond their control, and with all who bear the burden of brokenness and yearn for healing and wholeness. The unexpected upending of our “normal” life has brought us intimately face-to-face with the suffering Christ in our world today.
The Sisters who regularly post on social media platforms have provided videos, reflections, and words of encouragement to the "outside" world, continuing a ministry of presence and service that reaches out beyond the monastery walls. The retreat center is not receiving guests at this time; however, our ministry of hospitality continues with creative forms of outreach. A few of our musicians have made videos of our chapel and grounds, utilizing their talents and technological savvy to bring the peaceful beauty of our house to those unable to cross its threshold during this pandemic. Sisters in parish ministry are continuing to do their work by staying in touch through phone calls, emails, and other forms of safe communication. In all circumstances, the message remains the same--a message of comfort, peace, faith, and hope that is rooted in the life of our Risen Lord.
Furthermore, we are aware of how this process is changing us as well, shaping us into a new manifestation of ourselves in this present reality. The uncertainty of tomorrow, next week and next month challenges us to live more consciously in the present moment--to do the work that needs to be done today, to focus on what is essential just for today, to take advantage of the opportunities that this “new normal” offers us. Sitting at a greater distance from one another in the choir stalls gives us the opportunity to listen more attentively to one another as we attempt to sing the psalms with one voice. Having only three Sisters at a table in the dining room gives us the opportunity to dialogue with those who tend to speak up less in conversations of larger groups. Those whose work often takes them away from the monastery are consistently present through these days, and this has enriched our common experience of this historical moment. No longer being able to have priests from St. Bernard Abbey for Eucharist has given us the opportunity to experience new ways of being together at prayer. So, this Lenten journey has been unexpectedly fruitful. Truly, it is God’s grace at work bringing us all together to everlasting life.
Ten years after the launch of our last website designed by Kinetic Communications of Birmingham, AL, the Sisters decided to update to a new platform that would be easier to manage as well as being mobile- responsive. Because of the quality of their work and excellent service, Kinetic was chosen to design the new website. In January the extensive work of redesigning the website from scratch was finally completed. The Sisters are very pleased with the look and functionality of the new website at www.shmon.org. The retreat center has online registration capability now. A couple of timelines have been added, one for our community history and one for the chapel tour. The community's blog has been transformed and is now called Good Zeal. Several different Sisters now provide content for the weekly blog posts. We hope that enjoy exploring our new website.
The theme of moderation is the thread that runs through the most recent edition of Benedictine Update. Click on the link below to download and view
March, 2020…The Pittsburgh Benedictines are in the middle of our year-long celebration of 150 years of foundation…August 29, 1870. Visitors from near and far, members of our daughter and granddaughter houses have joined, as well as women and men who have walked our journey with us and told our stories. We even had a visit from our founding prioress, Mother Adelgunda Feldman, although she did have a striking resemblance to Sister Evelyn Dettling!
We continue to recover from our January 31, 2019, flood which caused us to evacuate right into the open doors, open arms and open hearts of the community which we once knew as the Vincentian Sisters of Charity who are now part of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Our time with them was blessed and the blessings continue to overflow in sweet friendships, wonderful memories, and visits back and forth between the two communities. Our chaplain, Leroy DePietro, refers to them as our annex.
Repair work to our monastery following our flood is on-going. We were able to return to our monastery in Bakerstown after four and a half months when all the visible repairs were completed. We are now facing issues of insufficient insulation and the work to repair that is scheduled to begin soon. Fortunately, it has been a rather mild winter in western Pennsylvania, so we have not had many challenges in reference to frozen pipes!
Spas for Women continue to appear on our community calendar quarterly and usually 30 to 40 women of all ages and backgrounds join the community for a day of reflection and celebration.
Our neighbors, near and far, continue to discover us and we find blessing in each visit as we respond to Chapter 53 of Benedict’s Rule.
Come to visit!
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida, like everyone else, are in the throes of our busiest time of the year. Oblate meetings, concerts, workshops and retreats keep the house buzzing both with groups and individuals.
