The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 40/41, Nr. 2a, June 2010                                     Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

I am coming to the end of my term as president of the American Benedictine Academy and want to thank all of you for your support, and especially the board, who have generously given leadership to the organization. ABA, like all such organizations, does face some challenges in the near future.

Membership in Benedictine communities is aging and many of the mainstays of the ABA are among them. This puts pressure on the organization to recruit new monastics as members. To date, that has been only moderately successful. There are many oblates interested in research and study of the Benedictine way of life, and they would like to be a bigger part of ABA. We must determine in what fashion to address that interest. While the mission stays the same, will the composition of the membership change? How do we want to encourage their active membership?

At the August meeting we will be voting on a change in the bylaws that deals with some aspect of that issue, that is, membership of an oblate on the board of directors. I invite you to read carefully the suggested changes, which are posted on the website, think about the dynamics of the future, and then express your opinions at the meeting. What we do will shape the face of the organization for the future.

The ABA board recommends these changes. They have discussed and explored the options before us and believe this one will help. So that the board does not become larger, it is recommended that we drop the past-president as a member of the board.

Another challenge we face is how to encourage scholarship on the Rule and way of life among the young in our communities. The awards ABA has given are meant to encourage that scholarship, but more needs to be done. What more can we do? Bring your ideas to our meeting.

I hope to see many of you in Atchison at the meeting in August. The St. Benedict’s monks have been most gracious in welcoming us and making the facility available. Have a great summer.

 Jacquelyn Ernster, OSB
ABA President

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The Apostolic Visitation office, headed by Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ, is currently in Phase 3 of the process of apostolic visitation of women’s religious communities in this country. The apostolic visitation, which is limited to those institutes engaged in apostolic works, was announced in December 2008 and, by February 2009, the outline of the visitation process, consisting of four phases, was made public.

The four phases were announced as follows:

  1. Solicit input from superiors general, either through an in-person meeting with the visitator or through a letter from the superior general to the visitator. This phase took place between April and July 2009.
  2. Solicit input, including empirical data as well as observations and aspirations, from US major superiors. The questionnaire was sent in late September 2009 with a return deadline of November 2009.
  3. Conduct onsite visits to selected religious institutes across the US.
  4. Compile and deliver a comprehensive report to the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life ("CICLSAL" – See June 2009 Canon Law Column of this Newsletter which describes the role of CICLSAL).

The purposes of the Visitation are as follows

The announcement of the apostolic visitation came as a surprise to most women religious in the United States. The second phase, which consisted of a lengthy questionnaire directed at each "unit" of religious institutes, was not without controversy. There was considerable criticism of the questionnaire itself, ranging from the use of unclear and inconsistent terminology to what some considered overly invasive requests for information, including that of a comprehensive listing of all property holdings and other financial information of the institutes. (Note: this latter requirement in Part C of the questionnaire was eliminated by Millea in November 2009 after considerable criticism about its inclusion.)

The current third phase of the visitation, the onsite visits to the houses of selected institutes, will take place during two time periods. The first period is from April 11 through May 30, 2010. The second period will be from September 12 through December 12, 2010. During these two periods, multiple teams of visitators will go to the houses of approximately 25% of the 400 apostolic religious institutes in the United States to speak with superiors and others who hold significant roles of leadership, as well as with any individual sister of the house visited who wishes to speak to the visitators. The visitators, who will not have access to information already provided by the institutes to the Apostolic Visitation office, will prepare a written summary of their visits for Millea.

The last and final phase will be a report by Millea, the apostolic visitator, to CICLSAL by December 2011. It is expected that she will make a confidential report to CICLSAL about every US apostolic religious institute, whether actually visited or not, as well as a report about the general state of religious life in the United States. It is expected that, in turn, CICLSAL will give feedback to religious institutes in the United States.

For an interesting overview of the apostolic visitation from a canonical point of view, the website of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes ( can be consulted for the article, "The Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious in the United States—A Canonical Reflection." For those who are more curious and willing to delve more deeply, recommended canonical reading on the nature of apostolic visitations under various titles can be found in several articles in the canonical periodical published by School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America known as The Jurist. See The Jurist 49 (1989):2, pp. 341-567, especially pp. 361-65 for overview of the history of visitation of religious.

