From Nassau Bahamas, November 2016: Sister Annie Thompson receives National Honor

The National Sports Hall of Fame is one of the avenues commissioned by the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to demonstrate the nation’s appreciation for the past contributions made by athletes to the development of sport in our country.

“During Annie’s days at St. Francis grade school, she learned and got to love the game of basketball and also participated in track and field. It was here that her undying love for sports was developed…”  She joined the convent of Benedictine Sisters in Minnesota. “On returning to the Bahamas, Sister Annie’s zeal for the world of sports continued.  As Principal of St. Bede’s Primary school, Kemp Road, Sister Annie spent many hours preparing the students for track and field events and how to play the game of basketball.  She was instrumental in obtaining the basketball court on the grounds of St. Bede’s school.”

“Sister Annie Thompson excelled as an athlete but the Benedictine sister’s most noteworthy achievement was the development of basketball at the youth level. She was integral in the formation of the Catholic Primary School Basketball League, which continues to be the premier outlet for youth basketball.”

Training for Election Facilitators

Sisters Linda Soler, Lisa Maurer, Kerry O’Reilly, Edith Bogue, Sharon Nohner

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).

2016 News – The first half of the year

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.

Sr Emmanuela & Sr Kerry, Federation President
Sr Emmanuel Hsiang & Sr Kerry O’Reilly, Federation President

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’s Monastery, Muroran, Japan was in order!

St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, IL

Sr. Sandra Brunenn (Photo courtesy of St. Mary Monastery)

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

Sr Nicole Kunze
Sr Nicole Kunze (Photo courtesy of Annunciation Monastery)

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

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Gathering of Professed Benedictines 55 and Under (Photo courtesy of Yankton Benedictines)

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.

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Federation / Congregation Leaders at the 55 and Under Gathering: back: Sister Kerry O’Reilly (St. Benedict), Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie (St. Scholastica); front: Sister Joella Kidwell, (St. Gertrude), Sister Pia Portman, (Missionary Benedictines) (Photo: Federation of St. Scholastica)

Prioresses and Presidents Gather for annual Conference

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Benedictine Prioresses and Federation / Congregation Presidents meeting in February 2016 at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, IN

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.”

Pope Francis