The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 39, Nr. 2a, June 2009                  Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

Dear Friends,

It is June and we are at the end of graduation season. Thousands of graduates have listened to speakers give them a vision for the future, encourage them to make a difference, and congratulate them for the accomplishments earned to date. We do not know what the graduates themselves think of all this or if they even listen, but the news media has listened to select speeches and reported extensively. Like all of you, I have been intrigued by the media attention to Notre Dame’s graduation and their selection of a speaker. Whether you approved or didn’t approve, you have to admit, it got the media’s attention and we all heard the major theme of Obama’s speech, which was a call for civility in times of differences. President Obama called for, "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words." He quoted Father Hesburgh, who has spoken of Notre Dame as both a lighthouse and a crossroads, a place where "differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love." It was a message for all of us and well worth hearing.

In an ever more culturally diverse environment, we are called to such civility. As Benedictines we too are called to be active citizens with moral stamina, showing by our light and life the truths for which we stand. As scholars of the Rule of Benedict, we are called to apply the principles of peace, obedience, community, and prayer to the challenges of diversity and civility. We have in our history many examples of courageous living: the monks of Tibhirine who understood the value of presence, the academic institutions established in the New World witnessing to the value of education, the wave of missionary activity in Latin America and Africa enabling the indigenous people, the efforts of Benedictine organizations such as AIM and MID to seek avenues through which to share our values with others and to learn of theirs. We have examples showing that peaceful coexistence does work and can happen. Are we telling those stories in our research? Are we writing the story of the effectiveness of the Rule to guide us in peaceful living?

The lessons learned in our many endeavors need to be shared and promulgated for all to ponder. Sometimes lessons are learned by experiments that did not go so well also, and these too need to be written and shared. What can an organization like the ABA do to further this sharing, to give us examples of open hearts, open minds, and fair minded words? What wisdom of the past will enable us to live in a multicultural world holding fast to our beliefs and still promote peace? What research is being done to open up the heritage we proclaim? If there are additional ways ABA could assist with this important endeavor, let us know.

Jacquelyn Ernster, OSB
ABA President

Issue Contents

* * * * * *

Canon Law Column

Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

It is common parlance among religious to speak of the necessity of sending certain requests "to Rome" in order "to get Rome’s approval." Generally, when using "Rome" in speaking of issues dealing with religious, "Rome" means the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL). When the canons on consecrated life speak of the "Apostolic See" or the "Holy See" they are usually referring to CICLSAL. What is CICLSAL? (Hint: it is not a disease, as the pronunciation of the acronym seems to conjure in one’s mind! The acronym is much easier to use than the unwieldy full title of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.)

According to the Vatican website, the Congregation was established in 1586 by Pope Sixtus V. It has been known by many names. Most recently, prior to its current title, it was known as the Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes as re-named by Pope Paul VI. In 1988, in the apostolic constitution, Pastor bonus, Pope John Paul II reorganized the Roman curia and gave the current title of CICLSAL to this dicastery.

Pastor bonus begins by describing the Roman curia: "The Roman Curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the whole Church and the particular Churches. It thus strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world" (PB, Art. 1). "The dicasteries study the major problems of the present age, so that the Church’s pastoral action may be more effectively promoted and suitably coordinated" (PB. Art. 13). Pastor bonus goes on to say that "[c]onsultors also are appointed from among clerics or other Christian faithful outstanding for their knowledge and prudence, taking into consideration, as much as possible, the international character of the Church" (PB, Art. 8). It should be noted in this regard that religious superiors are urged to allow their members to be available for service to the Roman curia (PB, Art. 9).

According to the Vatican website, CICLSAL "is responsible for everything which concerns institutes of consecrated life . . . regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights and privileges. It is competent also for matters regarding the eremitical life, consecrated virgins and their related associations, and new forms of consecrated life . . . Further, it is competent for associations of the faithful erected with the intention of becoming institutes of consecrated life. . . .

What are some reasons that a monastery or one of its members might need to "go to Rome," i.e., to contact CICLSAL? The constitution of each monastic congregation/federation directs that certain issues must be sent to CICLSAL for decision. Certain canons concerning all religious do the same. For example, transferring property owned by the monastery which has a value in excess of the amount allowed in the region requires approval by CICLSAL (canon 638, §3) and payment of a tax to the Apostolic See. (In the United States, the current amount of value of property requiring this approval permission is $5,699,000, effective July 2008. Watch for an increase of the alienation amount for 2009-2010 at

Another example is when a member of a society of apostolic life (e.g., Daughters of Charity) wants to transfer to a religious institute such as a Benedictine monastery. Because it is a transfer involving two different types of canonical organizations, the permission of the Holy See (i.e., CICLSAL) is required (canon 684, §5). Another example is that of a monastic requesting an indult of departure (commonly referred to as a dispensation). Such an indult is reserved to the Holy See (canon 691, §2). Likewise, the dismissal of a monastic cannot take effect unless confirmed by the Apostolic See (canon 700). (For a complete listing of the canons which require that religious institutes receive approval, consultation or other direction from CICLSAL, see Appendix 3, "Authority in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in A Handbook on Canons 573-746, eds. Hite, Holland and Ward, pp. 384-86 [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1985].

