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"We are Benedictine women called to seek God in prayer and community, serving where there is need."
The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago continue work on making Laudato Si a way of life. The 2021 Community Retreat theme included themes on water, Earth, and air as well as our commitment to ecological conversion. St. Scholastica Monastery shares an In-depth Study and Discernment of our Community as well as other Laudato Si work and programs.
Over the past several years, we as a Benedictine community, have engaged in an in-depth study and discernment of who we are as a community, where we want to be and what our future might look like. We engaged with the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) and outside consultants to assist us in looking at our life and retirement needs, ministry and legacy considerations, and property concerns. It has been evident to us for some time, and affirmed by our consultants, that our building is too large for the size of our community. Our continued residence at our long-time home as it is, is not sustainable. As we age, it is also increasingly difficult for us to staff, maintain and oversee the operation of our campus.
We, like most religious communities today, recognize the need to right-size and modernize our housing. As it is, the monastery building is too large and expensive to maintain. Given the needs of our aging population, making the necessary improvements to our building is cost-prohibitive. We want to assure that our housing is appropriate and safe for us as we age with private bedrooms and bathrooms, with safe access, modern lighting, updated climate control and utility systems and other modern amenities that our nearly 120 year-old home lacks. Our goal is to stay together and live as a Benedictine community for as long as feasible, and we would like to remain in Rogers Park, preferably on our property.
Through generous friends and the rental income of the school building, our funding is on track for retirement, but not for building a new facility to match our community size, currently 22 members. Over time our expenditures have more often supported our ministry. Now we also need to tend to the housing of our Sisters, and continued good stewardship necessitates significant changes.
With counsel from NRRO and our consultants, we decided that to address our needs we would sell a parcel of land at the north end of our campus to a quality and experienced senior living residential developer who would build, own, and operate a senior living facility. The building would include 80-100 modern, senior residential units. Our sisters would live there in community. Remaining units would be available to other interested seniors, thus acknowledging the need for senior housing and affordable living units in the Rogers Park area.
With our real estate consultants, we have begun the process of assuring that proper zoning and land use classifications are in place to allow for this type of development. Initial meetings with the 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden and the City of Chicago have been positive. Alderwoman Hadden will schedule a neighborhood meeting (virtual) in June to introduce the proposed development to our neighbors. We look forward to their input.
Until now, we have intentionally gone about this work quietly. With the neighborhood meeting, our plans will become more public. We felt it important that you hear about this from us in advance of it becoming public. This will be a lengthy process and will likely take a few years until a building is built and open for residency. We ask and are thankful for your continued prayers and support as we plan our future and will continue to share ongoing developments with you.
Sister Judith Murphy, Prioress
Original communication in May of 2021.
In 2016 Sister Pat Coughlin, OSB was invited by Sr. Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ to join a team of people who were writing homily helps for priests who wanted to preach about Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si. The project was launched by Fr. Michael Agliardo, SJ, then a professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago, now a research scholar at Santa Clara University and the executive director of the United States Catholic Bureau. The idea came up in an ecology and faith group at the 2015 annual conference of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Fr. Agliardo took it on. The group decided to ask Dan Misleh, the founding director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, to post the homily helps on the Catholic Climate Covenant website (catholicclimatecovenant.org) and Mr. Misleh agreed to do so.
The homily helps include a commentary that points out the ecological and spiritual links between the scripture readings for the Sunday and passages in Laudato Si that correspond to and amplify the message of the scripture. Relevant scripture passages are highlighted, as are sections from Laudato Si that fit the commentary and the scripture. Two petitions that carry out the theme of the Sunday are also included. Bulletin blurbs containing environmental tips are posted elsewhere on the web site.
READ the full article "Laudato Si and Ecological Conversion" by Sister Pat Coughlin, OSB found in the SUMMER/FALL 2020 Sacro Speco. Sacro Speco is the biannual magazine of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.
"I realized after teaching for a total of 25 years, that I would now become involved in jobs at the Priory," shares Sister Rita Nowak, OSB.
READ the full article "Our Grounds: A Source of Growth" by Sister Rita Nowak, OSB found in the SUMMER/FALL 2020 Sacro Speco. Sacro Speco is the biannual magazine of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.
