The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 33, Nr. 2, June 2003                   Richardton, ND 58652

 

Convention 2004 Holds Great Promise for Learning

President's Message

Peace to all in this hope-filled Resurrection season. Let us remind each other, as we gather in prayer each day, to remember especially the people in war-torn Iraq and the US troops called to duty. May each of us in some small way contribute to restoring peace to our unsettled world of fear and suffering.

The program for the 2004 American Benedictine Academy Conference at St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, MN, August 12-15, 2004, is set, and the full program will be included in the February, 2004, American Monastic Newsletter. I am grateful to the presenters for their willingness to share their expertise related to the theme, "Monastic Culture: The Revitalization of the Mind and the Spirit." I also thank Brother Richard Oliver for again offering his time and expertise in conducting the pre-convention computer workshop, August 12, 2004, 1:30-3:00 p.m., on "Computer Policies and Customs in Monasteries."

In the first months of 2004, Brother Richard, as ABA vice-president, will be coordinating the procedure for the election of the next vice-president and board members at- large. The board encourages ABA members both to nominate members they consider good candidates for the positions, but also to accept the nomination if they are recommended. It is only with a varied cross-section of capable and willing candidates that the important work of the ABA can continue. So we encourage each of you who will be nominated to seriously consider contributing your unique talents to the ABA board membership.

At this time the ABA board extends a special thank you to the two persons who have kept us in touch with issues, events and happenings relevant to Benedictine life. We offer our deepest gratitude to Sister Judith Sutera, the AMN editor-in-chief, and to Sister Renée Branigan, its managing editor, for their efforts in soliciting and locating input on topics and events relevant to ABA members and sponsoring communities.

Their creative efforts continue to enrich us with information on timely topics, events, workshops, etc., all of which keep us in touch with our commonalities, unique differences, and opportunities for growth. We are deeply grateful and ask God to bless them as they continue enriching our lives by their dedicated ministry to the goals of the American Benedictine Academy. God bless you, Judith and Renée.

Rosemary Rader, OSB
President, American Benedictine Academy
rrader @ earthlink.com

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ABA Scholarship Report

Each year, the American Benedictine Academy awards financial support for work in the area of monastic studies. A condition of the prize is that the scholar makes a written report of how the money was spent. Sister Mary Anna Fay of Mount St. Benedict in Crookston, MN, received a grant in 2002 to apply towards her work on a history of that community's ministries. She submitted the following progress report on her work.

"A History of the Ministry and Members of Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Crookston, MN, 1919-2004"

When Sister Benedicta Riepp left St. Walburga's Convent in Eichstatt, Bavaria, in 1852, she was confident that she was to establish a contemplative Benedictine community in America. She was overruled, however, by Boniface Wimmer who assumed abbatial jurisdiction over the nuns at St. Marys, PA.

So, too, when Sister Eustacia Beyenka left St. Scholastica Convent in Duluth in 1919, she hoped to establish a monastic community in which liturgical prayer and common life would be first priorities. She was overruled by Bishop Timothy Corbett, who wanted Benedictine Sisters to staff schools and hospitals throughout the Crookston diocese. So it was that the Sisters of St. Benedict of Crookston were sent out as missionaries to staff schools and hospitals throughout Minnesota, eventually going as far as western North Dakota, Texas, South America, Belgium and Thailand.

The monastic history of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Crookston was told in a 420-page unpublished document "A Benedictine Journey from Monte Cassino to Crookston." Excerpts from this account were published at the time of the community's 75th anniversary in 1994 in a 130-page booklet "A Time for Remembering: The First Seventy-Five Years." Because the scope of this publication was necessarily limited, the history of the early hospitals, the parish schools, the vacation schools, the migrant ministry, the biographies of community members and much more remained to be written.

The time for that has finally arrived thanks to a grant from the American Benedictine Academy. The completed work will feature sections on the ministry of healing, the ministry of education, the ministry of music, the ministry of domestic service and more about the Crookston Benedictines. Though the account is proceeding at a snail's pace, it is definitely in progress with a tentative completion date set for 2005.

Mary Anna Fay, OSB
Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Crookston, MN

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The Grey Yellow Pages

Sister Kathleen O'Shea, a social worker who does research on the death penalty, has sent the following request for materials for an anthology: "The first part will be stories from sisters who have or are currently corresponding with a death row inmate. These stories could include how the correspondence came about, how it has changed you or your ideas about the death penalty or about any other human issues, or any anecdotes that relate to your correspondence that you are willing to share. The second part will be stories from sisters who have corresponded with prisoners who are not on death row, at any level of incarceration. How has this correspondence affected you or them? Poems, essays or letters are all good. I believe that such a collection will be inspirational and informative to the public and perhaps motivate others to become involved in social justice issues."

Send responses to
Kathleen A. O'Shea
5505 Walnut Level Road
Crozet, VA 22932
Email: Sisterko @ aol.com

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The Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa have recently begun a small carpentry business to make simple but beautiful wooden caskets. More information may be obtained by calling 1-888-433-6934 or visiting the website <www.trappistcaskets.com>.

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Sister Ann Kessler reports that, although her book, Benedictine Men and Women of Courage, is out of print, it may be obtained on CD-ROM, Microsoft Word text and pictures for $25 including shipping. Send orders to

Sister Ann Kessler
1005 West 8th
Yankton, SD 57078

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Science and Theology News (formerly Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology is a 36-page monthly newspaper covering open theological and scientific dialogue and news on health and spirituality, science and (non religion-specific) theology. Thanks to a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the paper is currently offering free sample issues and trial subscriptions. Sample articles may be viewed at <www.stnews.org/> and more information is available from Jocelyn Godfrey <jgodfrey @ nc.rr.com>.

