The Federation of Saint Scholastica, comprised of 20 Monasteries of Benedictine Women, was established on February 25, 1922.
40 Sisters from all over the world gathered in Cullman, Alabama for the CIB Delegates meeting. It was wonderful to have so many women from different cultures and countries gathered together to share in talks, reflections, discussion, prayer and a wee bit of fun!
Sisters who are 55 and Under from the US and Mexico gathered at Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk, Nebraska for a weekend of shared talks, expereinces in service, conversation and prayer.
The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, joyfully announce that on June 11, 2023, they elected Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, OSB as the 13th prioress in their 160 year history. A native of Lenexa, Kansas, Sister Mary Elizabeth entered the monastery in 1963. She received her bachelor's degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in education and earned a master's degrees in Theology from St. John's University (Collegeville) and in spirituality from Creighton University. She has served as teacher and pastoral minister primarily in the Kansas City area. Within the monastic community, she has previously been vocation minister, coordinator of oblate directors and subprioress. She is currently on the staff at Sophia Spirituality Center and director of the Souljourners program for training of spiritual directors. The sisters invite the public to celebrate with them at a Eucharist for her installation on Sunday, July 9, at 11:00 a.m. in St. Scholastica Chapel.
It is with great joy the Sisters of St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow, VA have re-elected Sister Joanna Burley, OSB for another four year term.
On Saturday, April 15, 2023, Sister Mary Susan Remsgar, OSB was voted to serve as the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago's 20th Prioress for the Next four years. Through thoughtful discernment, the St. Scholastica Monastery community prayerfully held a canonical election facilitated by the St. Scholastica Monastic Congregation President and facilitator.
Sisters Lynn McKenzie, Michaela Hedican and Tonette Sperando shared their gifts as visitators
Today I received some additional photos from Abbess Hildegard in Eichstatt, and here I pass along some of those to you. Also, she sent me the link to the newspaper article in Germany from when the reporter came and interviewed Hildegard and me. (This was after Aileen had left Eichstatt.) What I attach here is a rough English translation that Andrea Westkamp (Bristow) kindly prepared for me – she said it was a quick translation. I have also sent an email to the reporter and asked her to please send me any of the photos she took – I know she took multiple shots. If there are any worthwhile, I’ll ask Suzanne to post to the congregation website.
The photo of the 4 OSB women– many of you will likely recognize Abbess emerita Franziska Kloos, who was abbess in Eichstatt for over 25 years and who likely welcomed those of you who have been there for a visit. She is on the left. I think you know the other 3 of us!
There are a few shots of when I shared with the community at their recreation time about our monastic congregation and about CIB. I was pleased to have that opportunity.
And a few shots of statues of St Walburg statues (lots of Walburg images around, as you might imagine) plus the place where St Walburg’s relics are and where the oil is collected.
I also had an unexpected opportunity to go to Tutzing to visit the Missionary Benedictine sisters there at their motherhouse. Sr. Ruth and the sisters couldn’t have been more welcoming. We went for a stroll along the beautiful lakeshore that is on their property, saw some swans, spied the beautiful mountain tops across the lake (some of which had snow on them already!). That evening after supper, I again had the opportunity during the community recreation time to share with them some about our congregation as well as about CIB. They seemed totally engaged and asked good questions. It was a joy to be there. Here is a Dropbox link to some photos that Sr. Ruth sent to me from my brief time there:
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with too much about my trip. But these visits to the 2 women’s communities were real highlights for me. This is what the COMMUNIO in the name CIB is all about!
Sure is good to be back home! For those of you who might be going to Dallas next week for RCRI, I’ll look for you there.
And the journey to God continues in this school of the Lord’s service . . .
(English translation from German original by Andrea Westkamp, OSB 9-26-2022)
by: Angela Wermter 09/24/2022
Mother Hildegard and Sister Lynn in the church of the Abbey of St. Walburg: The grave of the foundress of the order, St. Walburg, is also in the place of pilgrimage. Photo: Wermter
Quickly from Rome to Eichstätt: For Sister Lynn McKenzie from Cullman in Alabama, such a trip is a short hop.
"The city on the Altmühl is practically in the neighborhood of the Italian capital - at least by US standards," says the Benedictine. She is visiting with her sisters in the St. Walburg monastery in Eichstätt,. Abbess Hildegard Dubnick, who was born in the US herself, adds with a smile: “For Americans, 100 years is a long time and 100 kilometers is a short distance.”
