Living Benedictine

Lay people who embrace the way of Benedict long for a greater connection with Benedictine monasteries as a way of sharing and prayer connection. BEING BENEDICTINE was an answer to prayer. It is not a new organization, but a new process of connecting oblates and monastics in conversation about their present lives and the future.

One couple, Michelle and Nathan Howell, have been defying the odds and breaking norms since 2002. They are living Benedictine charisms in a secular world. They gave up promising careers in agriculture and went right to the land. NEED MORE ACRES became a reality. Their dream was to feed people well with good food and hospitality. They share their knowledge of growing food from “seed to plate” so others may do the same, and Michelle is in great demand speaking around the state telling the story of their farm and their family’s way of work and prayer.

Michelle, with her husband, Nathan, are reaching many persons who never heard of Benedict through their work of peace and justice on their farm. All the children are involved, even the youngest whose favorite farm activity is riding with his dad on a tractor. What Michelle and Nathan need now is connection and support of other families trying, in their own way, to live the Rule of Benedict. They also need monastics to take their desire to live Benedictine charisms seriously. Michelle is an oblate at Mount Tabor, Ky., an ecumenical monastery.

Connecting to Benedictine influence in another state is Donna Coleman, a graduate of the Benedictine college in Atchison, Kan. Donna is the first friendly encounter when one makes a retreat at Sophia Center. Her hospitality is welcoming and embracing, one of Donna’s many gifts and talents. She serves as director of guest services at Sophia Center, Mount St. Scholastica. Most recently, she has begun beautifying the land around Atchison with brightly painted park benches.

The flower benches were an opportunity which came about through the Atchison Art Association, for which Donna sits on the board. Fellow board member Angie Cairo has been working on the Beautiful Benches project for a while, through which various individuals created tiled benches for placement around downtown Atchison (ongoing public art project). Says Donna, “Through what the late Bob Ross would refer to as a ‘happy accident,’ the bench company sent 3 wrong benches—benches minus the inset needed for tiling. They let the Association keep them for free, but since they couldn’t be tiled, Angie thought they could paint them instead. She approached Donna with the opportunity to paint the 3 benches, to which Donna gave a very quick YES!

This seems to be the way with Benedictines: saying “yes” and then figuring out how to do it.

For more information on BEING BENEDICTINE, visit

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Photos collected by Pat Pickett and shared with permission.