The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 34, Nr. 2a,   2004                   Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

May We Be Living Icons of True Benedictine Peace Today

For almost two years I have had the privilege of periodically sharing with you my views on the relevancy of living out our rich Benedictine heritage. My involvement over the last eight years as a member of the ABA, its Board and its presidency, has been a grace-filled blessing for me in so many ways. I thank each of you for the opportunity to have served with you as together we grappled with the various issues related to the preservation of our Benedictine culture.

Convention Program

I look forward to the interesting and timely presentations at the August 2004, ABA Convention at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, MN. May the challenges that the speakers present encourage us to become more fully engaged in dialogue on the importance of retaining the intellectual and spiritual aspects of our rich Benedictine traditions.

My hope and prayer at this time in history is that each of us, in our own unique way, will contribute to the restoration of a sense of peace and harmony throughout our present world so inundated with instances of such cruel and horrible atrocities.

May God bless each of us as we attempt to be living icons of true Benedictine peace.


Rosemary Rader, OSB
President, American Benedictine Academy
rrader @

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Monastic News Omnibus


There have been a number of recent elections in Benedictine women's monasteries.

Prioresses who have been reelected to continue in their ministry include:

Margaret Michaud, OSB - St. Bede's, Eau Claire, WI
Susan Berger, OSB - Annunciation, Bismarck, ND
Mary Ann Schepers, OSB - Holy Spirit, Grand Terrace, CA
Patricia Henry, OSB - Pan de Vida, Torreon, Mexico
Elizabeth Brown, OSB - St. Lucy's, Glendora, CA
Lorane Coffin, OSB - Rapid City, SD

Newly elected prioresses are Phyllis McMurray, OSB, at Saint Mary's in Rock Island, IL, and Carol Rennie, OSB, at St Paul's in St. Paul, MN.

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The Conference of Benedictine Prioresses, in their continued efforts to partner with African Benedictine women, have commissioned an African Education Coordinating Committee, chaired by Jacqueline Ernster, OSB, of Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, SD. In a working statement issued after an autumn meeting in Clyde, MO, the group identified their objectives. Their goals reflect an effort to be in sisterhood with African communities for mutual enrichment, to dialogue for identification of educational needs, including the areas of formation and community life, and to make recommendations to the CBP to assist communities in responding to requests for assistance.

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More than sixty Benedictine prioresses from the Americas and elsewhere held their annual meeting January 27-February 3 at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, AL. The theme for the workshop portion of the meeting was "Common Life: Peace and Reconciliation." The two main presenters, Sisters Mary Collins, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS, and Katherine Kraft of St. Benedict's, St. Joseph, MN, explored the topic from both its biblical theology and its contemporary issues.

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ABA Convention

12-15 August 2004

St. Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, Minnesota


Full Program

ABA Convention Business

At this August's American Benedictine Academy convention, elections will be held for members of the ABA board of directors. In addition to three members-at-large, a vice-president will be elected, who will succeed to the presidency in 2006.

Richard Oliver, OSB, is the incoming president and Sister Rosemary Rader will remain on the board as immediate past president. Father Valerian Odermann, past president, and Dennis Okholm, OblSB, who is completing his second term will be leaving the board. Sister Ramona Fallon and Brother Cyril Drnjevic have served one term and are eligible for re-election.

Below are profiles of each candidate. Members of the Academy are asked to consider prayerfully this information in preparation for the election and to bring this newsletter with them to the business meeting for reference.

Candidates for Vice-President

Joella Kidwell, OSB, Ferdinand, IN

I entered the Ferdinand monastery in 1954. At that point, one learned about Benedictine life more by living it than by studying it. After completing my novitiate, I was sent to teach in the crowded Catholic schools of that time working on a college degree at night, on weekends, and in the summer. Eventually I graduated from the University of Dayton with a bachelor's in education and a master's in biology from Indiana University. Later I studied theology at Regis College, Toronto, and at the Angelicum in Rome.

Ongoing formation in Benedictine studies has been a feature of my monastery for the past 15 years. In 1992 I developed a renewal program for English-speaking Benedictine women in Rome. My experience there, my service as prioress and my engagement in retreat and vocation ministry have all helped to form my Benedictine persona. This year I complete a sabbatical while assisting other religious communities as a facilitator.

I have been a member of ABA for a number of years. I have used the Proceedings of the conventions for my own formation and as subject matter for talks and discussions. Up to this point, I have not been otherwise active in the organization. I see the ABA continuing to respond to the tremendous growth of the Benedictine oblate movement while striving to articulate and reflect on the challenges and opportunities faced by professed monastics. I also see the ABA searching for ways to share our knowledge and scholarship with monastics in developing countries.