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In connection with his 1996 commentary Benedict's Rule, Father Terrence Kardong did a new English translation of the Rule. Assumption Abbey Press is now offering this translation, adapted for public reading in both male and female versions. The book may be ordered for $15, which includes shipping if paid in advance. Send orders to

Assumption Abbey Press
PO Box A
Richardton, ND 58652

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"Crossing Boundaries: Comparative Perspectives on the History of Women Religious" is the theme of the sixth triennial Conference on the History of Women Religious, June 27-30, 2004. It will be hosted by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica at the Atchison (KS) Heritage Conference Center (40 minutes from Kansas City International Airport).

The HWR Program Committee wants to encourage proposals that explore and examine the history of women religious from a variety of comparative perspectives: crossing the "boundaries" of race, class, ethnicity, and religious orders, as well as the "boundaries" of geography, time, social context, and academic disciplines.

Proposals for papers in the form of a one-page abstract accompanied by a one-page C.V. are requested (letter, email, or fax) by August 15, 2003. Panel proposals are especially encouraged but individual proposals are also welcome.

Send all proposals to

Carol Coburn, HWR Program Chair
Avila University
11901 Wornall Road
Kansas City, MO 64145
Phone: 816-501-3713 (fax: 816-501-2442)
Email: <coburnck @ mail.avila.edu>

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Monastic News Omnibus

The sisters of St. Gertrude Monastery, Ridgely, MD, have elected Sister M. Gerard Falkowska, OSB, as their new prioress and Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB, was chosen prioress of St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA. Recently reelected were Sister Dorothy Jean Beyer, OSB, prioress of Queen of Angels Monastery, Mt. Angel, OR, and Jane Smith, OSB, of St. Scholastica's in Chicago.

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The Sisters of Saint Benedict of Madison, WI, celebrated their 50th anniversary at Saint Benedict Center on March 11. The community traces its European roots to Maria Richenbach monastery in Switzerland. When their foremothers came to the United States, they ministered in Maryville, MO, in the Dakota Territory, and in Sioux City, IA, before coming to Madison in 1953.

During the last fifty years, the sisters built and ran a girls' college preparatory high school, opened the doors of Wisconsin's first ecumenical retreat and conference center, launched an aggressive environmental restoration initiative and, most recently, created Benedictine Women of Madison, North America's first ecumenical monastic community that welcomes single women of all Christian traditions.

The sisters' 50th anniversary theme is "Pioneering the Future: Nature, Spirit, Life." They are hosting a number of celebration events throughout the year, including a November 1 evening presentation that features Joan Chittister, OSB.

A double blessing occurred on March 11, 2003. In addition to marking the community's 50th anniversary in Madison, it was the day on which Prioress Mary David Walgenbach received the Athena Award for Dane County. The Athena Award program, which includes over 375 communities worldwide, honors the person "who from the platform of his or her own achievements, has also reached out to help women realize their full potential as leaders."

Sister Mary David was cited for her creative vision and global outreach. In accepting the award, Sister Mary David commented to the audience, "As an American sister, I stand with a long tradition of women entrepreneurs, sisters who built and operated hospitals, schools and orphanages, and who today may be found on the picket lines at the School of the Americas, or at the podium at Yale University, or in a small village in Africa, networking with indigenous women. . . . I share this award with all of you and all women who give of themselves for the integrity and freedom of others."

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In April 2002 Monastic Interreligious Dialogue sponsored a Buddhist/Catholic Monastic Dialogue at the Abbey of Gethsemani on the topic of suffering. This conference will be published in book form under the title Transforming Suffering: Reflections on Finding Peace in Troubled Times, edited by James Wiseman and Donald Mitchell. MID's North American web site <www.monasticdialog.com> contains the complete transcripts of the presentations and discussions of both Benedict's Dharma and Gethsemani Encounter II, along with numerous photographs. MID believes that the website coverage of these two conferences, and the books that preceded the one and follow the other, show how the electronic and print media can complement rather than compete with each other.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of MID in the United States and Europe, a recent issue of MID's contains testimonials from about 40 Christian monastics, mainly from the United States and Europe, describing the ways in which their spiritual life has been expanded and deepened because of their involvement in interreligious dialogue. In 2003 MID hopes to have all the past 71 issues of the Bulletin archived on its website.

MID's annual board meeting in 2002 was hosted by the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, MI, and which also contributed substantially to both the Benedict's Dharma and the Gethsemani meetings. This year's board meeting will be at Mepkin Abbey. MID currently has 18 board members from monastic communities, both Benedictine and Cistercian, and twelve advisors to the board.

Three decisions made by the MID board at its meeting last year are now being implemented. The first was a response to the war in Iraq. The action taken was "That each Monastic Dialogue Board member dedicate his/her contemplative practice each day for peace through dialogue rather than war." The members of MID see themselves as contemplatives who work on behalf of compassionate peace, justice and mercy through the sturdy channels of Christ's redemptive love. Their participation in peace making is mediated through meditation.

A second initiative is a gathering of "Nuns of the West." Ven. Yifa, a Buddhist nun from Taiwan who has her doctorate from Yale, has offered to host thirty nuns (Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Orthodox and Jain) at the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, CA, near Los Angeles. The dialogue is set for May 23-26, 2003. Together they will investigate how nuns, both Buddhist and Christian, can sustain their spiritual values and practices in this particular secular culture.

The third initiative is to gather together those involved in the publication of the MID Bulletin, both the print and the electronic editions, to assure the readership quality content and timely distribution.

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