For Sister Lynn, the visit to Eichstätt is the fourth visit to Germany and the first to Bavaria. The "detour" was an option. "I had attended an international meeting of Benedictine nuns in Rome," says Sister Lynn, who attends to the public appointments (the German here refers to you as what would be called “external sister,” the one who goes out and meets the public) for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Monastery in Cullman. 35 Benedictine nuns live there. "St. Walburg is
of the utmost importance to us Benedictine nuns in the United States,” Sister Lynn said. "After all, the founding of monasteries by the Benedictine nuns in the USA came from St. Walburg."
Sisters in the USA either do not or only rarely wear a habit
In 1852, the superior at the time, Eduarda Schnitzer, sent the first sisters to the USA. Sister Benedicta Riepp was then the superior of the first monastery there. It was located in the state of Pennsylvania. Today, according to Sister Lynn, there are about 50 Benedictine monasteries in the United States. In view of the history, it goes without saying that the Abbey of St. Walburg is held in great esteem by the sisters in America. And of course, Sister Lynn also visited the graves of the foundress of the order, St. Walburga, and the Superior Eduarda Schnitzer.
Sister Lynn was then also able to practice the monastic community in St. Walburg. "Walburg and Cullman don't differ much in terms of the usual daily routines," she explains. However, the sisters in the USA wear no or only rarely a habit. "It is not customary for us to wear a religious habit."
“Only in individual cases are there young vocations”
When it comes to vocations, both monasteries have something in common: "The interest in joining the order is rather moderate," Sister Lynn regrets. “And if so, the applicants are usually a bit older. Around 30 to 40. As a rule, they also have experience from a secular professional life.” An assessment shared by Mother Hildegard. "Only in individual cases are there young vocations.”
However, neither Sister Lynn nor Mother Hildegard are worried about the future of the Order of St. Benedict. "There have been Benedictines since the 6th century," says Mother Hildegard confidently. “Of course, one or the other house may have to close. But it is rather unlikely that the order will die out.”
None of us know which of our moves will be the one that shifts the sand in just the right way so that we are able to free ourselves of mindsets and institutions and unquestioned assumptions that keep us buried in the past. We do not know which idea or effort will be the one that really matters.
The colloquium planners intentionally created a hybrid event, equally onsite and virtual, to include a broad range of participants and presenters and to recognize that technology has made geographical challenges amorphous even if we are still bound by time zones. Registrants included 250 followers of Benedict — women, men, professed, oblate, and seekers, 100 with the intent of being present in Atchison at Mount Saint Scholastica and another 150 who would join virtually.
The colloquium charged participants with seeing and thinking differently. Papers expertly examined the interpretation of history, presented models of change, addressed theories of emergence, testified to the value of Benedictine life in the world, and held up Benedictine monasticism, already being lived in new ways, as a path as useful for following the gospel today as it was 1,500 years ago. The choice is ours.
It is not about imposing tasks or rules or even behaviors, or about building institutions or staking out turf. It's about making sure there are new sprouts ready to take hold even as current forms die.
Conventional wisdom would have it that monastic life is a hopeless throwback to the past — a case of "let the last monk or sister standing turn out the lights." Anyone who attended a recent conference on "Benedictine Life: A Vision Unfolding" would come away with a much different impression. The event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Federation of St. Scholastica, a union of 17 Benedictine women's monasteries. The focus wasn't so much on the past as on the next 100 years.
The 250 sisters, lay associates of monasteries and spiritual seekers in attendance, came away with a message: the Benedictine tradition has lasted 1,500 years because it understands the timeless yearnings of human nature. It is not likely to fade away in a few decades — despite the current paucity of monastic vocations.
If there is one characteristic that accounts for monasticism's endurance, it is likely its ability to adapt to the current time, or as keynote speaker Sr. Judith Sutera put it, to do "the next right thing necessary at a particular time." Today, the energy in monastic life is coming largely from laypeople drawn to the timeless values of community, hospitality, humility, stability, simplicity, balance, consensus, prayer and praise that monasticism stands for. For the first time in history, the number of monastic oblates — lay associates like myself — far outnumber professed monks and sisters. It is part of what Katie Gordon, a 30-year-old staff member of the MonasteriesoftheHeart.org website and another of the conference speakers, calls "the monastic impulse."
As Sister Judith further observed, "There will never be a time when the world does not need prayer and stable community, reverence for all people and things, humility, and cooperation in relationships. This is the immovable foundation from which [Benedictine life] springs."
