The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 43, Nr. 1a, February 2012                  Richardton, ND 58652

President's Message

Step Out and Beyond: Embrace Diversity, Embrace Peace

The board of directors of the American Benedictine Academy met at Saint Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, MN, in early January. We were received warmly and graciously by the wonderful sisters there. Sister Mary Rochefort and her committee are a delight to work with and are very thoughtful in planning facilities and environment. I think you will be pleased with your "conference experience."

In creating the schedule, we provided several options for guided tours of the architecture and monastery artwork. The sisters of Saint Scholastica Monastery have a long tradition of gifted artists within their midst, thus there is much beauty to savor. Abbess Hildegard, in honor of her (long overdue) elevation to Doctor of the Church, will be gracing us with her presence. We have made some slight alterations to the traditional conference schedule in recognition of past participants' preferences. As always there will be opportunity for you to provide feedback for future planning.

One of the great gifts of our biennial gathering is the opportunity for informal conversation as well as the sharing among our section gatherings and breakout groups. As we have focused on Seeking Peace in the recent issues of the American Monastic Newsletter, I have become increasingly aware of the nuanced ways that we are being challenged to create and support an authentic peace. As we move into an election year with its deepening vitriolic, how might we engage in authentic conversation, especially with those whose worldview might be so different from our own, and listen for the hard question? As the economy remains a challenge, particularly for the growing number of aging "boomers" who face retirement with few resources, how might we model possibility and hope? As questions around immigration, of receiving the stranger while seeking justice for our established neighbor, confront us, how might Benedictine hospitality show our society another way, or recognize the deeper question?

While our main work at our recent board meeting was finalizing plans for our August gathering, we continued conversation around visioning for the future, committing to some concrete steps to expand and diversify membership. This has been a wonderful and collaborative board with work with: grounded in the monastic tradition yet creative thinkers. With (vice-president) Martin's call for nominations, we ask members to consider prayerfully those with dedication to the tradition, and openness to the surprises the Holy Spirit has in store for the monastic world. Some free time to serve is also important.

The women (with the Beloved Disciple) were faithful and stayed with Jesus through his passion, crucifixion and death. They remained at the tomb. Mary Magdalene, with a heart of deep love, embraced Jesus as he was "going to his Father." They were faithful in the midst of their despair and profound sense of loss, faithful in the midst of confusion. What was the Jesus-event about?Why did God promise such great things only apparently to have the future destroyed? Yet the women remained at the tomb in the midst of their grief. Do we have the eyes to see the resurrection? Do we have the patience to wait by the tomb? How might we cultivate a heart, and the relationships, literally to see and embrace the new resurrection of monastic life?

Look around you. Who do you need to invite to join the Academy? Oblates with a particular commitment to our way of life? Informal yet intentional communities around you who claim a monastic charism and who might benefit from participating with us? Step out in faith.

Laura Swan, OSB
President, American Benedictine Academy

Issue Contents

Seek Peace and Pursue It:
Monasticism in the Midst of Global Upheaval

Convention of the American Benedictine Academy
August 2 - 5, 2012

St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, MN

Register Now (.doc)

The Power of our Portfolios in this Global World
Susan Mika, OSB

Sister Susan, of St. Scholastica Monastery, Boerne, TX, is the executive director of the Benedictine Coalition for Responsible Investment (CRI) and works with the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition, primarily consisting of religious groups in Texas.

Practicing Presence: Wisdom from the Rule
On Finding Balance in a Digital Age
Colleen Maura McGrane, OSB

Sister Colleen Maura, of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO, has been dedicating her "spare" time to translating the many volume commentary on the Rule of Benedict by the French Benedictine scholar Adalbert de Vogüé, OSB. She has published in the American Benedictine Review and Magistra.

The Contribution of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
To Peace
Luke Devin, OSB

Brother Luke, of St. Martin's Abbey, Olympia, WA, has taught in the religious studies department at Saint Martin's University and is currently pursuing his doctorate in Christian Spirituality at the GTU in Berkeley. He is a board member for MID (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue) and an artist.

Seeing Jesus, Being Peace
Weldon Nisly

Weldon Nisly, oblate of Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, MN, is a pastor at Seattle Mennonite Church and active in peace ministry, serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, as a founder of the Mennonite-Catholic peace group Bridgefolk, and with the Network of Biblical Storytellers.

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Guest Essay: Seeking Peace

Sister Laura Swan, president of ABA, announced that she would be seeking "thought-provoking pieces on the theme 'Seek Peace and Pursue It' for this newsletter" in the issues preceding the 2012 convention with that theme. Below is a contribution from Sister Susan Quaintance, OSB, of St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago.

