Nineteen Benedictine sisters from three Federations and the Congregation of Missionary Benedictine Sisters gathered at St. Walburga Monastery in Elizabeth, NJ to be trained as facilitators for election of monastic leaders (prioresses). Three experienced facilitators – Sr Cecilia Dwyer (St Benedict Monastery, Bristow VA), Sr Mary Catherine Wenstrup (St Walburg Monastery, Covington KY), and Sr Joella Kidwell (Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand IN) – organized the three days of training. The participants studied – in detail -the document Discernment and Election of a Prioress in the Benedictine Tradition, revised by the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses in 2016, as well the theology and philosophy of discernment. They raised many practical questions, and discussed unusual situations and issues. The leaders shared dozens of ideas, stories and tips for organizing and carrying out the facilitation process and coordinating with Federation Presidents. They also suggested next steps so these sisters can gain experience in facilitation.
The workshop was organized and sponsored by the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses who recognized the need to enlarge the pool of trained and experienced facilitators.
Five sisters from the Federation of St Benedict participated in the workshop: President Kerry O’Reilly, two members of the Federation Council (Sisters Lisa Mauree and Edith Bogue), and Sisters Linda Soler (St Paul’s Monastery) and Sister Sharon Nohner (St Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN).
The Prioress of the monastic community is spiritual leader, guide and planner. Each monastery elects a prioress through a discernment process and also determines the length and number of terms. Three monasteries of the Federation had elections this year.
Saint Benedict Monastery in Taipei, Taiwan.
The Sisters met in discernment February 24 and 25 facilitated by Sister Kerry O’Reilly, President of the Federation, and Sister Josue Behnen of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN. The canonical election was held February 26, 2016 and SISTER EMMANUEL HSIANG was elected to a second 6-year term. She was blessed by the community, oblates and friends. It was particularly festive with the presence of their Junior Sister, Sister Maria Sung, from their mission house. The community celebrated with a festive meal and entertainment by the newest members of the community.
When visiting Taiwan the flight connects in Tokyo, Japan so a visit to the Sisters at Saint Benedict’sMonastery, Muroran, Japan was in order!
St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, IL
also had a re-election on April 3, 2016. SISTER SANDRA BRUNENN was elected by her community to serve a second term of four years. The Benedictine way is to take time for discernment – creating an atmosphere within the house and within the community members of quiet and deep listening. Who is God calling to leadership at this time? What are community members hearing? What can they share about the Sisters raised up for consideration for leadership? A Formal election takes place only after the community seems to develop a broad consensus.
Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, ND
Following two re-elections, Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, ND elected SISTER NICOLE KUNZE to a first term of 4 years on April 9. A community begins thinking about the future long before the election as it prepares Direction Statements. The Sisters ask themselves what is our hope for the future and where is our energy for that future? Where would we like to be four years from now? As they discuss that and formulate general statements it becomes a basis for what kind of skills and gifts would be help move the statements to reality.
Conference of Benedictine Prioresses
The position of prioress is challenging and can be overwhelming even as it has rewards. Benedictine Prioresses from around the country meet once a year for sharing and support and quiet time together. This year’s gathering was held in January at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, Indiana.
Gathering of Professed Benedictines 55 and Under
One privilege of a Federation President is getting to know many Sisters from other Federations. The Sisters from all the Federations and Congregation 55 years old and Under meet every three years and 2016 was one of those years. The presidents are invited to attend and share thoughts. It is a privilege. The energy was high as Sisters recalled formation gatherings they shared, as the theme of Collaboration was explored by Sister Aileen Bankemper of St. Walburga Monastery, and time was given to explore Indianapolis, IN where our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, is located.
Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN graciously hosted 46 of us at the annual CBP meeting and retreat. It is a beautiful place to gather and even with renovations at their retreat center, we were welcomed and housed in comfort.
All the prioresses from across the United States meet annually in addition to Monasteries that have developed in Canada and Mexico from these American houses. It is a time to support each other, renew friendships and develop new ones. It is a time to dialogue about the challenges of Benedictine living today.
In addition, time is taken for quiet retreat. This year the group was delighted to have Abbot Gregory Polan, OSB of Conception Abbey, Conception, MO and Sister Karen Joseph, OSB of Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand, IN with them. The theme of this pre-Lent retreat was the Paschal Mystery with each presenter offering insights from their perspective and their own reflection.
“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
On May 7, 2015 the former St. Bede’s Catholic Primary School in Nassau, Bahamas was re-named the Sister Annie Thompson Preschool. Sister Annie, who is pictured above 2nd from left, has been a member of Saint Martin Monastery, Nassau, since 1962. The ceremony was held amidst dignitaries, family, friends and well-wishers who came to the campus to view the state-of-the-art preschool.
Prime Minister Perry Christie officially renamed the school in recognition of all that Sister Annie has done for education in the Bahamas over many years. Sister Annie had served for many years as Principal of St. Bede’s Roman Catholic School beginning in 1970.
The preschool was established in 2013 and has been extensively renovated by the Bahamian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, in order to insure that it will provide the best education possible for the young students who will receive there an early foundation for academic learning. The Minister of Education, Jerome Fitzgerald, called it ‘The most modern and beautiful preschool in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
Prime Minister Christie spoke highly of Sister Annie, calling her a “woman of exceptional character” and thanking her for her contributions to the country through many disciplines. “You have used your life to the development of the human spirit and whether through music, sports or religion, you have tapped into the hearts and minds of so many of our citizens,” Christie said.
We congratulate Sister Annie and her community for their extensive and continuous contributions to the on-going education of so many students and adults on the islands of the Bahamas!
[quotes and information found in EdWorld Bahamas, May 2015, Vol. 1, Issue 3 and The Bahamas Weekly]