The sisters of the Federation of St. Scholastica (renamed at their June meeting the "Monastic Congregation of St. Scholastica") view this liminal moment in their history as a launching pad for renewal. Organizations rarely escape a period of diminishment. There is generally a start-up period, a time of growth, an inevitable plateau, and then, often, decline. Decline, however, isn’t failure. It is a moment when renewal can begin.
Sisters are drawing guidance from several current models for confronting organizational change. The process of "emergence" arose many times in conference conversations. Unlike traditional strategic planning that involves deciding upon an end result and then moving toward it with intentional steps, the emergence process represents a more organic, evolutionary method.
"It gives us instead the promise of surprise," says Sister Edith Bogue, a sociologist from Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama, who spoke on "The Way Forward."
"Emergence" recognizes that momentous change occurs in increments. It involves taking risks, experimenting, and being willing to abandon some experiments. It requires the repeated asking of "What if?" questions as well as, "What and who might help to move us along?"
It also necessitates what Sister Edith calls "unlearning," the courage to let go of previous patterns of thinking that no longer prove useful or effective. This is where the practice of humility —an integral value to the monastic impulse — comes in. Humility allows us to acknowledge that none of us individually possesses the whole truth. Humility gives us permission to admit that we might have been wrong in our previous thinking.
Sister Edith offers the image of a Native American kiva, a dark, silent, underground space. In its midst is a ladder reaching toward the light above — reminiscent of "the ladder of humility" in The Rule of St. Benedict. After spending time in reflection and meditation in the kiva, it becomes possible to climb out of one’s inner darkness and confusion toward a more enlightened place — what Sister Edith describes as "the womb from which we emerge with new resilience."
Native American elder and former Anglican bishop Steven Charleston describes the kiva experience in his book Ladder to the Light. He writes, "Let this moment of darkness be the beginning of your next journey in faith. Help others find the ladder. … And once you are there — once you have emerged into the world we are recreating — join the dance. Beneath the bright shining sun, join the dance and let the healing begin."
Already new models of monastic life are taking shape. There are currently dispersed communities in which members might live and work in different cities but share a common rule and come together online for common prayer times. The Pax Priory is one example. Ecumenical communities also exist, such as Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as ones in which families and those vowed to the celibate life live and pray together in community.
Increasingly, oblates are living full-time in monasteries and sharing deeply in the life of the community. Some monasteries have opened their doors to those willing to spend a specified period of time in the community without the expectation that they will one day take permanent vows.
This is not to say transformation into the next phase of monastic life will be swift or easy. Sister Judith reminds us of a motto of the early Federation leaders: "Make haste, slowly."
To move on to a new chapter will require the cooperation of several different personalities. The Berkana Institute has done research on what happens when an institution transitions from decline to revitalization. Their model also applies to religious institutions. According to this model, some in a community will become "originators," people capable of envisioning a new future, ready to forge on. Others will take on the role of "stabilizers," those who wish to have things remain as they are. Yet, they help remind a community of what is worth keeping. Stabilizers need the aid of "hospice workers" within the community who can help ease the discomfort of those struggling with changes.
Perhaps the largest segment in any community facing transition can be described as "wave riders." Like surfers, they sense the movement taking place under them and try their best to keep their balance.
While change is inevitable, one of the most important functions of monastic life must not and will not change: that of bearing witness. Deborah Asberry, an executive coach with CommunityWorks, Inc. of Indianapolis and another of the keynote speakers, observed that the monastic witness is at its heart twofold: to speak the truth in a society often lost in illusion, and to bring hope to those in despair.
Like monasteries, our society as a whole is facing rapid changes from greater diversity in our citizenry to calls for increased inclusivity and racial justice and new ways of looking at gender and sexuality. We as a society would do well to follow the lead of the Benedictine sisters of the Monastic Federation of St. Scholastica in seeking to embrace transformation. Their gaze is on the past, but their minds are on the future.
Judith Valente is a retreat guide, speaker, award-winning journalist and author of four spirituality titles, including most recently How To Live: A Monk & A Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Friendship and Forgiveness, as well as two collections of poetry.
Here are a few photos from the virtual colloquium - Benedicitine Life: A Vision Unfolding
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The Sisters of St. Gertrude Monastery in Newark, Delaware re-elected Sister Catherine Godfrey. She will serve a 7 year term. (Her first term was 5 years - another 7 will take her to the maximum 12 years, per Federation Constitution). Thank you, Catherine, for your YES! God bless you and your sisters.
