The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 32, Nr. 3, October 2002                 Richardton, ND 58652


Monastic News Omnibus

Over one hundred Benedictine sisters and nuns from nineteen regions of the globe gathered in Collegio Sant'Anselmo, Rome, Italy, for the first time under the name of Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB). In an effort to develop leadership among the young, twenty of the group were women who have been professed for five years or less. Coming together for seven full days, September 3-11, to strengthen their common identity as monastic women, they participated in a symposium devoted to Chapter 72 of the Rule of St. Benedict, "Good zeal in the workshop of the monastery."

Symposium presenters were Sister Aquinata Böckman (Germany), Abbess Henriette Wendbala Kalmago (Africa), Sonia Wagner (Australia), Abbot Jerome Kodell (USA), Mother Miriam Alejandro (Philippines) and Mother Joanna Jamieson (England). The moderator of CIB, Mother Maire Hickey (Germany), stated in the invitation sent to the delegates: "Good zeal is the summing up of everything on our part that goes to make the monastery a 'house of God,' a place where people are reminded of the presence of God and where they can experience His light for our world."

At the close of the meeting those present discussed the following directions for the group for the next four years: prepare a proposal for the Abbots' Congress in 2004; work on the Ius Proprium, address formation needs of Benedictine women, work out a financial policy for the Communio and the conference, plan the symposium for 2006, set up a secretariat in Rome, and promote consciousness of the work of the Communio at the grass-root level.

Elected to serve on the administrative council to lead CIB and a conference of elected delegates are moderator Mother Maire Hickey (Germany), assistant moderator Sister Judith Ann Heble (USA), and Sister Sonia Wagner (Australia) and Mother Irmgard Poroto (Namibia) who will be council members at large. These four women will meet within a short time to invite one or two others to serve on the council. The ideal is to have the administrative council represent various forms of monastic life.

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Mepkin Abbey in North Carolina, hosted the US regional meeting of Cistercian monastics in preparation for the international general chapter. The meeting was attended by the superiors of US houses, Dom Augustine of the Generalate, Abbot Jacques of the Canadian region, and the two delegates to the chapter.

Each monastery submitted a house report for evaluation. The issues raised in them seemed to fit well with the preparation for the chapter. The agenda for this chapter is primarily focused on pastoral issues such as formation, elections, aging, economics and work.

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The chapter for the Federation of St. Scholastica was held at St. Vincent in Latrobe, PA, June 19-26. The focus for the chapter was cenobitic obedience and authority. Speakers addressed these issues through the lens of theology, monastic experience and tradition, ecclesial church, and cultural influences. An election was held for officers of the federation for the next four years. Sister Esther Fangman (Atchison) was reelected as president. Sister Mary Agnes Patterson was elected to the federation council and Sisters Mary Catherine Wenstrup, Karen Bland, Roberta Campbell and Kathleen McNany were reelected. Future directions were established for the president and council. At each general chapter canonical concerns also are reviewed and updated. A special celebration was held at St. Marys, PA, on June 22 to honor the beginning of Benedictine monasteries for women in the Americas by the arrival of Mother Benedicta Riepp and two companions in 1852.

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The 47th general chapter of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Men met at Saint John's in Collegeville, MN. This congregation consists of 21 abbeys and 10 dependent priories, with the abbot and an elected delegate representing each monastery. Much of this year's meeting focused on strengthening the Benedictine character of the schools the communities sponsor. Timothy Kelly, OSB, (Collegeville) is president of the congregation.

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The 21st general chapter of the Federation of St. Gertrude was held at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, AR, July 2-8. The theme of the chapter was "Running the Way with Expanded Hearts." The year 2002 marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Benedictine women in North America, the 700th anniversary of the death of Gertrude of Helfta, patroness of the federation, and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Federation of St. Gertrude. Three speakers addressed the chapter in this anniversary year. Sister Ruth Fox presented "Our Monastic Foremothers: Mentors for Our Hearts." Sister Ephrem Hollermann's presentation was entitled "Women in Labor: Nineteenth-Century Benedictine Foundresses in North America." Sister Mary John Mananzan of Manila spoke on "Challenge to the Benedictine Religious Women in this Millennium."

The federation adopted changes in the monastic profession formula and heard reports from monasteries in transition toward merger. In addition Sister Mary David Walgenbach and delegates from the Madison community gave the history and progress in the development of their non-canonical ecumenical dependent monastery. Several direction statements were adopted for 2002-05. The following were elected to the federation council: Sister Jacquelyn Ernster (Yankton, SD), Sister Jean Lalande (Cottonwood, ID), Sister JoAnn Schmidt (Columbia, MO), Sister Paula Larson (Richardton, ND) and Sister Rachel Best (Beech Grove, IN) who was also elected first councilor. Sister Kathryn Huber (Ferdinand, IN) is federation president.

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In a recent general chapter, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration elected Sister Ramona Varela as their new prioress general. Subsequent local elections made Sister Karen Joseph prioress at their monastery in Clyde, MO, and Sister Lupita Marie Barajas, prioress at Tucson, AZ. Recently reelected as prioress were Sisters Mary Eileen Schneider, Holy Angels, Jonesboro, AR, and Christine Vladimiroff, Mount St. Benedict, Erie, PA.

Abbot John Klassen, St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, MN, was elected to the board of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men at their summer meeting.

