The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 38, Nr. 1a, February 2008                  Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

Come, Join in the Dialogue on Our Benedictine Heritage

We've just finished the days and prayers of the Church Unity Octave. Each day invites us to expand the space for God in our prayer and imaging. It seems that each day more of the world's people are brought into a huge circle of unity despite diverse ways of religious search and understanding of the Divine.

My desire for world unity and peace through interreligious exchange began consciously with the Vatican II document, "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions/Nostra Aetate," promulgated on October 28, 1965. This brief document is an invitation to learn and embrace the global practices and perspectives of world religions. Consider these significant quotes: "The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons [and daughters], that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions ... they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these [people]" (Art #2). "No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between [human being and human being] or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned" (Art #5).

I recall being so proud in 1965, and still am, that the Roman Catholic Church would call the faithful to "dialogue and collaborate" in this way. In the 43rd year of this declaration, how many of us, how many of our friends and neighbors have read, heard or listened to these strong and challenging words meant to bring the human family to oneness in The One?

The American Benedictine Academy, as a particular expression of the human family, exists to dialogue and collaborate in the search for God. The Academy, its conventions, its literature and its grants and benefits, are open to anyone who wants to learn about and live out of the monastic charism. Similar to world religions, monasticism is expressed in many and diverse regional and cultural settings. When the ABA gathers in its convention year, it is a fine example of diverse seekers for God. There we encounter cenobitic monastics, oblates with connections to particular monasteries, and friends with monastic hearts. Please, as you read this column, consider whom you can invite to membership (only $25 for 2 years) and especially to the ABA convention, August 7-10, 2008, at Mount Marty College and Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, SD, (

All life's yearning and seeking is meant to make room for the divine energy and love to dissipate any barriers to unity in God. As Thomas Keating writes, "Finally, there is a place beyond every tradition where I think every human being has the potential to meet. It's that place of unity and oneness to which all traditions are pointing that suggests there is something so deep in human nature that it can be awakened and addressed regardless of religion or no religion."

Theresa Schumacher, OSB
President, American Benedictine Academy
St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph MN
tschumacher @

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Canon Law Column

What is canon law? Why does it have significance for you as a Benedictine monastic?

I live in north Alabama where there are very few Catholics. When some of my non-Catholic colleagues and friends heard 15 years or so ago that I was going to study canon law, they asked "What is that?" When I'm asked that question now, I usually say that canon law consists of the regulations that set up the Catholic Church's structure and which regulate actions within that structure. Some of this structure and the actions within it are found in the context of religious life.

The first Code of Canon Law, that is, the laws gathered together or codified, was published in 1917. Prior to that, there was no codification of laws in the church. In 1959, prior to Vatican II, John XXIII called for a revision of the 1917 Code. Finally in 1983, 24 years and three popes later, John Paul II promulgated the new Code. In the meantime, there have been many interpretations given to specific provisions of the Code. For some years now, in some circles, there have been calls for a new revision of the 1983 Code. Perhaps a new revised Code will be promulgated in less time than it took to revise the 1917 Code! Who knows? I was just at a canon law seminar where one of the speakers quoted, "Things take longer than they do!"

The 1917 Code can best be understood in contrast to the present codification, the 1983 Code. The 1917 Code's approach to religious life stressed centralized control, standardization and conformity. It stipulated the fundamental characteristics of a religious institute, namely, life in community, public profession of the three traditional vows, and ecclesiastical approval. The Second Vatican Council, almost 50 years after the first Code, shifted the emphasis in religious life from uniformity and conformity to the guidance of the Spirit and the charismatic aspect of the Christian life. (See Perfectae caritatis.) The reforms which occurred after Vatican II were mostly based on what was understood to be the charism of the founder of each institute. Thus a clear preference for diversity among institutes, not uniformity, was called for. This is reflected in the 1983 Code.

The 1983 Code strives to present a balance between a respect for the various charisms manifested in religious institutes, on the one hand, and a certain unity in the fundamentals of religious life, on the other -- a kind of unity in diversity. Consequently, many matters that were once decided by the universal law of the Church are now left to the determination of the proper law of each individual institute. One cannot understand canon law as it relates to religious life without understanding much more than what is encompassed in the Code. Throughout the canons on consecrated life, there are references to extra-Codal materials, usually referred to as "proper law," which is the canon law passed by each religious institute to govern it and its members.

