Congratulations to this year’s jubilarians, who are celebrating 25, 50, 60 and 75 years of monastic life!
A group photograph of our 50th jubilarians will be shared in July after our Golden Jubilee celebration.
Patricia Kennedy, OSB
Left to right: Margaret Maus, OSB, Carleen Schomer, OSB, Mary Schumer, OSB, Anita O’Keefe, OSB, Josue Behnen, OSB, JoAnne Backes, OSB, Marlene Schwinghammer, OSB, Delores Dufner, OSB, Susan Rudolph, OSB, Prioress (not a jubilarian), and Moira Wild, OSB
Mary Jane Cournoyer, OSB
Patricia Kennedy, OSB
Sister Patricia Kennedy was born on a chilly winter morning in February 1953. She is the third of Bernard and Delaine Kennedy’s nine children. Pat “grew-up Kennedy” in Dubuque, Iowa. Her mother would refer to Pat as a quiet baby, content to sleep almost through the night. While her siblings helped their mother around the house, Pat liked to hang out with her dad doing lawn care, fishing or watching the Green Bay Packers on fall Sunday afternoons.
Pat came to Minnesota to study liturgy at Saint John’s University School of Theology; here, she began to discern her vocation to the Benedictine monastic life. She speaks of being immersed in a Benedictine liturgical spirituality as she studied liturgy and participated in the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist with the monastic community. Her vocation story evolves out of a question asked of her: “Why did you come here?” Her immediate answer was: “I came to study liturgy and pursue a career change from teaching high school theology to a liturgical ministry.” Yet, as she pondered that question, she found herself in a vocation discernment rather than a career change. Pat’s response to the question “Why?” ultimately led her to pass through the great doors of Saint Benedict’s Monastery.
The Benedictine motto of ora et labora (prayer and work) became her lifetime commitment to Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist and service. In time, she would return to the classroom and simultaneously serve the community as sacristan, assisting with community worship as well as serving as lector and community homilist.
Pat received her doctoral degree in theology and the arts in 2010. She taught in the Department of Theology at the College of Saint Benedict. She refers to herself as a student of iconography, studying and writing icons. During the summer months and early fall, Pat assists with monastery lawn care.
Beginning in 2015, S. Pat was asked to work with and be mentored by Sister Kathleen Kalinowski (†2017) to learn her ministry as a resource person and researcher for special projects, policy and procedures development, and historical preservation of archival work. After teaching 20 years at the College of Saint Benedict, S. Pat retired from teaching to transition into focusing on those aspects of S. Kathleen’s ministry as monastery heritage coordinator. She currently oversees the work and activities of the monastery Art and Heritage Place, Archives and art collection. Perhaps her answer today to the question, “Why did you come here?” is best answered in her search for God in the common life and living into being a servant-leader.
Profile written by Janelle Sietsema, OSB
Iris Beckwith, OSB
Sister Iris is proud to have been born in the Republic of Panama, the only place in the world where one can see the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the same time while standing on the equator. Her father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army defending the Panama Canal from enemy attack during World War II, met and married her mother in Cristobel, Panama.
Iris was three years old at the end of the war, the point at which she, her parents and an older brother moved from Panama to Corning, N.Y. Within less than two years, they moved to Dayton, Ohio, and finally to Ogden, Utah, where her younger brother was born. A short time later, Clearfield, Utah, became the location of the family home.
A love of music graced S. Iris’ childhood home. Her father played the bass horn, and her mother was an accomplished concert pianist. Her love of music expanded over the years, and to the present day she generously shares her lovely voice at prayer and worship with her Benedictine community.
The course of S. Iris’ life changed after high school when she decided to attend a three-year registered nurse training program at St. Benedict’s School of Nursing in Ogden. It was there that she met the Benedictine sisters from St. Joseph, Minn., whom she credits for planting and nourishing the seed of her religious vocation.
Iris entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery in August 1968 and made her first profession in July 1971. After working for a time in the medical-surgical unit at the St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minn., and at Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague, Minn., she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, N.H. While there, she was a member of a group of Benedictine sisters from St. Joseph who were hoping to establish a dependent monastery in Manchester.
Upon returning to Minnesota with her nursing degree, S. Iris served as director of nursing at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud. Then in the early 1980s, she returned to her home state of Utah to work with her Benedictine sisters at St. Benedict’s Hospital in Ogden. She served there for the next 29 years in a variety of departments: the medical/surgical unit, single-day surgery, out-patient surgery and as manager of the pre-op surgical clinic.
In 1986, after fervent prayer, S. Iris made the decision to transfer her profession to the newly established dependent Mount Benedict Priory in Ogden. Years later, the Ogden community decided to merge with Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and S. Iris returned to Minnesota in 2012.
Committed, compassionate, conscientious and competent, S. Iris considers it a privilege to serve her Benedictine sisters at this time as a staff nurse, foot care clinician, insurance contact and authorized representative for government medical programs.