What do the psalms say about seeking peace? When that question occurred to me one night during evening prayer, it struck me as one worth exploring a bit. What text does a Benedictine spend more time with over the course of a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, than the Book of Psalms? The Rule itself quotes the psalms a whopping seventy-one times. The psalms are the river that flows over us, shaping our stony hearts into something closer to what they are supposed to be and, of course, the name of this series of articles leading up to the 2012 meeting of the American Benedictine Academy quotes the seventeenth verse of the Prologue which quotes Psalm 34:15b ("Seek peace, and follow after it;" all quotations are from the New American Bible, unless otherwise noted). So I spent a Saturday morning looking at where the word peace shows up in the psalms and also where those psalms fall in the Liturgy of the Hours setting that my community uses (the 1998 edition of the translation done by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA). It wasn't too terribly scientific or exhaustive, but it reminded me of something I already knew and prompted my gratitude for something I didn't.

The reminder: Peace is ultimately God's work, not ours. Obviously that does not excuse us from whatever we can do to make peace ("Those who love your law have great peace" Psalms 119:165a; "Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and follow after it" Psalm 34:15). Peace building seems especially connected to speaking honestly and living authentically ("Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do wrong, with those who speak words of peace while malice lives in their hearts" Psalm 28:3, Benedictine Sisters of Erie; "They [my enemies] wish no peace for those who seek it; they make deceitful plots" Psalm 35:20, Benedictine Sisters of Erie). But far more often the psalms proclaim that peace comes from God (e.g. "May the Lord give strength to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace" Psalm 29:11; "[God] has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat [God] fills you" Psalm 147:14).

Peace will be the hallmark of the reign of God's anointed one (Psalm 72). This is an important truth to hold onto as we make our way in a world that is anything but peaceful. As we try to educate ourselves about global genocides and torture, as we search for the facts in the mudslinging of another presidential election, as we attempt to mend our sometimes fractured communities, we must acknowledge that our work alone will not be sufficient.

That realization, on a bad day, can be discouraging. What's the point of trying? Which is where my gratitude comes in. One of the things I looked at in my morning of psalm study was when my community prays the psalms that talk about peace. Some are prayed in the morning, but almost twice as many are prayed in the evening. After a long day of doing what we do, saying what we say, living with whom we live with, and humbly having to admit that it's another day of coming up short, it is good to hear that God works through our small efforts, that God has the ultimate responsibility, that it is in and through God alone that the promise of peace is fulfilled. What a relief! Knowing that, we will be able to "fall peacefully asleep" as soon as we lie down (Psalm 4:9). Or, at least, that's the hope.

There are three psalms that mention peace which are omitted from our Liturgy of the Hours book: 83, 109, and 120. They are prayers against different enemies. I've never been in favor of leaving out the "cursing" psalms from prayer; instead I've always felt that using them can help us face our own violence and sinfulness. Now I find myself grateful for that editorial decision. Each of us is plenty capable of unconsciously destroying the fragile peace(s) that exist around us; we probably don't need to be awash in how the wicked willfully do it. To "seek peace" implies shunning its opposite, and these psalms would surely keep me up at night by feeding resentment and hostility. The psalms are a primer for so many aspects of right relationship, and seeking peace is no exception. May we use them so. "Peace be upon Israel" (Psalm 125:5c) . . . and all of us.

Issue Contents

ABA Library Section

An effort is being made to bring back a special interest section of the ABA for monastic librarians. There will be a pre-convention meeting on Thursday August 2, 2012, in Duluth with the aim to reestablish the American Benedictine Academy Library Section through a blend of stimulating discussion, thoughtful reflection, and informative presentations, leading to goals for the section. Brother Cyril Drnjevic, OSB, is initiating this effort and would like to meet with others to envision the ABA Library Section, discuss its vision and mission, and begin to plan its future.

Special presentations will be given during the day as well. Matt Heintzelman, PhD, curator of the Austria/Germany Study Center of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John's University, Collegeville, MN, will speak on the role of Benedictines in the paradigm shift from manuscript to print technology, 1450-1550.

Featured will be In Praise of Scribes by John Trithemius (see and a description of the HMML copy of the first printing of Gregory's Dialogues from 1472. Brother Cyril, of the Mount Angel Abbey Library in Saint Benedict, OR, will explore the concept of an ideal Benedictine library in an ideal Benedictine environment, using examples from the Plan of Saint Gall.

If you have any further questions regarding this, please contact Brother Cyril at


Board Elections in the Academy

At the biennial convention of the American Benedictine Academy in Duluth, the ABA membership will elect a vice-president of the board who will succeed to the presidency in 2014 and three at-large members who will each serve on the board for a term of two years. One of the at-large members must be an oblate.

The Nomination and Election Committee is now requesting and receiving nominations for the positions of vice-president and board members. Only members of the Academy are eligible for nomination and only current ABA members may nominate. Nominations should be sent by mail or email to:

Fr. Martin Shannon
The Community of Jesus
PO Box 1094
Orleans MA 02653-1094

Nominations must be received by March 1, 2012.