The community at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama experienced a change in administration within the past year as Sister Elisabeth Meadows was elected in April 2021 to six-year term as Prioress. She was installed on June 5. Her new leadership team consists of Sister Veronica Ryan as Subprioress, Sister Therese Haydel as Treasurer, and Sister Priscilla Cohen as Secretary.
\Our Retreat Center has continued to receive private retreat guests over the past year. Online programming also has continued and will remain a part of our retreat offerings, even when groups return on site. In the summer, we had our first overnight group since the pandemic began, but the emergence of the Delta and then Omicron variants caused us to close again to groups. We anticipate reopening for groups this spring.
A new ministry that began in Advent 2020 and has continued is a collaboration between our Retreat Center and the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit who serve in our diocese. We are co-hosting Facebook Live events in Spanish, with the Missionary Guadalupanas arranging for the presenters and our Retreat Center serving as hosts. This has been a wonderful collaboration that we are continuing.
In August, our Retreat Center was scheduled to host a Visitator Workshop sponsored by the Federation Presidents. When this was moved online, we were glad to be able to still serve as the online hosts for this event. Several of our sisters attended the workshop.
Our Communications Committee continues to maintain a daily presence for us on our Facebook page and Instagram. We have also streamed a few events on Facebook Live, including a recent prayer service for peace in Ukraine. A weekly blog on our website is an additional presence on the web. We are grateful for the different ‘voices’ of the various blog writers, both sisters and oblates.
In the fall, our postulant, Margaret Siffert, became Sister Margaret Siffert when she entered the Novitiate. Additionally, Sister Edith Bogue, OSB, of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, MN, entered the Transfer Program having completed a year of residency here. We are glad for presence of these two sisters among us.
Two facility improvements were completed this past fall - a new carport for our monastery cars and safety enhancements to our main monastery entrance. Both of these projects have been long hoped-for and we are grateful for their completion.
We have participated in our diocesan Synod on Synodality process and our community leadership is participating in the LCWR synod listening sessions.
February 25, we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Federation of St. Scholastica by singing the centennial hymn, Upon This Tradition, at Lauds, special pastries at breakfast, a festive dinner, and a post-dinner program during which the Decree Granting Temporary Approbation was proclaimed and Upon This Tradition was reprised. It was a wonderful day of gratitude for our foremothers in the Federation.
We have remained well during the pandemic, but of course at great cost to our sense of connection. We are grateful for the various electronic media, especially Zoom, that has helped us continue in ministry. We have recently loosened guest restrictions and look forward to continuing the process of reopening.
From February 2, 2020 to February 2, 2021, we celebrated and gave, and continue to give, thanks on the occasion of our 125th anniversary.
Each day of the celebration year, we shared our story with you – on our website, Facebook and Instagram. Daily, we featured a short description of one of our sisters near or on the day of her death if deceased, or on her birthday if living. When not featuring a Sister, we shared glimpses of our history or features of our lives that are important to us.
Note: These posts were extended through February 14, 2021 so we could relive and share photos from our February 2, 2020 Mass and celebration. This full history of our community can still be viewed on our website www.shmlisle.org and on our Facebook page Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart https://www.facebook.com/shmlisle
Our first Post: Mother Nepomucene Jaeger
It was February 2, 1895 that Mother Nepomucene Jaeger, arrived in Chicago from St. Mary’s Convent in St. Joseph, Pennsylvania. Sisters Mary Zita Matous and Sister Mary Benedicta Hruby from St Scholastica’s convent in Chicago joined her and together with Abbot Nepomucene Jaeger celebrated their first Mass and thus began our foundation.
This panoramic view of the opening of our 125th anniversary celebration on
February 2, 2020 gives us a chance to deliver a panoramic “thank you” to all those who have made the daily historical events published this year happen.
This gratitude includes, but is not limited to, those who did the research, took photos, wrote the script, did the editing and publishing on social media and you the viewer and commenter – thank you for sharing our journey!
We are grateful to Bill Buchelt of Elan Studio whose complimentary photography was featured on January 31 and will be featured until February 14.