Readers are reminded that the canon law columnist welcomes ideas for exploration in these columns and may be submitted by email to slm @ or by post to

Lynn McKenzie, OSB
Sacred Heart Monastery
916 Convent Road NE
Cullman, AL 35055

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In preparation for the election of the board of directors of the American Benedictine Academy, nominations were made by the members of the Academy. The following have accepted the nomination and will be voted upon at the August convention. Members are encouraged to study this slate prayerfully and bring the information with them to the business meeting.

At that meeting ABA members will elect a vice-president who will succeed to the presidency in 2012 and three at-large members who will each serve on the board for a term of two years. At-large members may be reelected to serve a second term.

The current members of the board of directors are

President Jacquelyn Ernster, OSB (Sacred Heart - SD)
Vice-President Laura Swan, OSB (St. Placid - WA)
Immediate Past-President Theresa Schumacher, OSB (St. Benedict’s - MN)
Executive Secretary Adel Sautner, OSB (Mother of God - SD)

At-large members:

Ephrem Hollermann, OSB (St. Benedict’s - MN) may be reelected
Aaron Raverty, OSB (St. John’s - MN) not eligible for reelection
Mary Kay Panowicz, OSB (Sacred Heart - SD) not eligible for reelection

For the position of vice-president, to become the president in two years:

Martin Shannon, Community of Jesus, Cape Cod, MA

I am an Episcopal priest and member of the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical Benedictine community on Cape Cod. I live there with my wife and three of my grown children. Since moving to the Community in 1987, I have been working primarily in the areas of liturgy and formation, and was instrumental in developing and writing the Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus, which has been in use since 2003. In 2004, I received a PhD in Liturgical Studies from the Catholic University of America, with a dissertation on Damasus Winzen, founder and first prior of Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, NY. Currently I am co-authoring a book on the Community’s basilican church, the Church of the Transfiguration, whose art will be completed by the end of 2010.

I have been active in ABA since first attending in 2000. I have a particular interest in the connections between monasticism, ecumenism, and liturgy, especially as they are being reflected in new, intentional communities that follow the Benedictine tradition.

Julia Upton, RSM, oblate of Mount Saviour Monastery, Elmira, NY

A member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, I have been a Benedictine oblate since 1979. I have a doctorate in theology from Fordham University and am a professor in the department of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University in New York, where I also serve as university provost. My most recent book, Worship in Spirit and Truth: The Life and Legacy of H. A. Reinhold, was recently published by Liturgical Press. I am also a member of the advisory boards of Our Lady of Mercy Academy (Syosset, NY) and Our Lady of Mercy School (Forest Hills, NY), a trustee of The Washington Theological Union, and on the international corporate board of Covenant House.

I have been a member of ABA for about 20 years, and a member of the monastic researchers’ group. With the advances in technology now, I see that there is an opportunity for us to broaden both the reach and the scope of the ABA to benefit monastic communities and researchers globally.

Christine Vladimiroff, OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Erie, PA

Since entering Mount St. Benedict in 1957, I have served the community as prioress, council member, director of scholastic formation and initial formation. I am presently completing a term as president of the Conference of Benedictine Prioress, have served on the council of the Federation of St. Scholastica, and was president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious 2003-2006. I have a PhD in Latin American Studies, and a master’s in Hispanic Literature. In the 1990s I was president and CEO of Second Harvest.

The American Benedictine Academy is important for us to support because it promotes research and the publishing of works that make available scholarship around monastic history and monastic issues in our day. The ABA enriches our community members and allows us to contribute to the literature around monastic life. It is a way of passing on the legacy of monastic life to others. It also enriches the Church by gifting our charism to the people of God.

Hildegard Varga, OSB, St. Benedict Monastery, Canyon, TX

I have been a Benedictine since 1997 and currently serve my community as treasurer, archivist, retreat center staff person, and gift shop manager. My previous experience has ranged from chemistry to hospital pastoral care, and I also was archivist/vice-chancellor for the Diocese of Amarillo (1998-2003), during which time I edited the diocesan 75th anniversary history book and successfully applied for a National Historical Records and Publications Commission grant to process accumulated diocesan records dating from the early 1900s.