The Code, together with the proper law of the institute, constitute "canon law" for a religious and his/her institute. The proper law of each institute is essential in understanding the day-to-day reality of religious life as well as the spirit, mission and organization of a particular institute. Proper law, then, is intended to complete or supplement what is prescribed in the universal law. Its importance cannot be overestimated. Nearly half of the canons that apply to religious institutes in the 1983 Code make reference to various items which must or may be included in the proper law of the institute.

The Code provides mostly general outlines of the way the life is to be lived, but leaves it to the proper law of each institute to determine more specifically the way the life is lived. What is proper law and what does it include? Proper law includes the constitutions of the institute as well as the other forms of rules or regulations that each religious institute has. These would include for the Benedictine Sisters of the Federation of St. Scholastica, for example, the specific norms passed by the Federation Chapter that meets every four years as well as each monastery's norms that regulate the life as lived within that particular monastery.

So, the next time your monastery's juridic committee or constitutions committee or bylaws committee or norms committee (whatever it's called in your house) meets or presents new regulations for the monastery, pay close attention. You will have a say in whether what is proposed becomes the law proper to your monastery; i.e., proper law. In other words, you will shape canon law for your monastery.

It seems to me that the true area of development in canon law as it relates to religious life is not yet another revision of the Code, although that well may be in our future. Rather, the true evolution of canon law in religious life is how we change and shape our proper law, seeking more and more to live authentically in the spirit of our founder, who in our case, of course, is St. Benedict. We need ask ourselves what structures, what community norms, will enable us to live our call to be faithful monastics. This alone will guide an authentic revision of our proper law.

Lynn McKenzie, OSB
Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL
slm @

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Monastic News Omnibus

AIM, a worldwide alliance of Benedictine and Cistercian communities, has again launched a Lenten fund drive to assist needy monasteries. This year's collection will assist African Benedictine sisters with education in English and monastic studies, provide books and magazines to monasteries, assist with the education of three Peruvian monks, and aid in the construction of a drainage system for an abbey of sisters in Mexico whose water system is contaminated.

Grants from appeals over the past fifteen years have provided a hundred monasteries around the world with the means to purchase such diverse needs as plants and animals, fences, bicycles, furnishings, education and technology. More information is available at

Monastic Spirituality:
Expanding Merton's Vision

7-10 August 2008

Mount Marty College
Sacred Heart Monastery
Yankton, South Dakota


An article from Catholic News Service by Gretchen Keiser on December 12, 2007, (see the website, offers an interesting summary of the future vision and master plan of the Trappist monks of Holy Spirit Abbey in Conyers, GA, a story typical of many monasteries.

The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have announced that they will close Osage Monastery, their Christian ashram and retreat center in Sand Springs, OK.

The sisters of St. Bede Monastery in Eau Claire, WI, have announced their intention to sell their property and relocate to more manageable quarters that reflect current realities and future needs.

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The National Benedictine Vocation Conference held its fall meeting in October at St. Scholastica's Monastery in Fort Smith, AR. Benedictine men and women who serve in vocation ministry for their communities came from across the nation to hear Abbot Jerome Kodell of Subiaco, AR, and Father Michael Casey, noted Cistercian author from Tarawarra, Australia. Abbot Jerome addressed the timely issue of "the invisibility of the monk," and Father Michael, who is also a prior and director of juniors, discussed pre-formation issues and determining the suitability and readiness of candidates for monastic life.

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The Everyday, a DVD about monastic life at Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, NY, is not just another promotional video. At last spring's New York Emmy Awards, it received Emmys for both audio and video, and was also nominated in the religion category. For more information, go to

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At the American Benedictine Academy's January board meeting, Sister Mary Forman, OSB, was awarded a Monastic Studies Grant to assist her in the editing and production of a book of the papers, and summation of dialogues and panels, from the Saint John's Monastic Institute in 2006. To quote Mary, "My intent is not only to provide a unique work that combines insights on monasticism from professed monastics and Christians looking to monastics for inspiration, encouragement and support for intentional communal living today, but also I will use the book in a new course being developed for the Monastic Studies program at the School of Theology·Seminary, Saint John's University. This course will be entitled: "Contemporary Monasticism: Currents, Queries and Concerns."

The ABA gives small Monastic Study Grants annually to provide funds to support projects which foster the mission of the ABA, "to cultivate, support and transmit the Benedictine heritage within contemporary culture."