One of our newer programs is “Sharing Your Story for the Benefit of Others.” In many cases, retreatants are very open about why they have come on retreat. Their stories often give great insight to the human condition in our world. They run the gamut stretching from compelling and lost to delightful and joyous…stories you have heard too. Whatever the retreat need, as Benedictines we all strive through what we do to provide an atmosphere of peace and reflection.
At some point, it seemed to us that our retreatants’ stories should be heard and/or read by others. Listening is, of course, the bedrock of our founder, St. Benedict’s Rule. So, a couple of years ago we instituted a more focused program for such sharing.
The point was to emphasize how a particular retreatant’s story and/or experience at Holy Name Monastery might impact someone else’s life journey. The voice inside us is powerful, but is often dismissed. Listening to one’s enter voice and then writing down thoughts and reflections makes a stronger connection whether looking for a new direction, a fuller spiritual commitment, or an entire reboot and renewal.
In asking to share one’s story requires the person’s permission. That permission comes with the realization that they just might be able to help someone else regain their footing. What the program has done since inception is just that. It has proven to be a profound gift to our community and those who hear about the stories or read them in our Tide Newsletter.
January 27th – 31st, we held an Icon Workshop with Phil Zimmerman instructing. The artists and beginners at this art form produced the Noah and the Whale Icon and had a great time. It was interesting to watch the development of everyone’s pieces. If you have thought about participating in one, go for it. Evidently, it is something you can learn to do even if you’re not an artist!
Now we look forward to Easter and being fully present in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
God bless you and keep you in His loving care.
In 2019 the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery have had a number of spirituality programs offered. Click on the file below to see their happenings.
Emmanuel Monastery's Blessings of "Being Small"
Emmanuel Monastery, founded in 1971 in the aftermath of Vatican II, has never been a big community. We began with, were founded by “23 faithful, courageous women” which in itself has been an anomaly of sorts. Most new foundations are founded by someONE, not a group of individuals. Today the community numbers 12 and, like most other monasteries, is experiencing the challenges of diminishment and aging. At the same time we are experiencing the blessings of new kinds of growth, energy, creativity and expansiveness. A paradox indeed!
Because we have always been “small,” we have always seen ourselves as bigger than only the Sisters who comprise our monastic community. Because we have always been “small,” collaboration and networking is in our communal DNA. Because we were never in a position to take on institutional commitments, we helped begin intercommunity staffing in the schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and our sisters were part of the very first “cluster schools” in Baltimore City catholic schools. When the Justice and Peace office was closed in the Catholic Center, Emmanuel Monastery was a founding member of the P. Francis Murphy Justice and Peace Initiative that became a collaborative ministry of 16 religious communities for 16 years. We did not have a chapel until 2001, so were always dependent on the generosity of other communities/ area churches for any big celebration we had. Our beautiful chapel is still small, so we remain dependent on that continued generosity. For more than a decade we have journeyed with the monasteries in Bristow, VA and Newark, DE (formerly Ridgely, MD) in a Tri-Community Endeavor, sharing resources and supporting one another.
As we struggled through fund raising for a monastery addition in the 1990’s, we became aware of the impact our “smallness” had on those around us. Dependency on others taught us the grace of hospitality…given and received. Our willingness to share the little we had, especially in the areas of prayer, spirituality and social justice, shaped us further into a presence of Emmanuel for so many. Humbled, blessed and graced to see our gifts through the eyes of others, we received new energy to continue to be that presence here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and surprisingly to us, throughout the larger world.
A simple “yes” during Christmas week of 2010 to a young, pregnant women from Afghanistan in need of housing opened literally a whole world to us. Many of you know the story of Sara and her little boy who lived with us for over 2 years. Her experience made us aware of the plight of women who flee their country seeking asylum here, the struggles and odds that they face, and the dangers that often confront them. Once again, in collaboration with other communities of women religious, we were founding members of AWE, Asylee Women Enterprise. Today AWE is a free standing organization, offering a wide span of services and support to women, children and men seeking refuge. Our Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin co-directs a choir, the Hope Choir of Nations, and Sr. Kathleen White serves on the AWE Board. Over the past decade we have offered housing to 3 other women asylum seekers and a refugee family.
