Mount St. Scholastica's French Refugees:
In Search Of Liberty
Junior Essay Winner
Antonia Ryan, O.S.B.
"A monk--what does he do for a living? Nothing, except to bind himself by an inviolable oath to be a slave and a fool and to live at the expense of other people."1
Voltaire's comment was an exaggeration--but did not stray far from general opinion at the dawn of the French Revolution. The great wealth and land holdings of many monastic houses complicated the revolutionary ideal of equality. Monastic vows seemed to be "a renunciation of the sacred principle of Liberty."2 The new order took action against a structure that, to them, smacked of the ancien régime.
The earliest years of the twentieth century saw yet another wave of government action against religious. In 1904 and 1906, Mount St. Scholastica, in Atchison, Kansas, received a group of eight French Benedictine sisters who sought refuge after being expelled from their home. Their experience has become part of our own community history.