I have attended six of the last seven ABA Biennial Conferences and have headed the Archives Section since 2000, supplying several newly appointed monastic archivists with "starter information kits" and responding to a variety of "how to" questions. I strongly believe that Benedictines can bring a message of hope to a broken world. The balance and moderation in the Rule provide a sorely needed response to many of the "isms" which threaten the future of society and our planet. The Rule stresses community and healthy relationships to provide a healing message for today’s fractured families and nations. I have no "whiz-bang" answers on how to bring this message of hope but am certain that together we can find a few.


For board member, to assist the officers in the decisions and business of the Academy, the following have accepted nomination:

Gerry Allen, oblate of Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, SD

A lifetime resident of Bellevue, NE, I am director of Foundation Relations at Doane College, where I have taught for the past 23 years. In addition to being an oblate of Mother of God, I am also a member of the board for the monastery’s foundation. I am the father of two daughters, and a member of Sacred Heart Parish, an urban mission church of the Omaha Archdiocese. My interests outside of teaching involve social advocacy for the poor, the marginalized and oppressed, and newly arrived immigrants to this country.

A member of the ABA for 12 years, I have collaborated in recent years with Sister Mary Kay Panowicz and others in reviewing monastic studies grant and ABA Junior Essay Competition applications. I would appreciate the opportunity to help listen, discern and shape the future direction of the ABA.

Bill Cahoy, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN

I have been dean of the School of Theology · Seminary at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN, since 1999 and on the theology faculty there since 1990. I have a master’s in religion from Yale Divinity School and a PhD from Yale in systematic theology. I was a founding member of the Rhodes Consultation on Church-related Colleges, served as a staff member for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology program, and on the Faculty Development Advisory Committee of the Association of Theological Schools. I currently serve on the boards of the Louisville Institute and the Society for Arts in Religious and Theological Studies. I have written on Kierkegaard, feminist theology, the identity of church-related colleges, the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, Benedictinism, and theological education.

As to my vision for the ABA, I would say that my hope is to work with the members of ABA to continue to find ways to make the resources of monasticism available to the church outside the cloister. The world and the church are hungry for community, for hospitality and for life in the likeness of Christ. The tradition of monastic practices has much to offer this hunger and it is incumbent on us to make it available and help do the necessary translations of the tradition.

Bonita Gacnik, Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, SD

I am a professor of mathematics and computer science at Mount Marty College and chair of the department. I received a PhD in computing technology from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. As an associate director of oblates and director of the Benedictine Online Oblate Chapter, the only online oblate chapter in the world, I recently published my dissertation "An Instructional Design Model for Online Personal Enrichment Programs: The Design of an Online Oblate Program: Benedictine Spirituality for Laity." I am also secretary of the North American Association of Oblate Directors and webmaster for this organization.

As founder of the Online Oblate Chapter, I am keenly aware of the attractiveness of Benedictine spirituality. Many among the laity share and value the richness of our Benedictine tradition and culture. The ABA has always been faithful to its mission to "cultivate, support and transmit the Benedictine heritage within contemporary culture." It is important that the ABA continue to empower Benedictines and the laity "to ponder creatively and to discuss the challenges to Benedictine values in the twenty-first century." As an ABA board member, I would have the opportunity and the privilege to more actively support and promote these activities.

Cheryl Crozier Garcia, Hawaii Pacific University

I have a PhD in human resources and am an associate professor of Human Resource Management at Hawaii Pacific University, serving as program chair of the master’s degree program in human resource management. I also maintain an active HR consulting practice. My research interests include spirituality in the workplace and feminist leadership theory, presenting research at national and international conferences, and I am a frequent contributor to professional journals. I am a board member of the Human Resources Certification Institute, where I chair the academic relations task force, as well as a member of the SHRM Foundation Governance Committee and a member of the Selection Committee for the Michael Losey Award. A member of the American Benedictine Academy, I received a 2009 Monastic Studies Grant.