Mary Kay Panowicz ,OSB, Yankton, SD

I have been a member of Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, for 38 years. My education includes a BA in art (Honor's Program) from Mt. Marty College, a Master of Selected Studies in media, design and creative writing from the University of South Dakota, and a Doctor of Ministry in applied ministry with a focus in liturgical design from the Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana. I have also completed the liturgical space consultant program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. My ministry has included public relations, art education and graphic design, and I currently minister as a liturgical space consultant and artist and serve on the board of the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space. In addition I have the opportunity of serving on several health care boards of directors at the local, system and state levels.

I have been a member of the ABA since 1990 and was one of the co-organizers of the ABA visual arts section and art exhibit, serving as interim chair and then section chair from 1992-94. I have also participated as an exhibitor in several of the ABA art shows. My vision for the ABA is that it will expand as a forum for Benedictine men and women to share our dreams, hopes, struggles and heritage on an intellectual, spiritual and artistic level. In the future, I would like to see the ABA also explore in more depth our prophetic role in society and the church.

Theresa Schumacher, OSB, St. Joseph, MN

I have master degrees in both theology and music. I have developed and revised editions of the Liturgy of Hours for my monastery and for other communities, and am working on a two-year lectionary of scripture and non-scripture readings. I am an active member of the Monastic Liturgy Forum and the Benedictine Musicians of the Americas, contributing articles regularly to the Monastic Liturgy Forum Newsletter. I have presented papers for both groups, also at the Monastic Institute and the American Benedictine Formation Conference. I accepted and completed the commission to author A Benedictine Calendar: with Liturgical and Historical Celebrations of American Benedictine Women and their Foundations and am a regular presenter for the Academy of Spiritual Formation, an ecumenical program sponsored by the Upper Room, Nashville, TN.

As a member of ABA, I contributed a pre-convention paper in 1993. I have attended several conventions, and am helping to host the 2004 convention. I think the ABA can support American Benedictines coping with today's transitions. Benedictine tradition is valuable for the culture and lives of people today, especially our oblates and other associates. We can share energetically our conviction that living the monastic life for the sake of the world is both a sign of contradiction and a sign of hope and faithful love.

Laura Swan, OSB, Lacey, WA

I have master's degrees in theology and post-master's work in spiritual direction. Prior to my election as prioress, I was program director for our retreat house and was involved in spiritual formation programs. My research interests include the desert ascetics, feminine perspectives on the Rule, and the history of American Benedictine women.

During my season of leadership, I have been graced with the opportunity to attend the prioress' symposium at Sant' Anselmo twice. These were rich experiences, interacting with Benedictines from around the world. Since 1999, my community has journeyed with four Benedictine women from Tanzania who attend a local college, and have also been gifted with the presence of religious women from Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

I joined the ABA in 1992, contributing a pre-convention paper in 1997 and giving a presentation in 2002, as well as a paper at the Medieval Congress for the ABA in 2003. I believe that the Spirit is calling American Benedictines to live and serve on the margins of the Church and society. Our increasingly international, ecumenical and interfaith connections are no accident. This time is about stretching and deepening our hearts and spirits to embody the best of these connections, allowing our hearts to be taught and evangelized by God's "others." My vision for the ABA is a passion for connecting globally with other seekers, willingness to live into challenging questions, and a desire to foster conversation.

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Candidates for Board Member-at-Large

From the following seven candidates, three board members will be elected.

Donald Corcoran, OSB Cam., Windsor, NY

I have been a Benedictine for over forty years, and I have a doctorate in theology from Fordham University. I taught in the graduate school of theology at St. Louis University for three years, where I headed the master's program in spirituality and served as co-director of the Institute of Religious Formation. I have given numerous monastic and "Benedictine Experience" retreats. In 1979 I co-founded Transfiguration Monastery, a priory of Camaldolese Benedictine women in Windsor, NY.

I have been involved with the ABA since the early 1960s, and I very much want to contribute to its future. My vision centers on a commitment to Benedictine humanism. I value inter-religious dialogue. I sense being at the interface of the old and the new?committed to the wisdom of the tradition but also aware of a new dynamism in monastic life such as oblate John Forman's integral, cyber-university. Like the wise person of Matthew's gospel, the monastic person attentive to the Spirit must search and integrate the wealth of tradition with the Spirit's urging in the new.

Cyril Drnjevic, OSB, St. Benedict, OR

I first encountered Benedictines while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. As a monastic for 20 years, I have earned master's degrees in theology, history and divinity. I have been blessed to visit over 40 Benedictine communities in this country and abroad. Since 1998 I have participated in each of the ABA conventions. I have served on the board since my election as a member-at-large in 2002.

I would like to see the Academy's work, scholarly and artistic, continue to benefit those who live by the rule of Saint Benedict. The American Benedictine Academy is the largest and most broadly-based organization for communities following the Rule in the Americas. Our diversity of membership, combined talents and resources give the Academy unparalleled opportunities to serve the Church through our learning, cooperation and communication, which I support with zeal.