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Planning Begins for the Third World Congress of Benedictine Oblates

The following is an excerpt from a report sent by Joyce Collins, oblate of St. Vincent Archabbey who served as a consultant for the Third World Congress of Benedictine Oblates.

In this brief presentation I'd like to inform you about the suggestions that were offered by the members of the international consultation in Montserrat in October 2010 for the next World Oblate Congress (in Rome in October 2013) and what Benedictine values I discerned through this experience in Montserrat. After consideration of the topics given by participants in the 2009 Congress and our own discussions, we achieved a working title for the next World Congress: "Obsculta: Benedictine Oblates Listening in the World." Practical suggestions included individual transportation from the airport, snacks for early arrivals, more free time, and the liturgy in Latin with readings and homilies in other languages with written translations available if possible. This committee plans to meet again at Douai Abbey in Great Britain in early 2012.

The Benedictine value of listening to everyone, even the youngest (even those from other cultures?), was brought home to me in hearing the suggestions for topics from the 14 countries represented on the committee. As usual traveling meant for me a reassessment of myself and an effort to be ever ready for continuing conversion. The "genius" of committee members from 14 different countries was obvious in the many suggestions for workshop topics and speakers. We were asked not to divulge speaker suggestions, but some suggested topics for workshops were oblates in marriage and the single life, oblates in the future, elderly "shut-in" oblates, Gregorian chant, living the life of an oblate in the world, oblates at work, listening in the family, St. Benedict's life, obedience, music and dance, humility, oblate identity, meditation, witnessing formation, levels of silence, youth, and oblates and their monastic community.

The abbot of Montserrat spoke to us as we toured the monastery one evening, saying, "Many who come here as tourists leave as pilgrims." There is a power in this awe-inspiring place that points to the eternal. It is easy to imagine dedicating one's life in the vow of stability to this breathtaking monastery nestled into the side of a mountain with a view of the world of valleys before it. This monastery sits on the lap of a doting parent who knows the importance of allowing the vision of freedom to her child. Our conference was that. Under the auspices of our "parent" abbot primate, we were directed to this remarkable place and asked for our opinions for a future congress. Although only there for three days and coming as strangers, many of whom spoke different languages, we left a family. One young participant hugged me on leaving, saying, "Now I have a mother in Pittsburgh."

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Monastic News Omnibus

Prior Robert Hale, OSB Cam., was elected as prior of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA, and Very Rev. Adrian Harmening, OSB, has been named as administrator of the monastery of Mary Mother of the Church in Richmond, VA.

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Sister Kathleen Hickenbotham, OSB, 72, died December 12, 2011, at Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD, following a brief illness. Her ministry included elementary school teaching and teaching art at Mount Marty College. Most recently, she worked full time in the monastery as a resident artist in the areas of calligraphy, watercolor, and ceramics.

Sister Kathleen attended her first ABA convention in 1990 and was interested in the Visual Arts Section of ABA from its inception in 1992. When Sister Mary Kay Panowicz stepped down as chair after the 1994 ABA meeting, she and Sister Emmanuel Pieper of Villa Hills, KY, led the Visual Arts Section and planned the art exhibits starting with the 1996 meeting. She continued to collaborate with Sister Emmanuel to chair the section and set up the art exhibits until 2004. During this time, she also served two terms on the ABA board, from 1998 to 2002. After she stepped down from her leadership positions in the ABA, she continued to enjoy the opportunity to include her artwork in the ABA art exhibitions. Sister Kathleen was active in her ministry and volunteer activities until shortly before her death. A joyful spirit, Sister Kathleen's life was imbued by her faith, prayer, her appreciation for all creation and her love for her community and family. She was a gentle soul who touched many lives with her love of beauty and God.

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It is the custom of the American Benedictine Academy to have an art display during its convention featuring the work of monastic artists. All visual arts such as painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, pottery, etc. are welcome. It is not necessary to attend in order to have works displayed. ABA members are encouraged to make sure that their communities are represented by inviting their artists to participate. Anyone interested in submitting artwork may contact Sister Mary Josephine (

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American Benedictines, and all scholars of the Rule of St. Benedict, grieve with the monks of the Abbey of Pierre-qui-Vire on the death of Father Adalbert de Vogüé, OSB, 86, on October 14, 2011. His research and publications were voluminous and seminal, and he served frequently on the faculty of the Pontifical Athanæum of Saint Anselm in Rome before taking up the hermit's life in 1974 near his monastery.

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The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, KS, will host their fifth annual monastic institute for oblates July 12-15. Noted scholar Father Terrence Kardong, OSB, will have as his topic "Conversing with Benedict about Modern Values." Because of the conversational nature of these institutes, participation is limited to 50 and the event is intended to be for lay oblates rather than Benedictine religious. Information will be going out soon to all oblate directors, or one may contact Sister Micaela Randolph at

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