The Sisters of St. Walburga Monastery today re-elected Sister Aileen Bankemper for another four year term of office as prioress. Rejoice with them. Thank you to Aileen for her YES!
Benedictine College’s Sister Linda Herndon was not in the spotlight at the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce dinner in November, but she was highly honored there, thanks to the keynote speaker.
“A million little things had to go right for me to be standing here standing here in front of you today,” Davyeon Ross told the crowd at the KC Chamber Annual Dinner. “Benedictine College had to bring me in. My family and my village had to encourage me. And Sister Linda had to push me to reach my fullest potential.”
Ross, who serves on the board of directors for Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, is the co-founder of DD sports, known for its innovative Shot Tracker software, which touts Magic Johnson and David Stern as investors and Klay Thompson as a spokesperson.
Before he got a scholarship to play basketball at Benedictine, he was a high school student in Trinidad and Tobago who led the nation in basketball field goal percentage.
“While I was blessed with athletic ability and this goofy smile, in our house and in the dictionary, academics always comes before athletics,” he said. “Where I grew up, being academically inclined or athletically gifted was great. But it was not enough to guaranteed me what I needed most: an opportunity.”
And for people like him to have an opportunity, Ross one thing was key: community.
“What can people do? The same thing that this community did for me. Open doors and provide opportunity.”
The first community that’s important is the family, he said. In his case, “Mom and Dad demonstrated work ethic, dedication, demanded excellence. Both of them would pray over me as I slept in the early morning, not realizing that I heard those prayers of protection and love. Love. We got to get back to love, y’all.”
He saw that same commitment to community, faith and scholarship when he went to college, he said.
“Allow me to introduce you to a special lady whose love and support has left a mark, he said: “Sister Linda.”
Sister Linda taught his 8 a.m. computer science class at Benedictine College. Now only was she “sharp as a tack,” he said, but “Sister Linda loved basketball. And she was the loudest one in the arena. … After every game, Sister Linda would cut out my clippings. All I had to do is look for the clippings, and that was my seat for the day in Sister Linda’s class.”
At the same time, though, Sister Linda demanded academic excellence. “But she had zero tolerance for shenanigans. This may not be a surprise to some of you, but I majored in shenanigans before I met her,” Ross said. “Unimpressed by my boyish charm, mastery of the queen’s English, and Caribbean accent, she challenged me and saw in me what I had not seen in myself. We became fast friends.”
He describes how after one road game when the team returned to Atchison at 3 a.m., he skipped his 8 a.m. class. “I thought, ‘You know what? Your boy got buckets last night. Sister Linda is cool. She loves me. I’ll be all good.’ Wrong! I strolled into basketball practice, obviously very well rested. Sister Linda had already made a call to Coach. She told Coach that I missed class that morning. Man, I had to run sprints for the entire hour.”
Most of all, he said, Sister Linda “expected excellence from me. She refused to let me fail. Now that I remember it, those clippings that she cut were always in the front row. Sister Linda wanted to keep me close. I thought she was teaching me computer science. But she was preparing me for life. It reinforced the foundation my parents laid from my childhood.”
Ross quoted the Parable of Talents from the Gospel of Luke. “From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required,” he said.
His parting advice: “Include people. Nurture them. Refuse to let them fail, in spite of themselves.”
“Now I see the horror of war no longer on the news. I see it in the eyes of the people I meet. These are families who have already seen tanks in the squares of their cities or who have had their homes destroyed. They knock on our door without knowing anyone, they see the monastery on the street and they come and ask for refuge,” writes Abbess Klara, Benedictine nuns of the Immaculate Conception of Zhytomyr. Read more.
The Benedictine Sisters of Erie have joined with women’s Benedictine monasteries around the world in offering financial support to our sisters and those they serve in the Ukraine. By way of Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum(CIB), whose members represent women’s monasteries on almost every continent, the sisters have sent more than $200,000 in dollars and euros to aid victims and refugees of Putin’s war on Ukraine. The monies have gone directly to Mother Blandyna Michniewicz, Abbess of the Monastery of Benedictine Nuns of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Warsaw and a CIB delegate for the region of Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania. She and the sisters in the Ukraine are working together to meet needs as best they can.
If you would like to offer financial assistance CIB is collecting funds via their PayPal account. All monies donated through this link will go directly to the Benedictine Sisters in Poland for immediate refugee relief. DONATE HERE.