In this canonist’s limited experience of dealing with CICLSAL on behalf of individual monastics and monastic superiors, CICLSAL is responsive to requests made of it in due time. For the last 20 plus years we, as American religious, have been fortunate to have at CICLSAL an American, Sister Sharon Holland, IHM. She has served with distinction as bureau chief at CICLSAL since 1988 and has been an understanding presence regarding the concerns of American religious. Unfortunately, Sister Sharon is retiring and is returning to the United States. Let us pray that her successor at CICLSAL will exhibit the same wisdom and understanding that Sister Sharon has during her years of service.

Readers are invited to email me with questions or suggested topics for future canon law columns.

Lynn McKenzie, OSB
Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL

* * * * * *

Issue Contents

Dancing With Hope: A Gathering for the Future

Many ask the question "What is the future of Benedictine life?" Forty sisters from the Federation of St. Scholastica know that, even as they ask the question, they are a large part of the answer too. They are all under the age of fifty-five and they gathered at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS, to share their insights and their strength.

Several such meetings have been held in their federation and in others to build an important network for the future. More interaction across federation lines is one of the goals of this group. A start was made by inviting young sisters from the nearby Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO, and three Tanzanian sisters from Ndanda who are currently studying in the United States.

The steering committee consisted of Sisters Suzanne Fitzmaurice of Atchison, Mariette Therese Bernier (Elizabeth, NJ) Veronica Joyner (Bristow, VA), Katherine Horan (Erie, PA), and Therese Haydel (Cullman, AL) The theme they chose was "Dancing With Hope," honoring, as Sister Therese explained, "Miriam at the edge of the Red Sea, facing the unknown ahead with a dance of praise."

Sister Suzanne pointed out, "We hear so many negatives, what our life is not, what it used to be, what we can’t do, and we want to make sure we focus on what is and what might be." Sister Katherine noted that this was not a rejection of the past or the value of what has been. "We know we have to look at some things in new ways and make changes that respect the wisdom of the tradition." "Our focus," explained Sister Veronica, "has to be hope, not fear."

Among those sharing wisdom from the tradition were Sisters Irene Nowell, Judith Ann Heble, and Esther Fangman, federation president. The leadership of the federation has been instrumental in encouraging such meetings and collaborating with the planners. Peer presenters were Sisters Vicki Ix, vocation minister at Bristow; Ruth Starman, vocation director of the Clyde sisters; Barbara Smith, pastoral care coordinator in Atchison; and Christine Ereiser, prioress of St. Joseph’s in Tulsa.

As communities become smaller, the importance of young monastics remaining connected to one another grows. "These meetings are a wonderful opportunity to get together and celebrate our shared monastic life," said Sister Mariette. "We are American Benedictines, not just individual communities." Being able to share the hope and dance into the future will make each community stronger.

Benedictinism and Evangelization

St. Benedict's Abbey
Benedictine College
Atchison, Kansas

5 to 8 August 2010


Issue Contents



The Benedictine Sisters of the Byzantine Rite, Queen of Heaven Monastery, Warren, Ohio, have announced that they are changing their status from independent monastery to dependent monastery of their founder, Sacred Heart Monastery,  Lisle, Illinois.

The sisters of Red Plains Monastery in Piedmont merged with  in Atchison, Kansas, in a ceremony on the Feast of St. Benedict. Some of the Oklahoma sisters have moved to Mount St. Scholastica, and two Atchison sisters are living in Oklahoma to assist with the spirituality center there.

The sisters of Our Lady Queen Monastery in Tickfaw are merging with St. Scholastica Priory in Petersham, Massachusetts, to which the Louisiana sisters will move.

* * * * * *


Newly elected monastic leaders include Prioress Maria DeAngeli, OSB – St. Scholastica, Fort Smith, AR, and Prioress Lucia Schwickerath, OSB – St. Paul’s, St. Paul, MN.

Reelected to continue their ministry of leadership in recent elections were

Prioress Margaret Mary Schima, OSB – Queen of Heaven, Warren, OH; Prioress Mary Ann Schepers, OSB – Holy Spirit, Grand Terrace, CA; Abbot Cletus Meagher OSB – St. Bernard Abbey, Cullman, AL.
Abbot Primate Notker Wolf has named Father Elias R. Lorenzo, OSB, a monk of Saint Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, NJ, to succeed Father Michael Naughton, OSB, as prior and superior of the monastic community at the Abbey of Sant’Anselmo in Rome.

* * * * * *

Father Theodore Heck, OSB, the world’s oldest Benedictine monk, died April 29 at the age of 108. A monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, Indiana, Father Theodore was the senior member of the Swiss American Benedictine Congregation in profession, priesthood and age, and the senior in age of the entire confederation of Benedictine monks throughout the world. He was also a participant in the Rush Religious Study on Aging and Alzheimer’s. He taught in the minor and major seminaries and held a variety of administrative positions in the St. Meinrad schools. He was a founding member of the American Benedictine Academy, and served as its first president, 1947-57.

Issue Contents


OSB | ABA | Newsletter

Support This Site


© Copyright 2009 by American Benedictine Academy / Webweaver /