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Coming Events / Opportunities

Oblate Institute

July 17-20, 2008

The Sophia Spirituality Center at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS, is offering a monastic institute specifically for oblates. Entitled "The Meaning of Oblation: Living The Benedictine Spirit as an Oblate," it will be an opportunity for oblates from throughout the country to gather in dialogue and learning. Speakers will be Abbot John Klassen, OSB (Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville) on "The Meaning of Oblation" and Sister Mary Irene Nowell, OSB (Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison) on "The Psalms in our Daily Lives." There will also be presentations by oblates and many opportunities for networking with other oblates from other monasteries. This is the first offering of its kind directed towards oblates themselves. Although monastic men and women who direct oblates are welcome to attend, this workshop is primarily for the interests and benefit of the oblates. Contact:

Marcia Ziska, OSB
Email: mziska @
Phone: 913-360-6161

Monastic Interreligious Dialogue

MID is holding two important events this summer. Although participation in these events is limited in order to guarantee equal numbers of Christians and Buddhists, information from the events will be of interest to many and will be made available through MID's website and publications.

Gethsemani Encounter III will take place at Gethsemane Abbey in Gethsemani, KY, May 27-30. A group of invited monastics from the Christian and Buddhist traditions will be addressing the topic "Monastics and the Environment." Short papers by noted monastic scholars will be the starting point for conversations among the participants.

Nuns in the West is a meeting to be held at St. Mary's Monastery in Rock Island, IL, August 29-September 1. The meeting will involve a group of Christian and Buddhist monastic women sharing insights around the topic of prayer in their traditions and how their monastic rule and practices inform their prayer life.

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Saint John's Monastic Institute

The 23rd Annual Monastic Institute at Saint John's will be June 29-July 3, 2008, with the theme "‘Do As I Have Done': Authority and Obedience in Community." This Monastic Institute will focus on issues of authority and obedience in various forms of communal life: in monasteries, "new monasticism" communities, and intentional faith communities. Speakers, panelists and participants will address such questions as: What works and/or does not work with authority? Who is in charge and why? What does it mean to be in charge? What is the relationship of power and authority? Daily themes will be explored in the contexts of traditional monasticism and other communities.

Featured speakers are John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, retired abbot of Genesee Abbey, Piffard, NY; Christine Vladimiroff, OSB, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA; Timothy Kelly, OSB, abbot president of the American-Cassinese Congregation; Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder, assistant to the abbot of Shasta Abbey, Mount Shasta, CA; and Gail Fitzpatrick, OCSO, retired abbess of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, IA. Responders will include Father Martin Shannon, Community of Jesus, Cape Cod, MA; Deaconess Louise Williams, president of DIAKONIA World Federation; Kathy Berken, L'Arche Community House Coordinator, Clinton, IA; Father Gregory, OJN, Guardian of the Order of Julian of Norwich, Waukesha, WI; Steve Clemens, Community of St. Martin, Minneapolis, MM; and Tim Otto, associate pastor of the Church of the Sojourners, San Francisco, CA.

For more information, visit

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American Benedictine Academy at the
International Congress of Medieval Studies

The International Medieval Studies Congress will be meeting for the 43rd time in 2008. The Congress is a gathering of over 2500 scholars and students. Although it is an academic gathering, the strong presence of the Cistercians has made it a meeting place between scholars and monastics. The Cistercian Institute, ably organized by Dr. E. Rozanne Elder, usually sponsors sessions for fifty or more papers on Cistercian topics, and members of the order attend and see to it that there is a Catholic Mass and a vespers service each day. Other religious orders also sponsor sessions, and the American Benedictine Academy has assured a Benedictine presence for a number of years. I became coordinator of the session last year. Sessions of Benedictines obviously belong at a conference on Medieval Studies. The ABA provides a $150 stipend for each presenter.

At the 42nd Congress in 2007, the session sponsored by the American Benedictine Academy, included three papers. Father Terrence Kardong, OSB (Assumption Abbey, Richardton, ND), in a paper that has since been published, discussed "St. Benedict's Emphasis on Rank." Benedict insists on rank according to time of entry. The church adopted the custom of Greco-Roman society of putting old men in charge; Pachomius and other early monks set aside chronological age and social standing in determining rank. However, the Rule of the Master wanted no hierarchical order: all were to be equals, rivals in humility and in striving to succeed the current abbot. The RM does not provide for delegating; officials are mere functionaries. The order of precedence changed constantly. Benedict was reacting against this revolutionary, but flawed, thinking and returning to an earlier cenobitic tradition.

