The Eichstaat Connection

Three students from the College of Saint Benedict, Katie Ebben, Marita Vievering and Megan Sinner, delighted members of the monastic community with stories of their visit to St. Walburga Abbey in Eichstaat, Germany, the founding monastery for the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota. The beginning of St. Walburga’s Abbey has a fascinating history. Three British Benedictines, Walburga and her two brothers were sent to Germany to establish new monastic foundations. Enduring the travel through dense forests, on wild rivers, and in danger from marauding tribes took great strength of purpose by these courageous Benedictines.

In 752 Walburga’s brothers founded a monastey in Heidenheim, Germany. This was a double monastery for men and women. Walburga eventually became the Abbess of both monasteries. She proved to be an outstanding leader, noted for her knowledge and wisdom. She was skilled in medicine, which she practiced in the monasteries, and among the people of the area. Walburga wrote about the lives of her two brothers, and became known as the first female Christian author of both Britain and Germany.

Walburga died in 777 with a reputation for great holiness of life. Later, her remains were transferred to Eichstaat and put in the care of Benedictine sisters at the Abbey of St. Walburga. Monastic life has continued in that Abbey from 1035 until today. It was from this monastery that six sisters emigrated to St. Cloud, Minnesota, in 1857, moving to St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1863. They came to teach children of European settlers and live a monastic life on the frontier. In time, they founded eleven other monasteries, four of which are in other countries.

Now comes the Eichstaaat Connection for the three young women from the College of Saint Benedict. After their study abroad program, they decided to visit the Abbey of St. Walburga. Here they met Abbess Francesca, who endeared herself to the students with her warmth and sense of humor. Stories were told of the history of the Abbey, and the difficult period of secularization in the 1800s when the government took over the property of all monasteries. Katie, Marita and Megan were amazed at the courage and great strength of purpose of the Sisters in the face of all the hardships they endured. They proudly announced that the abbey in Eichstaat had sent their best Sisters to St. Joseph, where in time, they established an academy for young women, a forerunner of the College of St. Benedict.

The three women are proud to call the college their school, and they are proud of the Sisters of Saint Benedict who exhibit, as they said, great strength of purpose. And the Sisters are equally proud of the women and men who graduate from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University. These graduates go out to make their place in the world, living the Benedictine values and spirituality in their everyday lives’