January 11, 2023
Sister Nancy Bauer, OSB, visited two of the “island monasteries” of the Monastic Congregation of St. Benedict in December. Sister Nancy arrived at Monasterio Santa Escolastica in Humacao, Puerto Rico, on December 6, and traveled from there to St. Martin Monastery, Nassau, N.P., Bahamas, on December 10. These were Sister Nancy’s first visits to the Caribbean monasteries in her role as president of the monastic congregation. These were not official visitations but rather opportunities for Sister Nancy to become reacquainted with the sisters in the two communities.
The six members of Monasterio Santa Escolastica extended warm Benedictine hospitality to Sister Nancy. Their dog, Suzie, greeted her with a few growls before warming up to her after receiving some treats directly from the president’s hand.
Sister Nancy accompanied Sister Mary Ruth Santana to Colegio San Benito, the school founded by the sisters in Humacao and now directed by Sister Mary Ruth. Sister Nancy had the chance to cheer on the girls’ volleyball team, visit classrooms, stop in at the nurse’s office which is staffed by Sister Maria Ramos Feliciano, and even sell hot dogs at the Myriam Pacheco Event, a track and field competition named in honor of the late Sister Myriam Pacheco. She also witnessed the damage to the school buildings from Hurricanes Maria and Fiona and learned that the school has not yet received grants from FEMA that were promised after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
At the monastery, Sister Nancy enjoyed meals prepared by Sister Vivian Maldonada and chatted with Sister Angela Berrios about her novitiate classmates back at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, MN. She also became reacquainted with Sisters Carmen Davila and Margarita Rodriguez.
In Nassau, Sister Marva Coakley, prioress of St. Martin Monastery, fetched Sister Nancy from the airport. When they arrived at the monastery, Sister Annie Thompson was mixing a batch of her famous coconut and pineapple tarts, with the assistance of Sister Janis Coakley. In the next few days, Sister Agnes Johnson baked dozens of rum cakes to be distributed as Christmas gifts.
Many of the sisters, including Sister Ena Albury, recalled with fondness their earlier years in religious life when they lived at St. Benedict’s Monastery and attended the College of St. Benedict or taught in local parochial schools. Sister Mary Benedict Pratt toured Sister Nancy through the beautiful 200-year-old house that is now the monastery’s guest and retreat center.
Sister Nancy enjoyed conversations with Sister Clare Rolle, who had worked with AIDS patients, and caught up with Sister Agatha Hunt outside at the Marian grotto. She also visited Sisters Jacinta Neely and Vernice Wilson in the monastery infirmary.
Sister Nancy returned from the Caribbean to a white winter wonderland, with a package of coconut candies from Puerto Rico and a pair of rum cakes in her suitcase.