We blessed our newly installed chapel doors on September 17, 2020 - the feast of St. Hildegarde of Bingen, who, among her many gifts was known for putting her visions into spiritual thoughts and art. Suburban Door Check & Lock Service, Inc. ordered and installed these beautiful fire-rated doors, and John Caretti & Company repaired the terrazzo at the door opening. Mike Holtz of Der Holtzmacher designed the doors, stained and sealed the doors, and created and installed the grape and leaf design.
“Welcoming God, we open this Chapel Door as a sign of the warmth of our Benedictine and Your hospitality. As people come and go, may they experience the blessedness of Your gracious presence with us. Gracious God, may we be as open to others as You have welcomed us into Your heart.”
Kevin Gray, nephew of Sister Carolyn Sieg, OSB and owner of Undercutter Tree Services, combined his scientific knowledge of trees, carpentry and artistic design skills to preserve and transform a tree from our grounds into a beautiful memorial gift for our 125th anniversary. Removing the tree three years ago, he meticulously counted rings to determine that the red oak had graced our campus since 1834 - the oldest tree on the grounds.
Despite health challenges, Kevin was inspired to create a memorial on the holy ground where the tree once grew. He constructed the table from a cross slice of the tree, leaving the bark encasing its natural shape of a heart. This heart makes its appearance within the tree trunk shortly before the Sisters purchased the land in 1905. Logs reclaimed from the tree were also formed and sculpted into a bench. While devoting himself to this project, Kevin’s artistic eye also discerned angel wings (signifying God’s protection) and a Tao cross in the wood.
Our Sisters are thrilled and grateful to Kevin for this magnificent treasure he so thoughtfully created for us!
On July 11, 2021 - the Feast of St. Benedict, the statue of St. Benedict that the Sisters gifted to Villa St. Benedict was blessed.
Heaven provided its own blessing that day in the form of rain.
Larry Johnson, who created this magnificent sculpture, provided a most interesting presentation to the Sisters, residents and employees on the process, from the statue’s inception to its installation on September 23, 2020. He elaborated on the meaning of the statue and the process of its fabrication.
Click on the link below to read more and see some of the beautiful prayers written for this year!
During 2021, the sisters of Saint Joseph Monastery strove to be attentive to God’s call to us as a community. We came to a deeper realization of the importance of our communal and personal prayer during the pandemic. We understand differently how much our friends and families depend on our prayers in a very real way each day. This led us to spend time attending to our Liturgy of the Hours – how we pray together and how to ensure that our minds are in harmony with our voices.
As we began to open the monastery to guests in July, we discovered a waiting list of individuals wanting to come to make private retreats with us here. We were so happy to welcome guests and to actively practice hospitality again!
2021 saw the commemoration of the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre. During the 2020-21 ministry year, we studied together about the impact and depth of racism in our world still today. We attended an ecumenical prayer service on the actual anniversary of the Massacre. Sister Marie Therese represented the community at a service at historic Vernon AME Church in North Tulsa.
In September, we observed the 100th anniversary of the death of our foundress, Mother Paula O’Reilly. Sister Julia Marie created a museum-like display that was available to our school students, friends, and oblates to view. The display included items of interest such as ledger sheets showing the purchase of land, a timeline of the community and a coif-making machine. This photo shows one of our preschool classes with a life-size photo of Mother Paula.
Our topic of study for the current ministry year is immigration, refugees and asylum-seekers. The timing of this is providential as Tulsa is in the process of receiving approximately 800 Afghan refugees. Beginning in November, a group of us assist in delivering food to refugees temporarily housed in a downtown hotel. Those who remain at home pray a special blessing for the food being delivered.
Sister Lucy Marie, our Scholastic, had just begun a new ministry at Catholic Charities, overseeing the inventory for food distribution. She was soon assigned to the role Inventory Control Manager for Refugee Resettlement. This involves tracking all donations (household goods, personal items, etc.) when they arrive at the warehouse as well as when and where items are distributed.
As 2021 closes out, we are grateful for our many blessings and graces of the Christmas season. We look forward to 2022 with great hope and longing for God’s peace in our world.