Profile written by Ephrem Hollermann, OSB
Jeanne Marie Vanderlinde, OSB
Sister Jeanne Marie Vanderlinde describes herself as the “farm girl from St. Boni” who has learned the joy of community, prayer, and the blessing of countless opportunities. Those of us who know her see a woman who faithfully lives the Benedictine charism, gives herself to teaching teenagers—and likes it!
Jeanne Marie is unique in other ways: She is one of two educators in the community that once boasted hundreds; she has served away from the monastery for most of her ministerial life; she is the only sister who can say she has served on the Monastic Council with five different prioresses; and there are 22 letters in her name, more than any other sister can count.
Jeanne Marie was born and raised on a farm outside of her beloved St. Boni (Bonifacius), the second oldest of 10 siblings. With the boys coming later in the family, she learned how to milk cows and drive tractors, as well as take care of “the babies” as they came along after her. Her family was close-knit and has stayed that way as each new generation is born. She speaks with love of her parents and sees her mom as the conduit and anchor of the family. The family is adjusting to her mother’s recent death.
Teaching was something that S. Jeanne Marie thought about even before joining Saint Benedict’s Monastery. There, she was encouraged to get her degree in secondary education. She studied history and education, eventually earning a Master of Education degree. Teaching is definitely her ministry. She has been at it for 47 years and in only two high schools: St. Cloud Cathedral in St. Cloud, Minn., for 11 years, and Benilde-St. Margaret in St. Louis Park, Minn., for 36 years, where she is still serving. She loves the energy and enthusiasm of teenagers. To make teaching as challenging as possible, she also teaches junior high religion and finds it rewarding to see her students’ faith views expand. Being part of a school community for such a long time, and often the only religious sister, she contributes in many other ways as prayer leader and retreat giver, and she always responds with pastoral listening to students and staff.
Jeanne Marie is part of a unique group of sisters who were once called “the young professed.” Fifty years later, we still see ourselves as “young professed” and know each other well. These friends see S. Jeanne Marie as one who is caring, fun loving, and has a great sense of humor. She is an entertaining storyteller, fun to be with, a fantastic teacher, and can handle the most challenging classroom situations.
Did you ever wonder if God not only calls, but calls to a place? When you have an opportunity to visit with S. Jeanne Marie, ask her to tell her story of how she got to Saint Benedict’s Monastery. Then you will know!
Profile written by Kerry O’Reilly, OSB
Shirley Nohner, OSB
Shirley Elizabeth Nohner was born a seeker with the heart of a servant. Born in Watkins, Minn., her roots were grounded in family that formed her to be attentive to the needs of others. One of the graces of her childhood was being formed by the Benedictine sisters who were in the three Minnesota towns the family lived: Watkins, Hutchinson and Melrose. After high school, Shirley worked at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, continuing to use her skills of caring for others’ needs. It was no surprise that her heart turned to seek out the Benedictine life, and in 1968, she entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery. She took to heart the words in the prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict: “…with faith and performance of good works, let us walk in God’s paths by the guidance of the Gospel…”
Her spirit-filled heart led Sister Shirley to minister in many different capacities throughout her 50-year journey as a Benedictine. After graduating from Pierre School of Practical Nursing, she served in a variety of ministries at St. Joseph’s Home, St. Cloud Hospital, Homeward Bound (for the physically disabled), home care and hospice.
She was one of the founding members of a team that began Central Minnesota Together Encountering Christ (TEC). TEC brought her into contact with high school students and young adults, leading her back to the monastery for a degree at the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., in theology and secondary education. After graduation, she taught at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., and at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minn. One of the memorable experiences of working in high schools was establishing the Christian Clowns, an organization that uses “clowning” as a way to spread the Gospel message, in the 1980s.
In the 1990s, S. Shirley was called to Incarnation Church in Minneapolis, Minn., as religious education coordinator and parish minister. She completed two quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education, leading her to a pastoral position at St. Therese of New Hope.
Shirley was called by the community in 2017 to minister to our elders at Saint Scholastica Convent, our community for retired and sick sisters in St. Cloud. She continues to use her pastoral and nursing skills serving in our monastery health care department, and she delights in her mornings in our mission advancement office where she uses her computer and communication skills to stay connected to all the friends of the monastery.
Ultimately, Shirley’s love for viable community living, prayer and work is at the very center and grounding force for her life. As she celebrates 50 years of being shaped by a generous life of service, we affirm that the words of Benedict have come alive in her life: “… as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (Rule of Benedict, prologue 49).
Profile written by Sharon Nohner, OSB
Anita (Gloria) O’Keefe, OSB
A 60th anniversary: That’s many years for this Benedictine lass who loves to sing while she walks amid God’s beautiful natural world or create bonny flower arrangements in gardens or vases. Sister Anita will remain “young at heart” because during all these years she has loved God and her family, her many friends and uncounted students whose lives she has enriched and have touched hers.
Her Central Wisconsin roots run deep where S. Anita grew up on the land farmed by her family for five generations—ever since the arrival of her great-grandparents from Ireland.