Of the women who lived with us, 3 are married and have children, and remain part of our lives. Sara was reunited with her husband in 2015, and they now have 2 children. She became a US citizen this past August, an event in which the community and several Oblates participated, and will graduate from Towson University with an IT degree in December.
Through Sara, we have been introduced to Islam and its traditions, prayer and spirituality. Tina continues to bring her relatives from both Rwanda and Kenya (where her husband comes from) to visit us. One of our Oblates was part of a mission trip to teach the deaf in Zimbabwe in 2016. Recently, the village where she stayed sent us pictures of the “Benedictine nuns oven” which they built with the contributions our community and Oblates sent with Susan, an oven that bakes bread to feed the village and surrounding area A Nigerian family who stayed with us is now in Virginia, and calls periodically to keep in touch. And we, as a community, continue to marvel at how the larger world is so much a part of our lives. Who are we (this little community in Lutherville), Creator God, that you should love us so, trust us so?.(Ps. 8)..to extend our hearts so far and wide beyond ourselves into this suffering world?
Our Sisters and Oblates have been participating in the Oblates for the Future Symposium in Cottonwood, ID for the past 2 years. The program and the dedication and creativity of our Oblates have led us to explore more deeply the vocation of “Oblate” and its role in the future of monastic presence in the Baltimore area. Two of our Oblates approached the sisters 2 years ago about “moving deeper” in commitment to the community and its vision. Mary Jo Piccolo and Beth Taneyhill, in response to the Spirit’s call in their own lives to Isaiah’s prophecy, “See, I am doing something new…” will ritualize their commitment of fidelity to continue to seek God with our community on December 8th. They will continue to live in their own home, contribute personally and financially to the community, a format similar to covenant commitments in other religious communities. As Anam Cara (Soul Friends) of the community, they participate in liturgical ministries, program facilitation and attend community gatherings and meetings. Other Oblates continue to explore personal ways of moving more deeply into their own commitment and understanding of the Oblate vocation.
Emmanuel Monastery is so much bigger than our smallness in number, so much bigger than the little town of Lutherville, MD, and reaches so much further than we had ever imagined possible. For this we offer humble gratitude and renewed commitment to be Emmanuel to our world.
By Sister Rose Ann Barmann, OSB
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something”. This quote best expressed the feelings and sentiments of over 200 walkers who gathered at Lewis Palmer Stadium on June 8th to participate in the Barefoot Mile Walk; a fund raiser for the prevention of human trafficking. Families, friends and people of all ages came to raise awareness about the travesty of child sex trafficking. Together we collected $13, 064 for Bakhita Mountain Home (a local home for adult women survivors of trafficking), Joy International and the Human Trafficking Task Force.
Benet Hill Community, dedicated to our mission of providing support for oppressed women and children, sponsored this event along with District 38 and the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Local Knights of Columbus councils from St. Peter’s in Monument and Holy Apostles in Colorado Springs provided a delicious barbeque and drinks for all the walkers.
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Over 30 million women and children are trafficked each year providing billions of dollars in profits and making human trafficking as lucrative as the selling of illegal drugs in our society. Human trafficking is a “real life issue” that exploits human beings for profit.
By Vincent Crowder, Project Manager
No doubt many of you were wondering about all that mess on the drive up to the monastery near the lower parking lot since early June. To make a long story short, the wastewater septic/leach field system that was installed when the monastery building was originally constructed in 2009 was beginning to fail. So last summer we began researching options to remedy the problem. A new leach field located in a different location was not desirable as it would have required the clearing of several hundred trees from a large area of the forest.
Our search for a solution led us to choose and install the advanced wastewater system manufactured by Orenco Systems. This system makes raw wastewater up to 98% cleaner, thus meeting stringent regulatory requirements and also reducing nitrogen output significantly.