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In Memorium: The sisters at St. Walburga's in Elizabeth, NJ, are mourning the death of their prioress, Sister Louise Garley at the end of August. At St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, MN, Sister Mary Anthony Wagner died unexpectedly in September. Her contributions to monastic life were well known, especially her leadership of the Benedictine Institute for Sacred Theology, which promoted the theological education of Benedictine women. It later became the graduate school of theology of Saint John's University, with Sister Mary Anthony as dean. She was also editor of Sisters Today, and was a leader in the recent renewal within the oblate movement.

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This year, Benedictines are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the beginnings of Benedictine life for women in the United States, with special emphasis on founder, Mother Benedicta Riepp. At the age of 27, Benedicta was sent with two other sisters from Saint Walburg Abbey, Eichstatt, Bavaria (Germany), to Saint Marys, PA, to educate German immigrants and to spread the Benedictine way of life. At the time of her death, after only ten years in the United States, six independent communities of Benedictine women were established and thriving.

One hundred fifty years later, 46 monasteries in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Taiwan and Japan trace their roots to Mother Benedicta. A survey of these 46 monasteries revealed that a minimum of two million people were influenced and continue to be served in institutions of education, health care, social services and spirituality instituted or administered by Benedicta's daughters. The opening celebration of the anniversary was held in St. Marys on June 22 with a gathering of Benedictine women from across the country.

As part of the year's celebration, a reflection booklet on the life and contribution of Mother Benedicta has been prepared. It includes biographical information and commentaries by several Benedictine women on her contemporary importance. Each of these reflections is followed by several questions and action suggestions for group or individual response to the material. Poems, photos, bibliography, and other materials are also included and the cover is an icon of Mother Benedicta, written by Sister Mary Charles McGough (Duluth, MN). Copies of the booklet and holy cards of the icon are available from Benetvision, Erie, PA.

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The Paschal Triduum as it is celebrated within monasteries will be the focus of the ninth gathering of the Monastic Liturgy Forum. "Unfolding the Paschal Triduum in a Monastic Setting" will be held at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN, July 16 19, 2003.

Keynote addresses and discussion will be led by Abbot Patrick Regan, St. Joseph's Abbey, St. Benedict, LA, and Sister Genevieve Glen, of the Abbey St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO. Both are highly respected scholars in the field, and both have keynoted MLF gatherings in the past. Currently Abbot Patrick is on the faculty of Sant'Anselmo Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome; Sister Genevieve is an editor for Magnificat and speaker on liturgical topics. Both have been published frequently.

This topic was suggested by MLF member monasteries because so many aspects of the Triduum are designed with parish life as the normal context. While this is also true for other liturgical events, the differences seem to have more impact during this central celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Two reasons are that in parishes, liturgy of the hours is not as integral to the life of the community and that baptisms are not often performed in monasteries. Another basic difference is the very nature of the celebrating community.

The Monastic Liturgy Forum was founded in 1988 and had its first national gathering the following year. The purpose of the group is to provide both scholarly input and an opportunity for monastic liturgists to share among themselves. Topics for these conferences revolve around liturgical issues that surface within monasteries but not usually in parishes because of the differences that exist between the two types of communities.
More information about the Monastic Liturgy Forum or its newsletter is available from the website, You may also contact

Sister Colleen Winston
St. Walburg Monastery
2500 Amsterdam Rd.
Villa Hills, KY 41016
Phone: 859 341 0274

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Thirty-two women and men met at St. Benedict's Retreat and Conference Center, Winnipeg, MB, August 23 24, for the second biennial Association of Benedictine Retreat Centers Conference. Those who attended are sure that this conference added new dimensions to the gathering. Keynote speaker was Eugene Hensell of St. Meinrad's Archabbey, who gave deeper insights into the particular gift of Benedictine retreat centers. He opened three stories from Scripture to give us new meaning to the ancient service of hospitality.

Two process meetings led the by planning team gave an opportunity to consider resources and concerns of this ministry, along with suggestions for the conference in 2005. Three new planning team members were appointed: Jean Ranek, OSB, Mary Luke Jones, OSB, and Mel Stinson, OSB. Barbara Schmitt, OSB, and Andrew Anderson will remain on the team. Outgoing members are Donald Tauscher, OSB, and Kathryn Casper, OSB.
The 2005 conference will be held in Subiaco, AR. Those wishing more information on membership may contact any member of the planning team. The conference members are grateful to the Sisters of St. Benedict and the Retreat Center staff in Winnipeg for this generous hospitality.

Kathryn Casper, OSB
St. Joseph, MN

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Saint John's School of Theology/Seminary is pleased to announce a new study-abroad program. Modeled on the successful program offered in the Holy Land since 1974, the Early Christian World program gives students a semester of study and tours in the lands where the Church began: Turkey, Greece, Italy.

The Early Christian World Program will be anchored in Rome, the theological and geographical base of Western Christianity. In addition to tours of significant sites in and around Rome, there will also be excursions to other places of importance in the New Testament Church (Corinth, Phillipi, Ephesus) and the formative Patristic era (Nicea, Cappadocia, Istanbul), to name but a few. Holy Week will be spent in Rome. Students will also be enrolled in graduate classes on Old and New Testament topics, the development of Christianity, and Christian liturgy, that are designed to enhance and incorporate what is being learned from the experience of visiting these historic sites. Of particular interest to monastic students or other students of monasticism, opportunities are built into the program for individuals to spend time at European monastic houses of importance to them or to their community.

Over the years, many have used the Holy Land program as a sabbatical, returning to their regular duties refreshed in body, mind and spirit. The Early Christian World program is designed to provide a similar time of renewal that can stand on its own or be combined with other renewal opportunities on campus. The program will begin in spring of 2003. For more information, please contact

Linda Schreiber OSB
Phone: (320) 363-3154


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