The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 43, Nr. 3b,   2012                 Richardton, ND 58652

Egregia Award Winner

In 2010, the ABA renamed the previous "Fellowship Award" to be the "Egregia Award," using the Latin word for "distinguished, exceptional, with outstanding praise." The award is conferred upon individual members who have demonstrated achievement or outstanding contribution in the areas of the Academy's purposes. The award, publicly bestowed at the biennial meeting, was given at the 2012 meeting to Sister Shawn Carruth of Crookston, MN. In giving the award, Sister Laura Swan said the following about Sister Shawn:

"The American Benedictine Academy instituted the Egregia Award, to recognize and honor a member of the Academy whose contributions have had a long-term impact on contemporary monastic life. Persons whose research, publication, teaching, contributions to ongoing formation, creative expressions embodies the Academy's goal to cultivate, support and transmit the Benedictine heritage within contemporary culture.

"This year's recipient has dedicated nearly forty years to education and nearly a quarter century to educating and challenging young adult minds to receive the tradition of biblical scholarship while thinking critically, and to consider its applications to their lives and society today.

"She served as staff and co-director for the summer renewal program for English-speaking Benedictine women in Rome for nine years, providing the intellectual and material space to study and experience monastic and church history.

"So dear to our hearts this year's ABA theme of Seek Peace And Pursue It: Monasticism In The Midst Of Global Upheaval, our recipient has spoken and written on the biblical understandings of "empire," particularly within the perspective of Benedictine monasticism. It is with delight that the Board names Benedictine Sister Shawn Carruth as this year's recipient."

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Benedictine Monasticism:
The Past Receiving the Future

24-27 July 2014

Conception Abbey
Conception, Missouri


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Monastic Study Grant Reports

As a condition of receiving a monastic studies grant from the ABA, recipients are asked to make a report of their project. The following is provided by Orlando Rivera, assistant professor and department chair of the pastoral ministry department at Nyack College in Nyack, NY.

This study addresses the gap in shared leadership literature regarding the integration of leadership as a role performed by an individual with the view of leadership as a social process. Most have approached leadership as a top-down (leader), bottom-up (follower), or lateral (shared) influence process. Western cenobitic (i.e., community-centered) monasticism describes leadership as a shared process that includes all community members in decision making.

Through qualitative content analysis of the texts Rule of Saint Benedict and the Handbook of Monastic Norms for the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict (2001) and interviews with sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, extensions to shared leadership are proposed that illuminate a cenobitic model of leadership.

Hierarchy at St. Benedict's Monastery (SBM) is a collegial, collaborative, and community discernment process that provides the opportunity for all the members of the community to have a voice in the decision making functions of the monastery. It is collegial in that all sisters are afforded equality of personhood as each is one in Christ (RB 2); whether prioress or newly professed, the counsel of all is solicited and honored (RB 3). It is collaborative through delegated authority and the interrelated governance model at SBM in the Handbook of Monastic Norms that expressly describes the role of each sister individually and corporately in the decision making process.

Through qualitative interviews with the sisters of SBM, it was revealed that decision making is a community discernment process where the prioress, leadership team, council, chapter, committees, living groups, and individuals are provided multiple opportunities through information sharing and dialogue to reach a community consensus, with assistance from the Holy Spirit throughout, on an issue at hand until decided by the prioress and supported by the entire community.


Correction: The editor wishes to apologize for some errors in a book review of The Book of the Elders that ran in the June issue (page 6). Cistercian Publications has pointed out that the city of publication for Cistercian Books is now Collegeville, MN. More importantly, the French translation in the Sources Chretiennes volume is mainly the work of Jean-Claude Guy and Wortley's English translation is of the critical Greek text in the volume, not a translation of Guy's French translation. Wortley's The Book of the Elders is the first English translation, not derivative but a careful rendering of the critical Greek. The online review incorporates the above corrections.


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ABA at Kalamazoo, 2012

The 47th International Congress of Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University took place May 10-13, 2012. There were more than 3000 scholars and over 500 sessions. Two of those sessions, well attended and well presented, were sponsored by ABA. At the sessions and elsewhere, we distributed flyers about ABA; Sr. Judith Sutera, OSB, did the same at her Magistra sessions, and we left copies of the flyer at the Cistercian Institute sessions and gave a brief presentation on ABA at the social ABA jointly sponsored with them.

Our 2013 session will be In Honor of Adalbert de Vogüé, in which we will honor his memory and look at his contributions and some of the issues and subjects he treated in his enormous scholarly output.