Ramona Fallon, OSB, Watertown, SD

I entered Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD, in 1954. My monastic formation included finishing high school, beginning college and teaching elementary school while learning Benedictine life both in a monastery and on mission. In 1960, I was part of the first class to make final profession in the new foundation, Mother of God Monastery, then temporarily located in Pierre, SD.

The next 41 years have included active participation in my community, which moved to Watertown, SD, in a variety of educational ministries in parish and school settings. I completed a doctorate in educational leadership at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, in 1992. From 1993-1999, I served as assistant prioress, taught education at Mount Marty College, Watertown campus, and served as executive director of the Benedictine Sisters Foundation of Watertown. I am presently ministering at the Catholic parish in St. Peter, MN, as pastoral associate and principal of John Ireland School.

I have been a member of ABA for 12 years. I envision ABA as a stable Benedictine presence in today's society. I see ABA keeping its finger on the pulse of today's society and assisting Benedictine communities prepare for the future. I believe today's society has a need for community more than ever, and that the ABA and Benedictine monasteries can provide leadership in this area.

Marielle Frigge, OSB, Yankton, SD

A member of Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, my entire ministerial life has been devoted to classroom teaching. After a BA in English and secondary education, I taught high school English. Discerning a greater need in other areas, I pursued graduate studies in theology and, after completing an MA at Washington Theological Union, I began teaching at Mount Marty College in 1979, which ministry continues today, after time out for a PhD from Boston College and sabbatical studies in Chicago and Israel.

ABA is a wonderful forum and "connection point" for monasteries and those with interest in monastic studies and spirituality. The turn to the latter emphasis is what drew me to become a member nearly two decades ago. The influence of ABA has been evident at other types of monastic gatherings. I have been privileged to be a presenter at the 1994 convention, and have also published in the American Benedictine Review.

My hope for the ABA is that it will continue to offer inspiration, dialogue, and challenge to its members and the many communities from which we come and in which we have influence. We have much to offer a hungering world: wisdom in the midst of floods of mere information, community in the midst of co-existing individuals, time-tested spirituality in the midst of fleeting experiments that do not really feed those who hunger for God.

Simeon J. Thole, OSB, Collegeville, MN

I was privileged to serve on the ABA board for two terms in the late 1980s. My interests of late have centered on the mission and purpose of monasteries in the American Church of the 21st century, stimulated by the five years I spent as administrator of St. Leo Abbey in Florida.

It has been my impression that the lay Church?and not just our oblates?look for something from us we were not trained for, nor directed to, give them. That "something" is not what we have always supposed it to be. The Church will provide us with the vocations and resources once we have accepted this new mission.

As one wise man put it: People give to us, not because of what we once did in the past, regardless how glorious, but for what we intend to do with their support in the future.

Phyllis K. Thompson, OblSB, Nanaimo, BC

Originally from Buffalo, NY, I have an BA and an MA in English. I moved to Canada in 1970 where I taught English for fifteen years at Saskatchewan's provincial university before shifting to the college at St. Peter's Abbey (Muenster) where, for another five years, I taught English and was campus minister. August 1998 brought early retirement and a move to Vancouver Island. I am an oblate of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, ND. Fortunate to attend the biennial oblate directors' gatherings in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, I was one of the speakers in 1999.

I have been an ABA member since 1997 and contributed a pre-convention paper in 2000. Unable to attend the conventions until 2002, I intend to be at future ones. Since retiring, I have published some Benedictine-focused pieces; a grant from the ABA in 2000 assisted me in the research for one of them. I have given talks, workshops, and retreats on aspects of Benedictine spirituality.

Happily the ABA is a diverse unity of folk. Thus, I envision it as a lived example of affirmation, challenge, dialogue, education, encouragement, enrichment, enthusiasm, exploration, friendship, inspiration, interaction, outreach, prophecy, research, scholarship, service, support, vitality, and quality to the broader Benedictine family and to society.

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Convention Business

In other Academy business at the convention, changes to the ABA constitution will be considered. Below are the revisions for the advance information of the voters:


Section 2. Nomination and Election Committee
The Committee consists of the Vice-president who is the ex officio Chair; the Vice-president, with the approval of the President, may form a committee of two (2) non-Board members.



4. The section's expenses are included in the annual budget and are submitted by the Chair to the Executive Secretary of the ABA.


Section 2. Election
(The following, with the approval of the membership, will be inserted as "D". The present "D" will become "E", etc.)
D. If there is no election, the number of candidates for an office on subsequent ballots is limited to twice the number of positions yet to be filled. The highest vote-getters are the candidates.

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Computers in Monasteries

In preparation for the pre-convention workshop about "Computer Policies and Customs in Monasteries," Richard Oliver, OSB, would appreciate learning if any monastic communities have written policies dealing with the use of computers. If your community has such a policy, please send an email to Richard, and he will follow up on the information you share.

Richard Oliver, OSB
Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, MN 56321
Email: roliver @

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