American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 28, Number 1, February 1998



For over forty years, Sisters Mary David Walgenbach and Joanne Kollasch have shared a common life and a commitment to bringing faith communities closer together at Saint Benedict Center. Today they share a common vision of creating an ecumenical monastic community for single Christian women. It is fitting, then, that they share the 1997 Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service award that was recently given to them. Established in 1982 by the Rotary Club of Madison, WI, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to humanitarian service in the greater Madison community in the tradition exemplified by Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky.

Like Rabbi Swarsensky, Sisters Mary David and Joanne are bridge-builders. Over three decades ago, they converted their girls' high school into an ecumenical retreat and conference center. The center is a place where people from different faith traditions come together to pray, work, learn and join in common endeavors in the wider community.

This year, the sisters also received the first ever Investing in People award from Dane County. The award recognizes the sisters' outstanding investments in their staff through employee training and development, family support policies, competitive compensation and benefit packages and other innovative efforts. The natural environment is another beneficiary of the sisters' tradition of hospitality. They have carefully tended their land over the years, adding trees, gardens and apple orchards. In a collaborative venture with the state, county, businesses and volunteers, the sisters are returning 40-50 acres of land to pre-settlement prairie and restoring a 10,000-year-old glacial lake. Residents of the greater Madison community will benefit from the preserved green space, improved water quality and increased wildlife habitat. The sisters earmarked the $1,000 Rotary award grant for prairie and wetland restoration at Saint Benedict Center.


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Sixteen priors of men's communities met at Corpus Christi Abbey in Sandia, TX, in November to reflect on the topic "Lectio Divina: the Heart of Monastic Conversion." The presenter, Abbot Matthew Leavy OSB of St. Anselm Abbey, Manchester, NH, also moderated a roundtable discussion on practical problems of the prior. Informal sharing and a day of touring in San Antonio rounded out the meeting time.

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Father Kenneth Hein, OSB, has been elected abbot of Holy Cross Abbey, Canon City, CO, and Brother Richard Iaquinto, OSB, is the newly elected prior of Weston Priory, Weston, VT. Both the men's and women's communities at Pecos, NM, have undergone recent leadership changes. Father James Liprie, OSB, is the new abbot and Sister Geralyn Spaulding, OSB, has been designated as the prioress of Mother of Mercy and Peace Monastery as that community works towards full canonical monastic status.

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Sixty-two Benedictines participated in last summer's Monastic Liturgy Forum Conference at St. Scholastica Center, Fort Smith, AR. The St. Scholastica community joined with Subiaco Abbey in hosting the event, under the leadership of Sister Scholastica Montgomery and Brother Angelo Dobrzynski. Under the theme, "Liturgy of the Hours: Poetry. . .Prophecy. . . Proclamation," major addresses were given by Father John Allyn Melloh, SM, of the University of Notre Dame and Sister Shawn Carruth, OSB, Mount St. Benedict, Crookston, MN. There were also special interest sessions led by Sister Mary Christa Kroening, Father Dunstan Moorse, and Father David McKillin.

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Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey hosted the gathering of twelve junior professed Cisterican sisters and three foreign guests this past summer. After a day of education on the relationship of the early Cistercians with the land, and its influence on their writings, the participants viewed slides of Cistercian architecture and stewardship of nature presented by Sisters Gilchrist Lavigne and Sherry Pech. Father Luke Truhan gave classes on liturgy, including extensive exploration of the history of the Eucharist, followed by Sisters Kathleen O'Neill's and Lillian Shank's reflections on both liturgy and the land in the Cistercian tradition. The presentations were enhanced and made personal by a field trip and boat ride on the Mississippi.

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Saint Meinrad's Continuing Education hosted its annual Monastic Forum in January. The invited guests, thirty Benedictine/Cistercian men and women, dialogued this year about lectio divina, stimulated by presentations from Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam, Big Sur, CA, and Irene Nowell, OSB, Atchison, KS, who discussed traditional and modern forms of biblical interpretation. Each year the forum takes note of a contemporary topic in broader culture and addresses its intersection with, and implications for, monastic life.

Contents February 1998


ABA. Newsletter (February 1998) / © Copyright 1997-2009 by American Benedictine Academy / Managing Editor: Renee Branigan OSB, Box 364, Sacred Heart Monastery, Richardton, ND 58652 / HTML version: Tom Gillespie OSB /