Wastewater that is treated and filtered through this system produces a clear, odorless effluent that is ideal for dispersing underground where it is absorbed in the biologically active soil layer. There is no surface contamination, no ponding, no run-off, no bad smells! We not only preserve the trees, but also redistribute treated water through drip lines that are laced through the forest. Even though this system is more expensive, it is a win-win for everyone concerned as we return more water to the ground water streams that supply our well and the wells of all our downstream neighbors for miles.
Our new system is the most favorable means of disposing wastewater available today and fits perfectly with our Land Ethic which mandates our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and environment. Please join us in gratitude for this improvement.
Sister Anne Madeleine Brost has been a member of the Benet Hill Monastery Community since 2009. She became a Visitation nun after high school in St. Paul, Minnesota and taught mathematics and religion at the Visitation Convent School until 1971. At that time, she came with two other Visitation nuns, to Whitewater, near Grand Junction, Colorado, to begin a new Visitation Monastery.
The plan for a new Visitation Monastery could not be fulfilled, but the sisters remained in their new location and continued to live the monastic way of life as sisters in the Diocese of Pueblo. They are known as the “Whitewater Sisters.” In 2009, the Whitewater Sisters became Benedictine Sisters and the Whitewater Community is now a mission of Benet Hill Monastery.
An especially significant event in Sister Anne Madeleine’s Benedictine life was her trip to Einsiedeln, Switzerland in 2011 to attend a conference on Jungian psychology. There she visited the chapel of the Black Madonna in the Benedictine Abbey Church. People come to this “Black” Mary praying for help in difficult times. It seems that Mary helps one to bear pain and sorrow, but does not necessarily remove the suffering. Relating to this aspect of Mary, Jesus’ mother, helped Sister Anne Madeleine to realize the presence of the Divine in everything, even in the most difficult events of life. Sharing this awareness of God in All and All in God is a basic message that Sister Anne Madeleine tries to bring to retreatants who come to the Whitewater Benedictine Community.
It has been said: “Life is a cycle. We return to the place where we began.” That certainly has been true for me. I grew up with five brothers and two sisters, speaking Spanish and sharing all that we had. We grew up in a faith filled environment where church and God were the center of all we believed and did. I learned early in life about the Gospel call to service. My sisters and I fed the hungry when they came to our door and we cared for the elders in our neighborhood. Both my sisters and I volunteered to travel with the sisters on their mission routes to help teach catechism to the children who didn’t come to our school.
When I entered Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in Atchison, Kansas, I discovered that life as a Benedictine sister was a whole new world. The scheduled prayer life, the education and the community work were all geared for growth in the faith. I loved it all.
My teaching days were a blessing. I loved the children. I loved telling them stories, teaching them a craft and watching them at play. Joy always came when I looked into their eyes and saw a magnificent replica of Jesus. In my years of peace and justice work I tried to live the words I spoke. The poor and powerless in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia and Guantanamo Bay taught me the true meaning of simplicity. I have been privileged to see the face of Jesus in the eyes of the hungry, the poor and the oppressed.
My ministry in Albuquerque brought me back full circle to the place where I began. I ministered to the well-to-do and powerful, as well as the poor and neglected. I taught by example (I hope) that each person can help the other to grow in Christ’s service. Together we see the needs of the other and, with kindness and generosity, we walk in each other’s shoes for a day, a week or a month and fulfill each other’s needs.
In 2014, I retired and returned to Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs. I am coauthoring a book on the fifty-year history of Benet Hill Monastery and restored the Stations of the Cross I helped design and carve with other sisters thirty years ago. Today, I am serving the asylum seekers in El Paso, Texas. The refugees and immigrants come to us with stories of violence and fear. Although I am 80 years old, I am compelled by the Gospel message of Love. I try to bring the love of Jesus to the people. My work here is with an urgency to help our country do the right thing by these people who desperately need and are asking for our help and our love. We must open our hearts and our doors to these our brothers and sisters who are showing us the suffering of Christ.
Jesus to the people. My work here is with an urgency to help our country do the right thing by these people who desperately need and are asking for our help and our love. We must open our hearts and our doors to these our brothers and sisters who are showing us the suffering of Christ.