Dr. Maureen O'Brien, a graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison and now a professor at St. Cloud State University (MN), spoke on Robert of Chaise-Dieu's (d. 1087) adoption of the Rule of St. Benedict. Robert was a secular canon who was very dedicated to the poor. He eventually thought about joining Cluny, visited Rome and Monte Cassino, then became a hermit, and tried to balance active service to the poor and intense prayer. Eventually he adopted the Rule of St. Benedict as the Rule best suited to unite his followers in a common life. It didn't hurt that an angel sent them a copy of the Rule while they were discussing which lifestyle to adopt. In answering criticism that Robert went from a higher, contemplative eremitical life to a lower, more active life, Marbod of Rennes argued that Robert followed the example of Christ and his teaching that love of God and love of neighbor go together.

Dr. Martin Claussen (University of San Francisco) spoke on "Benedict of Aniane's Concordia regularum, the Decrees of Aachen, and the Carolingian Customary." Benedict of Aniane seems not to have been the rigorist reformer he is often said to have been. For example, he does not seem to have embraced a movement which urged that the abbot eat with the monks and share the same food with them.

At the 43rd Congress, in May of 2008, the ABA will be sponsoring two sessions. The first session is composed of Eric Shuler (Notre Dame) "Following and Serving the Poor Christ: Monastic Ideas of Sanctity"; Matthias Neuman, OSB (St. Meinrad) "Bishops and Benedictines in Medieval Iceland: Sanctity and Learning"; Maureen O'Brien (St. Cloud State U) "In Defense of Sanctity: The Life of Robert of Chaise-Dieu by Marbod of Rennes"; and Dr. Ronald Pepin (Hartford, CT) "John of Salisbury's Life of St. Anselm: A Canonization Brief."

The second session will be Hugh Feiss, OSB (Monastery of the Ascension, ID) "Sanctity in the Veneration and Works of Frowin of Engelberg"; Anna Minore (King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA) "The Sweetest Greenness: Prayer, Church and Holiness in Hildegard"; Ellen Martin, (Detroit, MI) "Christina of Markyate's Necessitous Sanctity"; and Laura Swan, OSB (St. Placid's Priory, Lacey, WA) "Dame Gertrude More's Search for God."

For the 44th congress in 2009, topics for sessions must be submitted in May 2008, and names and abstracts of the papers by October 1, 2008. Tentatively, the topics will be "The Rule of Benedict and Its Interpretation" and "Benedictine Monasteries in Their Geographic and Historical Settings." These topics are wide enough to accommodate a wide variety of papers. The papers need to be no more than 20 minutes in length and scholarly in tone and content, though if they can stand in both the academic and religious worlds, so much the better. Ideally, we will have four papers in each session.

If anyone is interested in participating, they may contact me between now and May.

Hugh Feiss, OSB
Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome, ID
hughf @

Issue Contents


Sesquicentennial Celebrations

St. Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, Minnesota

The year 2007 was a year of reflection, celebration and looking to the future as the sisters of Saint Benedict's Monastery celebrated their sesquicentennial year. Mother Benedicta Riepp, foundress of American Benedictine monasticism, began Saint Benedict's Monastery in 1857 in St. Cloud, MN; it was moved to its present location in St. Joseph, MN, six years later. Planning for the year-long celebration began two years in advance of the sesquicentennial, with Sister Colleen Haggerty calling together her co-chair, Sister Jean Juenemann, and a very capable committee who would spend 42 meetings in planning for the 2007 events.

The sesquicentennial theme, "Fired by Faith, Heartened by Hope," was ever present throughout the celebratory events and the numerous prepared materials. Sixteen events were held, some specifically for the 150th anniversary and some annual events that were given a sesquicentennial feel. During the planning process each group of stakeholders was designated to be honored at a specific event. The larger community responded with over 15 events to honor the sisters; this made for a very busy year for all involved. The exhibit in the monastery's Haehn Museum, "The Vision Unfolding: From Eichstätt, Bavaria, to St. Joseph, Minnesota, 150 Years," was a yearlong highlight for all visitors.

Several commemorative items were produced to capture the occasion, including a pictorial timeline book, an interactive CD-ROM and DVD, a sesquicentennial pin for the sisters, an anniversary prayer/bookmark, hymns, a commissioned intaglio art piece given to special guests and donors, a brochure, a calendar of events, invitation card shells, liturgy covers, letterhead with sesquicentennial logo and tote bags.