Sister Lynn McKenzie, OSB, moderator of the CIB, communicates information received from the sisters in Poland. “The nuns of the monastery in Zhytomyr have evacuated to another monastery in L’viv, in the far western part of Ukraine. I have learned that they are receiving approximately 100 refugees from other parts of Ukraine per day and feeding them and sending them on their way, hopefully to safety. We pray for the safety and good health of the nuns now in L’viv. Indeed, we pray for all Benedictines and people of Ukraine who have lived through this atrocity. We give God thanks for their fidelity and love.”
In addition to financial assistance, CIB sisters in Germany have also organized the shipment of medicines and bandages to Ukraine. The transport went from Germany to Warsaw and from there passed through a “well organized ‘corridor’ and transportation network in Ukraine to reach the most needy,” according to Sister Caterina Gorgen at the Benedictine Abbey of Engelthal in Germany.
Both Mother Blandyna and Sister Caterina have sent photos. “I think you will be moved as I was in viewing the video (see below) of the Missionary Sister of St Benedict playing the guitar and singing a rhythmic song to the children, as well as the photos of the children doing artwork that depicts the war that they have just escaped in Ukraine as they came to Poland for refuge,” wrote Sister Lynn. “As I viewed the children’s expressiveness in their art, I thought how terrible it is that these children know so much about war. Thanks be to God that they made it safely to Poland. Who knows what the future holds for them.” The photos were taken in Poland where the children and the Missionary Sisters of St. Benedict from Ukraine have arrived safely after their escape.
The other photos show the preparation and sendoff of the medical supplies, including their border stop.
If you would like to offer financial assistance CIB is collecting funds via their PayPal account. All monies donated through this link will go directly to the Benedictine Sisters in Poland for immediate refugee relief. DONATE HERE.
Link to original Article
The following article was written by Don Cameron Clark Jr. who wrote the book Summary Judgment. It discusses the impact Sr Lynn and the Culman community had on his life. A great read - as is the book!
Visitators: Sr. Susan Quaintance, Sr. Lynn McKenzie, and Sr. Michaela Hedican
Be part of the 100th Anniversary of the Benedictine Women’s Federation of St. Scholastica in 2022
SUPPORT OUR PRAYER SHAWL AUCTION NOVEMBER 15-22
All proceeds from the sale of these 10 beautiful shawls made with prayerful hands and loving hearts by Sister Ana Cloughly, Colorado Springs, CO, and Sister Dolores Dean, Bristow, VA, will help support the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Benedictine Women's Federation of St. Scholastica in June 2022. Titled "Benedictine Life: A Vision Unfolding," the celebration will include a public prayer and celebration, a special anniversary issue of Benedictines magazine, and a Benedictine Colloquium open to all Benedictine seekers.
SAVE THE DATE FOR BENEDICTINE COLLOQUIUM JUNE 21-24, 2022
Six speakers will present papers at a hybrid colloquium with participants both on site at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, KS, and anywhere else via virtual attendance. Registrations for both options will open soon. More information at http://scholastica-celebration.org/
GUIDING VISION OF THE CENTENNIAL PLANNING COMMITTEE (established June 2018)
“Over the next four years (2018-2022) take the 17 communities of the Federation of St. Scholastica and monasticism itself to new levels of visibility in the church and the world by publicly celebrating the vision and dedication of Benedictine women over the past 100 years while at the same time supporting current works as well as new and wider efforts to bring the peace of Christ and the justice of the gospel to today’s turbulent world.”
Ana Cloughly, OSB, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Westkamp, OSB, email@example.com
Catherine Martinez, OSB, firstname.lastname@example.org Elizabeth Brown, OSB, email@example.com
Judith Sutera, OSB, firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Romey, OSB, email@example.com
Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh link to article
The Global Sisters Report features a question and answers interview with Sister Sue Fazzini about her ministry with incarcerated individuals:
The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania, on July 12, 2020, elected Sister Stephanie Schmidt as their 22nd prioress. Stephanie succeeds Sister Anne Wambach, who served the community as prioress for the last ten years. For the last ten years, Sister Stephanie has been director of initial formation.
Sister Michaela Hedican, OSB of St. Benedict Monastery (St. Joseph, Minnesota) served as the election discernment facilitator. Sister Lynn McKenzie, OSB presided at the canonical election.”
Once again the Benedictine Sisters of St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow, VA are recognized in the Prince William Living publication. The May 31, 2020 edition and article are accessible through the following link: https://princewilliamliving.com/the-benedictine-sisters-of-virginia-continue-to-give/
Monastic Congregation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055