I thank God for my call to religious life. I thank God for the grace to respond with my life these sixty years. I thank God for my family, my sisters in Christ, and my many friends who have made this life of love possible for me.
In July of 1957, I answered God’s call to monastic life and along with sixteen other sisters, professed my vows at Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in Atchison, Kansas, on January 26, 1959. A native of Aguilar, Colorado, I returned to Colorado as a founding member of Benet Hill Monastery in 1965. I received a BA in History from Regis University and a diploma in Pastoral Liturgy from St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer, Indiana. I have also completed many courses and workshops in the areas of education, spirituality, liturgy and religious education. I was a primary teacher for 36 years in schools in Iowa, Missouri, and Colorado.
During that time I enjoyed working with young children especially in the area of sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation and First Communion. Finding the unique talents of each child in the areas of religion, liturgy, and various forms of prayer was most rewarding as I watched them grow in their relationship with Jesus and carry it into adulthood as active members of their parishes. Teaching young children kept me energized and always looking for new and innovative instructional approaches in order to meet the diverse needs of my students. While engaged in the teaching arena I always strove for collaboration in building a faith community among the students, faculty, and staff members. I was a consultant to faculty members in matters of liturgy, church updates, and in finding ways to raise awareness of the poor and marginalized.
In 1987, I was asked to serve as coordinator of liturgy for the community at Benet Hill Monastery. During this time, I discovered a new love for the liturgy, especially the Liturgy of the Hours. I enjoyed creating the environment for various liturgical events and the many forms of prayer and hospitality that flow from it. I worked in this capacity from 1987 until 2000 during which time I served on the Colorado Springs Diocesan Liturgical Commission and committees planning the Diocesan celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I also served as Minister of Vocations for twelve years and was part of the vocation team in the Diocese. I reentered the teaching field in August of 2001 as the second grade teacher at Pauline Memorial Catholic School and served for nine years. In 2009, the community moved from the city to the Black Forest. On August 16, 2009, I celebrated my Golden Jubilee of 50 years as a member of the Order of St. Benedict. Currently, I minister as the Director of Liturgy for Benet Hill Monastery.
Sister Mary Glenn was born in Port Angeles, WA, and began her religious life in 1965 at the Visitation Monastery in Federal Way, WA. In 1971, she moved to western Colorado to begin a new monastery and in 1978, she and another sister became an independent religious community under the Bishop of Pueblo. They lived a simple lifestyle and offered retreats and hospitality to local groups.
In 2009 Sister Mary joined Benet Hill Monastery and continues to live in Whitewater as a mission of Benet Hill. She enjoys working on the property at Kannah Creek cutting wood and making fires in the wood stove and offering spiritual direction to their guests.
New Members--Mount St. Scholastica has two new members, but they are familiar names to the federation. Sister Jeanne d’Arc Kernion has arrived from Louisiana. A longtime member and former prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery in Covington, Louisiana, she had remained there for work and family commitments but will now be a member of the Atchison community which had previously welcomed several of her sisters, including three other former prioresses, all now deceased. The second new member, Sister Agnes Helgenberger, came from more nearby. She was the prioress of Queen of Angels Monastery which was located in Liberty, Missouri.
Keeler Women’s Center, a center sponsored by the community to educate and empower women in Kansas City’s urban core, has a new location. Still in Kansas City, Kansas, Keeler has moved to a building that provides more space for group meetings, classes, prayer, and private counseling or spiritual direction in the ground floor of a senior apartment building. Sister Bridget Dickason, OSB, director, reports, “All of our partner agencies and their programs have moved with us and we plan to continue to serve our former clients along with new guests from the building and the neighborhood.”
On the other side of the state line, Peace House has been a residence for Atchison Benedictines in Kansas City, Missouri’s urban core since the sisters opened Lillis High School in the 1940s. When the school closed, sisters continued to live there as they worked in other ministries and sometimes welcomed women in need to share their home. Recently, the community was approached with a proposal to help another group of women in need. The building has now been sold to “Journey to New Life” a program that will provide housing and re-integration assistance to women who are returning from incarceration.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055