Our first session this year was on the monastery and congregation of Savigny founded by Vitalis, a canon and chaplain, who became a hermit-preacher and then seven years later established monasteries for his male and female followers at Savigny around 1113. In 1147, the entire congregation was incorporated into the Cistercian Order.

Jon Porter of Butler University spoke of the activities of Abbot Godfrey of Savigny (1122-38), who had been a monk of the Cluniac-influenced abbey of Cerisy-le-Forêt before transferring with several companions to Savigny at the time it was being founded. Ron Pepin, emeritus of Greater Hartford Community College, spoke of a knight's vision of heaven and hell recounted in the Life of a monk of Savigny, Peter of Avranches (d. c. 1172). This biography was a didactic work written by a monk of Savigny for his fellow monks. Hugh Feiss, Monastery of the Ascension, queried the emphasis on preaching in the Life of Vitalis by Stephen of Fougères, Bishop of Rennes.

The second session, on the lifecycle of monasteries, offered only two papers because the third presenter had to cancel at the last moment. In the first paper, Annalena Mueller, a doctoral student at Yale, spoke on the fifteenth-century reform of the monastery of Fontevraud. Its founder, Robert of Arbrissel, was a hermit-preacher who was pressured to found a monastery for his followers. He did so reluctantly, legislating that the community should elect as abbess over both the male and female members a conversa, who had been married. Marie de Bretagne (d. 1477), a noblewoman like most of the members, effected a sweeping reform, which ironically involved strict enclosure and a single rule for all.

M. Pilar Alonso Abad, a professor of art history at the University of Burgos, presented a stunning slide lecture on the history and artistic legacy of the Royal Monastery at Las Huelgas, a suburb of Burgos, where Cistercian nuns have lived since 1187. It was the burial place of the kings of Castile and is now part of the National Patrimony.

Hugh Feiss, OSB
Coordinator of ABA sessions at Kalamazoo



Recordings are available from each of the major presentations at the 2012 ABA convention at a cost of $6.00 for each CD.

  1. The Power of our Portfolios in this Global World - Sister Susan Mika Sister Susan describes efforts being made by Benedictine communities in responsible investing and the use of stockholder power in challenging corporate practices.
  2. The Contribution of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue to Peace - Brother Luke Devine Brother Luke, a member of the North American Board of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue explores the meaning and importance of positive dialogue among different faith traditions.
  3. Practicing Presence: Wisdom from the Rule on Finding Balance in a Digital Age - Sister Colleen Maura McGrane. Sister Colleen Maura takes a personal and practical look at the positives and negatives of contemporary technologies and their use or misuse.
  4. Seeing Jesus, Being Peace
    - Rev. Weldon Nisly Mennonite Pastor Nisly tells the powerful and touching story of his presence as part of a peace delegation during the bombing of Iraq.

To order copies:

NAME ____________________________________________

ADDRESS _________________________________________


Make check payable to Sister Judith and send order to the address below.

Sister Judith Sutera
801 South 8th
Atchison, KS 66002

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Major articles from the first volume of Dilatato Corde are now available in book form and can be ordered directly from the publisher, Lantern Books, or from Amazon. As stated in the Introduction, "This volume begins what we hope will be a long series devoted to the contributions of spiritual practitioners and scholars from different religious traditions who wish to describe, reflect on, and examine the many ways this form of interreligious dialogue can expand the hearts of all spiritual seekers."

DIMMID would be grateful to you for recommending that this book be purchased by the library of your school, monastery, or other institution.

Father William Skudlarek, OSB
Secretary General
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (DIMMID)

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In recent monastic elections, Sister Eileen Schepers, OSB, was chosen as prioress at the Dwelling Place Monastery (Martin, KY) and Sister Victoria Murray, OCSO, as prioress of Santa Rita Abbey (Sonoita, AZ). New abbots are Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB, Saint Anselm Abbey (Manchester, NH) and Abbot Gerald D'Souza, OCSO, Abbey of the Genesee (Piffard, NY).

Two communities have received new administrators: Father Joseph Gabriel Cusimano, OSB, at Mount Saviour Monastery (Pine City, NY) and Sister Rita Brink, OSB, at St. Joseph's Monastery (St. Marys, PA).

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The 2012 federation chapter of the Federation of St. Benedict was held in August in Bismarck, ND. Sister Christine Vladimiroff presented a talk entitled "Enflaming the Hope Within Us" and Sister Susan Hutchens, federation president, had as her theme "Harnessing Love." Evaluating the federation's directional statements, she noted how monastic life has been fostered in such recent activities as the "55 and Under" inter-federational gathering (January 2011), the formation gathering at Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, MN (April 2012), the LCWR/ Smithsonian traveling exhibit "Women in Spirit" (2010-11), and the federation's updated website.