Ephrem Hollermann, OSB, St. Benedict’s Monastery, Saint Joseph, MN

My personal and professional life has been deeply rooted in all things Benedictine. I continue to have a particular interest in research and writing in the area of American Benedictine women’s history. I am consistently interested in exploring the question of Benedictine monasticism’s contribution to the Church and the world: historically, in the present, and in the future age of global Christianity. I believe we need to engage in this exploration as a source of inspiration and hope as we steward our charism in a fractured Church and world.

I have been a member of the American Benedictine Academy from 1986 to the present, and have been an associate editor for The American Benedictine Review from 1994 to the present. Before and during my time as prioress (1995-2005), I interacted with dozens of Benedictine communities in North America as presenter, retreat director, federation delegate, and visitator. I have traveled to and interacted with members of Benedictine monasteries in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Italy, Germany, Taiwan and Japan.

Kathryn Huber, OSB, Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand, IN

I serve as a team member of the community’s spirituality ministries, as a spiritual director and leader of retreats and workshops, and am involved globally with women’s Benedictine communities and as a board member of the USA secretariat of AIM (Alliance for Inter-Monasticism). I hold graduate degrees in spirituality and education and have previously served as federation president, prioress, retreat minister, principal and teacher.

ABA is about networking "to ponder creatively and to discuss challenges to Benedictine values in the 21st century." I have lived monastic life for many years, have served in leadership, and have had many opportunities to experience monastic life as lived in various North American monasteries of women and men as well as in monasteries in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. I believe these experiences will help cultivate a respectful attitude of listening and a prayerful, reflective, dialogic and discerning approach to living Benedictine values in the 21st century.

Dennis Okholm, oblate of Blue Cloud Abbey, Marvin, SD

I have been a member of the ABA since 1990 when I was asked to respond to a paper presented by Patrick Henry. I have attended most of the conventions since that time. Since my initial visit at Blue Cloud, I have wanted to share what I have learned from Benedictines, especially with my Protestant sisters and brothers, so I have led retreats and taught courses on Benedictine spirituality, culminating in the publication of Monk Habits for Everyday People. I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA and on part-time staff at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA, where I reside with my wife, who is Director of Children and Family Ministries at St. Andrew’s. I have taught college for 27 years and currently serve as professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University.

One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had was serving as a board member of the ABA for four years, during which time my primary responsibility was overseeing applications for Monastic Study Grants and submissions and judging for the Junior Essay Competition. As it has done in the past, I hope the ABA continues to unearth the rich resources of the Benedictine tradition and express ways in which the tradition enhances the lives of all people.

Julie Peak, OSB, Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, SD

A member of Sacred Heart Monastery since 2004, I am currently archivist for the community. Prior to entering, I was an oblate of the monastery and worked in college registrar offices. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in higher education. I have been a member of ABA since 2006 and twice winner of the Junior Essay Competition, attending the conventions and participating in the archivist’s section.

I believe that ABA is an invaluable resource for our members to further pursue scholarship and reflection about the monastic life and Benedictine life. I bring an understanding of the oblate way of life as well as the perspective from within the monastery. Although I am a relatively newer member of my monastic community, I bring an appreciation for our shared history as well as our challenges in facing the future. 

Jeanette von Herrmann, OSB, Queen of Angels Monastery, Mt. Angel, OR

I have a master’s degree in theology from Mt. Angel Seminary and a PhD in biblical studies (emphasis in Old Testament) from Catholic University of America. Currently, I am doing "miscellaneous ministries," which means I am involved in a variety of activities, all of which are somewhat connected to monastic life and biblical spirituality. I teach and give retreats in parishes and at our community’s Shalom Prayer Center, am on the staff and consistently contribute articles to Spirit & Life, a publication of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. I teach in our formation program, assist in the community library, am responsible for my community’s blog, and work with the Benedictine Foundation of Oregon on occasion. Being on the west coast, there is not much opportunity to interact face to face with other monastics, so being elected to the ABA board would be a blessing for both me and my community.

"Benedictines and Evangelization"

5-8 August 2010

St. Benedict's Abbey and Benedictine College

Atchison, Kansas

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