On the eve of the anniversary of the sisters' arrival, a specially designed ceramic time capsule was placed in the newly landscaped entrance to the monastery. The opening of the capsule will likely be at the time of the bicentennial celebration in 2057.

The current novices composed the prayer for the closing event on December 30, 2007. Grateful for the 150 years of life in central Minnesota, we now look to the future as the closing line of the prayer states, "On this threshold of future promise . . . that, fired by faith and heartened by hope, we may always delight in your voice, calling us to listen, to dream, to love and to walk the path to peace."

Brenda Brown
Director of Communications
Saint Benedict's Monastery

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St. Benedict's Abbey
Atchison, Kansas

Battling the hardships of the Kansas frontier alongside the immigrants they had come west to serve, a trio of Benedictine monks planted the seeds of what would become St. Benedict's Abbey, which celebrated its sesquicentennial this year. A yearlong observance by the "Kansas Monks" of Atchison featured several separate celebrations focusing on the community's various ministries and legacies throughout the past 150 years.

The opening event in April 2007, attended by more than 500 people, included the dedication of the altar in the abbey church by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Following the Mass, Benedictine College named its administration building St. Benedict Hall in honor of the monks who founded the college a year after establishing their monastic community.

Other sesquicentennial events included the abbey hosting the general chapter of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines and a gathering of the families of monks. The entire community of monks from St. Benedict's foundation house in Brazil, St. Joseph's Priory, was brought to Atchison for several days of getting acquainted and celebrating.

The highlight of the year has been the "Festival of Faith," an Archdiocesan-wide Eucharistic celebration focusing on the abbey's long pastoral tradition. The event, which drew more than 700 people, included a procession of delegations from 31 of the more than 50 parishes that were either founded by or served by the monks of St. Benedict's Abbey.

Other celebrations included hosted gatherings for many of the other valued groups who have shared the community's history: the staff and faculty of Benedictine College, abbey employees, priests and male religious of the Archdiocese, the religious sisters of the archdiocese, and a special gathering with the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison.

The yearlong observance will end April 27 with a concluding Eucharistic Liturgy.

Dan Madden
Director of Development/Communications
St. Benedict's Abbey

Issue Contents


(In addition to its usual reviews of monastic literature, the AMN is featuring books by some of the speakers at the August convention in coming issues in order to familiarize more readers with the wealth of these resources.)

Radical Wisdom: A Feminist Mystical Theology, by Beverly J. Lanzetta (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. 262 pp., $22.00, ISBN 0-8006-3698-8).

Lanzetta's book is well named and it is just that: a rich resource for all wanting a full exposition on feminine mystical theology. Lanzetta brings together many parts of the subject. She explores the history, tradition, and meaning of women's mystical practice; she exposes the deep wounds of oppression that have hindered women's true contemplative practice; and she brings the tradition into present-day context.

It is from the medieval women mystics, and in particular Teresa of Avila, that Lanzetta traces the path of women's mystical journey. The highest state, a mutuality of intimacy, fuses the boundaries between the self and the Other, and is interconnected to all of creation in love. Embodied holiness, the writing of divinity into the world, is one of the "radical" elements of feminine mystical theology. Women mystics, writes Lanzetta, "bring a new language and a new presence that revise our understanding and interpretation of the world."

A great gift that Teresa leaves is the account of her own struggle to believe that God also suffers the deep soul wounds women suffer from oppression. Through faithfulness to the spiritual path, including that of the dark night, women's true self can emerge. Teresa writes, "I know through experience that what I say is true."

At the end of her book, Lanzetta invites us to consider ways (some inner, some outward) in which we can live out of an embodied holiness, bearing divinity in our world. Only when the final pages are completed does the reader realize how rich a resource the book is and can continue to be.

Dolores Super, OSB
Saint Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, MN

Issue Contents


The visual artists are an important part of any monastic community and they have, in recent years, not only attended ABA conventions and held a special interest discussion, but have also mounted displays of their work for the pleasure of all attending the meetings.

The 2008 ABA Convention, August 7-10, will include an art exhibit of original art work by Benedictine artists and also photographs taken by Thomas Merton. We are also exploring the possible option for a PowerPoint presentation of art work that cannot be brought or shipped to the convention.

If you are interested in participating in the ABA Art Exhibit, please contact

S. Mary Kay Panowicz OSB, exhibit coordinator,
Sacred Heart Monastery
1105 W. 8th St.
Yankton, SD 57078
Email: mkpanowicz @
Phone: 605-668-6021

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