There were other reports, chapter business and the election of the president's council. Members of the council are Sisters Agatha Muggli (Annuncation Monastery, Bismarck, ND) Mary Jane Berger (Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, MN), Linda Soler (St. Paul's Monastery, St. Paul, MN) and Edith Bogue (St. Scholastica's Monastery, Duluth, MN).

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There were nearly 300 participants in Rome, Sept. 17-25, for the international Congress of Benedictine Abbots and Conventual Priors. Twenty-five representatives from Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB), an association of Benedictine sisters and nuns, also attended the Congress, as well as ecumenical guests from the Orthodox and Reformed traditions invited by the Abbot Primate.

The two keynote speakers were Prof. Michael Hochschild presenting his research on the viability of Benedictine monasteries, and Father Michael Casey, OCSO, offering a paper on autonomy in Benedictine life. In addition, a wide range of workshops addressed such topics as Benedictine identity, stress and burnout, associate membership programs, management of monasteries, individualism in the monastery, relationship with Benedictine women, new forms of Benedictine presence in society, ecumenism, the paschal mystery in the sacred liturgy, new directions for inter-monastic dialogue, new structures for AIM, the changing role of S. Anselmo's, the sexual abuse crisis, the role of the abbot, communio in the confederation, and the formation of "traditionalist" candidates.

Dr. Notker Wolf, OSB, a monk of St. Ottilien Archabbey in Bavaria, was again elected abbot primate. The first election of an abbot primate is for eight years, with new elections every four years thereafter. Abbot Primate Notker was first elected in 2000, reelected in 2008, and there is no term limit for an abbot primate. More details about the congress and the talks are on Catholic News Service:

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A digital archive of all the issues of Review for Religious is now being hosted by the Pius XII Library at Saint Louis University. The collection can be accessed at The materials in this archive can be downloaded without charge. Permission is also granted to copy and distribute individual articles for personal, classroom, or workshop use

Copyright for the articles published in Review for Religious is held by the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus. Please credit Review for Religious, reference the volume, issue, and page number, and cite Saint Louis University Libraries as the host of the digital collection.

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Book Review

Desert Banquet: A Year of Wisdom from the Desert Mothers and Fathers, by David G. R. Keller (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011, 282 pages, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-8146-3387-8).

Keller's approach to the banquet of Desert Mothers and Fathers' wisdom is unique in its dual approach: a day-by-day calendar reading of a saying, but also grouped thematically by the month. This renders Desert Banquet both meditative in tasting and savoring a bit day as well as researchable through the monthly themes. This twofold approach enables the reader to soak in a theme throughout the month and be drawn into the formation it affords by a cohesive exposure to the theme.

The author, an Episcopal priest and former steward of the Episcopal House of Prayer at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, not only studied desert wisdom writings, he spent time with the monks of St. Macarius in Scetis, Egypt, and traveled with the Bedouins in the Sinai desert. As the thrust of the book is about wise formation, he writes in his Introduction: "Yet the desert is not an end in itself. The person I become there is the person I am called to be when I return home." The "desert" must be created somehow in order to listen to the wisdom of people who have become transparent to Christ in their experience of God and daily living in this world. Even in a world of shrinking desert locations, Desert Banquet can help us establish the environment necessary to recreate the essential spiritual values of the ancient desert experience: solitude, austerity, single-mindedness, reliance on God and spiritual parents, and deep, open listening.

The themes covered in this book include such basics as: withdrawal from the world, patience, persistence, humility and facing the reality of sin, lack of progress and hardships, etc. all in the effort of transformation in Christ. The desert sayings are astutely selected and opened for today's reader with common sense and insight, such as found in the statement: "The desert elders learned that when silence, prayer, and meditation become ends in themselves, they stand in the way of transformation. God calls us to faithfulness, not perfection" (9). Too often we shy away from desert literature perhaps because we feel too unable to imitate it in life. The more we delve into the sayings as the author opens them for us, however, the more their realism becomes more apparent.

Keller's insights are keen and deliberately short, opening the saying without overwhelming it with interpretation: with a bit of context and a bit of clarification, the saying becomes formative in our search for God. In addition, the book is enhanced by indexes of general sources, daily sources for the passages used, a short method of lectio divina, and maps relating to the Desert Fathers and Mothers. What is unique about this book is the incorporation of Celtic wisdom as well as the wisdom of the Rule of Benedict.

Desert Banquet would be a valuable assistance for those who have a desire for spiritual transformation in whatever life context and is clearly one of the best books on Desert wisdom.

Sister Renée Branigan, OSB
Sacred Heart Monastery, Richardton

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