Rum Cakes and Coconut Candy: President of Monastic Congregation Visits Member Monasteries in Puerto Rico and Bahamas

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.

Perpetual Profession at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN, July 11, 2022

Sister Laura Suhr (left) and Sister Bridgette Powers (right) with Sister Susan Rudolph, prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery.

Sisters Bridgette Powers and Laura Suhr made perpetual profession as members of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN, on July 11, 2022. Both sisters grew up in Minnesota and both graduated from the College of St. Benedict. As of December 2022, both have completed master’s degrees in theology at St. John’s University School of Theology, Collegeville, MN.

Sister Bridgette works in the monastery’s Spirituality Center and directs Benedictine Friends, a program which establishes relationships between students of the College of St. Benedict and sisters of the monastery. Sister Laura directs the monastery’s Girls, God and Good Times summer camp.

Sister Bridgette Powers signs her perpetual profession document on the altar of Sacred Heart Chapel at Saint Benedict’s Monastery.
Sister Laura Suhr professes perpetual vows at Saint Benedict’s Monastery.

The Monastic Congregation of St. Benedict is Represented at 2022 LCWR Assembly

[St. Louis, Missouri] The president and two prioresses of the Monastic Congregation of St. Benedict attended the 2022 national assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St. Louis, MO, August 9-12. Sister Nancy Bauer, MCSB president, Sister Susan Rudolph, prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, MN, and Sister Nicole Kunze, prioress of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, ND, were among the 700 women religious who participated in the first in-person LCWR assembly since 2019.

            The theme of the gathering was “Mystical Wisdom: Following the Spirit’s Beckoning.” Theologians Sister Constance FitzGerald, OCD and Dr. M. Shawn Copeland launched the exploration of mystical wisdom for these challenging times in a set of two conversations.

            Other highlights of the assembly included the LCWR members’ three-year recommitment to an assembly resolution to use their collective voice, resources, and influence to establish justice at the intersection of racism, forced migration, and the climate crisis.

            During the assembly the members elected new leadership for the organization. Sister Maureen Geary, OP, a councilor of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Dominicans, was selected as the president-elect. She joins Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, who will serve as president for 2022-23, and Sister Jane Herb, IHM, who will serve as immediate past-president. Elected to the national board were Sisters Laura Bregar, OSU; Nkechi Iwuoha, PHJC; Patty Johnson, CSJ; and Sean Peters, CSJ.

            The Outstanding Leadership Award honored 2020 recipient Sister Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, past president of the National Black Sisters Conference and current leader of her community; and 2022 recipient Sister Pat Murray, IBVM, current director of the International Union of Superiors General.

            Recordings of the LCWR presidential address, the two conversations between Sister Constance and Dr. Copeland, and the tributes to and responses from Sister Patty and Sister Pat as well as some of the printed texts of presentations are available now on the LCWR website. The website also has a four-minute video and photographs of assembly activities and participants.

            The three participants from the Monastic Congregation of St. Benedict enjoyed an evening with prioresses in attendance from the Monastic Congregation of St. Scholastica and the Federation of St. Gertrude.