Administration Changes at St. Walburga Monastery
By Tiffany McQueary
The installation of a new Prioress has brought many changes to the monastery, changes that will continue to make the best use of everyone's gifts. Supporting Sister Mariette Therese Bernier in her new role as Prioress will be a new administration: Sister Marcia Lammerding will serve as Subprioress, Sister Roberts McDonald will serve as Secretary and Director of Maintenance and Sister Sharon McHugh will serve in the new positions of Canonical Treasurer and House Coordinator.
Sister Marlene Milasus has moved out of the Business Office after 24 years and BMT Management and Financial Consultants have aptly taken up the reigns. Sister Marlene will now devote all of her effort as the Director of the Spirituality Center. In addition, Sister Marlene and Sister Ursula Butler will serve as co-directors of the Oblate program.
Sister Rosemary Kenny will be the Vocation Director with Sister Dorothy Huggard as Vocation Support. Sisters Dorothy and Sister Mary Feehan will co-lead the coordination of the Ongoing Formation for the Community including any spiritual programs they encounter that they feel might benefit community members. Sister Mary has also agreed to be the Director of the Monastic Residence Program.
With all of the changes, it was also decided by the community that there was a need for “exploration of communal ministry.” Sister Philomena has agreed to lead a committee in beginning to address this direction. Sister Marita Funke has moved to New Paltz, NY to accompany Sister Philomena Fleck who continues her work in the Religious Education program. Sister Marita will continue to share her gift as a retreat speaker at the monastery and will explore opportunities to share her talents in New Paltz as well.
Sister Mariette Thérèse is grateful to each Sister for accepting these new roles and also appreciates those who continue the ministries they've already been doing.
The current story of Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania, is one of a careful reopening to the public. We’ve changed, our friends and guests have changed, our world has changed, so the reopening isn’t to the same monastic community that we closed in March 2020.
A police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd shortly after the pandemic began and once again we faced our complicity in racism and white privilege. As the pandemic unfolded we saw the disparities in our capitalist system on the nightly news and close-up here in Erie, PA, as those at the bottom of the economic ladder—women, children, and people of color—suffered the most from shortages, from the threat of COVID as essential workers, from eviction, from lack of access to health care. We saw images of clear skies when air and car travel plummeted, and with stores and restaurants closed greater numbers of people took to spending time out of doors working in gardens, walking in woods, and locally at Presque Isle State Park. At a time of climate crisis, the pandemic gave us a glimpse of what caring for the earth could look like. The world outside the monastery gave us ample invitation to change.
And in the monastery, we elected a new prioress during the pandemic, Sister Stephanie Schmidt, and we mourned the death of seven sisters (none to COVID, but distressing nonetheless) without funeral liturgies. We survived an outbreak of COVID that had us confined to bedrooms for a month beginning on December 24. It was a sort of odd non-Christmas, the decorations all but abandoned as we stayed put in our rooms. We remained connected with friends and family via email, text, phone, and even handwritten cards. Our ministries continued as they could, some via Zoom or with minimal staff. At Emmaus soup kitchen, not a single day went by without the hungry being fed. We collected money from our personal stipends to share with local families in need. We gathered to pray and celebrated liturgies on our own, all the while missing those who regularly worshipped with us pre-pandemic. We trusted that one day it would be safe to gather again.
Then the COVID clouds started to part, and we began flexing our hospitality muscles again. Our hard-working health care team succeeded in securing vaccines for sisters and staff. By March 2021, one year into the pandemic, we were fully vaccinated and began venturing out, feeling strange and still exercising caution as we again went into stores and restaurants or visited family and friends. We returned to ministries, albeit most were still scaled down and social distancing remained in place.
In July we celebrated a turning point with a Welcome Home liturgy on a beautiful summer day and many of our friends, oblates, and families joined us for a joyful celebration in chapel followed by refreshments in the dining room and on the patio. Many of them had not set foot in the monastery for over a year and their excitement at being back was palpable. So was the anticipation of many sisters to finally open again. We invited overnight guests back into our non-monastery housing and gradually eased into welcoming guests in the monastery by
September. We felt naked at first going mask-less in the monastery, but then variants appeared and cases again rose in Erie and we returned to the mask-in-the-monastery requirement.
Decisions regarding gatherings at the monastery are still made on a case-by-case basis, some limited to sisters only, others welcoming outside guests. It’s a sort of hybrid model that eases the worries of those who are most fearful of COVID but at the same time keeps our lives from being dictated by a virus. Exercising caution, we celebrated the silver jubilee of two of our sisters in August, our first large community celebration since pre-COVID, and it was a truly jubilant event. We held our first full funeral in almost two years, complete with a beautiful memory service and a dinner. While letting go of someone we love is always difficult, it was more so when we couldn’t celebrate their lives with ritual. And most recently, we had an energy-filled final profession that reminded us all why we are here and what we are about.
And so, virus or no, we continue seeking God in community, patiently listening with the ear of our hearts while at the same time feeling the urgency of running head on into the work of God in our time, while we have the light of life.
It may have taken us two years, but the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh had our closing celebration for our 150th Anniversary on our 151st year!! We celebrated with a wonderful gathering of family and friends who have been our blessings throuhout these years. We can only say, "Deo Gratias!"
Charles Dickens' iconic words come to mind when thinking about the past fifteen months throughout the world: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of time, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida thank God to have weathered the worst of the pandemic without illness or the loss of life. We pray daily for those who have suffered illness and death among their families, friends and community. Our Angelus bell rings out daily at 3 p.m. to remind us, and our neighbors, to pray for all victims of the pandemic. This update for members of the Federation will not be about Covid…we have all heard, read and seen enough despair in that. Rather our focus is on the return of better times in what we Benedictines do.
July 6th represented “the spring of hope” for us. It was the day we announced the gradual reopening of Holy Name Monastery. Meaningful contact face-to-face while striving to tend to the needs of others is a spiritual experience. Living in community gives us that experience daily, but we have missed the treasure of extending that practice to visitors in our home. Demonstrating Benedictine care and support for one another is at the heart of what St. Benedict teaches and is our message to the world.
Visitors talk about the peaceful reality they have when here; that Benedictine Hospitality is warm and welcoming. We have so longed to again provide that hospitality. Our plan is guided by the CDC’s advice about the Delta variant. We are delighted to have begun initially with Mass attendance by vaccinated friends and family.
Of crucial importance most recently was the election of prioress which, after a year’s delay, finally took place in April. Sister Roberta Bailey graciously accepted the mantel of leadership for us again. She has served the community since 2010 and her leadership has seen us through the decision, funding and building of a new monastery and two years later the same for a new retreat center. Programs essential for our outreach have grown and prospered. Sister has kept us connected to the outside world with her volunteerism for other organizations such the diocese, the local chamber of commerce and abuse shelter.
Our annual Community Retreat will take place August 16th
through the 20th, led by Sister Karen Brink, O.S.B. Retreat is a graced time for the Sisters – a time to rest from the usual schedule and routines in anticipation for the joy of opening our doors for hosting guest retreats in September.
The Annual Aqua/Hydroponics Workshop will hopefully return this fiscal year. Sister Miriam had "a Fright" when the irrigation well pump went dead in June. A new one had to be installed which was costly and labor intensice. Yes, she was right in there working along-side the plumber! The revenue from the workshops would have helped tremendously so God willing, we can hold one for our benefit as well as for those who learn about state-of -the-art farming... kind to our planet and good for our health.
Monthly Concerts -
The free "Concerts at the Monastery" series will not be monthly yet. We are considering one concert in the fall and one in the winter 2022 as feasible. The concerts are presented on Sunday afternoons with performances from groups thoughtout the Tampa Bay area and the Sisters participating.
For more about the Benedictine Sisters of Florida go to our website:
Benedictine Sisters of Florida
Click on Galleries at the top right to view our videos.
We look to God, his sweet blessings and Saint Benedict's spirituality in all that we do going foward.
Lynn Marie McKenzie, OSB President
Monastic Congregation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055
Association of Benedictine Colleges and Universities
Association of Benedictine Retreat Centers
Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum
International Commission on Benedictine Education
Monastic Interreligious Dialogue