As the Angelus bells were ringing, Anita was born March 25 (Easter Monday), 1940, at Steven’s Point, Wis. She was surrounded by loving parents, Leonard and Genevieve, three brothers and two sisters. Thus, it was not hard for this young lady to hear God’s CALL to religious life—to a life of prayer and service, to teaching young children, to good times and laughter.
Anita believes a seed of her religious vocation was planted in her heart on First Holy Communion day. Although she never had Benedictine teachers, she had a Benedictine aunt, Sister Faith Corrigan, whom she visited. Anita was attracted to Saint Benedict’s way of life, especially the balance of prayer, work and community. After graduation from Maria High School, she worked for a year as receptionist for an insurance company. Then, at age 19, she took the step she felt called to and entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery on September 8, 1959. Her postulant class was large, and she discovered many new friends. She became “Sister Gloria” and was professed on July 11, 1961. Now, 60 years later, she says that her “CALL” over the years has simply “grown in gratitude.”
Anita (back to her baptismal name) earned two degrees in elementary education and for 40 years ministered as teacher and principal. She worked in elementary schools from the Minnesota/North Dakota border to the inner city of Minneapolis and many parishes of the St. Cloud Diocese. Along the way, she made many lasting friendships and cherishes yearly gatherings at Fish Trap Lake with special sister friends.
Sister celebrated her 50th jubilee in 2011with family and friends at both the monastery and her home parish where her faith journey began. After living with small groups of sisters for 57 years, she moved to Saint Scholastica Convent in August of 2019. Here she has taken up a new ministry, not in a classroom, but with the elderly sisters. She continues to be of service by being a receptionist, driver and on the sacristy team.
Anita celebrated her 60th jubilee at the monastery with classmates and community members where, she says, the occasion left her with a happy “glow” and a grateful heart.
Profile written by Owen Lindblad, OSB
Carleen (Mildred) Schomer, OSB
Those who know Sister Carleen (Mildred) Schomer, born and raised in Lastrup, Minn., describe her as bright, gifted, insightful, competent, witty, thoughtful, kind and a faithful friend.
Carleen is the fourth child of Michael and Mary (Voelker) Schomer. From her mother, she learned kindness and gentleness, and from her father, a love of learning and respect for people of other races and religions. Her four siblings are Charles (deceased), Mary Ann, Marge Boatman, and Richard. Since her immediate and extended family is small, she has been able to remain close to them; she treasures each generation.
Her formal education commenced in a two-room school and then in a new grade school staffed by Benedictines, both in Lastrup. Following that, she attended Little Falls Junior-Senior Public High School in Little Falls, Minn. After graduation, she entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery where she began her collegiate studies. S. Carleen has earned three degrees in chemistry: a bachelor’s from the College of Saint Benedict, a master’s from Marquette University, and a Doctor of Arts from the University of Illinois in Chicago. Her professional life has been rich and varied: from elementary teacher in Breckenridge, Minn., to high school teacher in Pierz, Minn., and Puerto Rico, to chemistry professor and department chair at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University. Twice named outstanding teacher by students and faculty in Puerto Rico, she also earned the respect of her colleagues during her 35 years in the CSB/SJU chemistry department. She was loved by students for both challenging and encouraging them.
One way the contemplative side of S. Carleen is nurtured is through spending time with her camera. She is an excellent photographer, taking thousands of photos of people and nature and exploring online courses in photography. Regularly, she provides photos of community events for the monastery’s website, publications and social media accounts. Her creativity is visible in original, beautifully mounted greeting cards for Whitby Gift Shop. Last year, a photo appeared in a catalog published by Photographer’s Edge, and in 2014, her photo of a scene in Munsinger Park in St. Cloud, Minn., won first place in the landscape category of the Photography in the Gardens contest. Affirming of others, she is modest about her own talents.
Becoming a sister entered S. Carleen’s mind when she was taught by Benedictine sisters, but the thought lay dormant until her senior year in high school. Initially drawn to a missionary order, she heeded her parish priest’s advice to enter an order closer to home, which brought her to Saint Benedict’s Monastery. She commented, “During my first year there, I already knew I was in the right place. The Benedictine life of prayer, work, and community living suits me well; and I have been blessed along the way with wonderful friends and mentors who have deeply enriched my life.”
Profile written by Katherine Kraft, OSB, and Lois Wedl, OSB
Delores (Verena) Dufner, OSB
When Sister Delores Dufner was awarded the highest honor given by the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada in 2013, she was described as “respected and loved, diligent and passionate, ecumenical and inclusive, tender and feisty.” Yet she once acknowledged that the most treasured affirmation she ever received was from one of her Benedictine sisters who said, “Your hymns put on our lips the prayer in our hearts.” Undoubtedly, S. Delores’ “first love” is her Benedictine way of life to which she has been steadfastly faithful for the past six decades. She has offered her extraordinary personal gifts and talents to our Benedictine community and the Church with generosity and in a spirit of humility.
Delores grew up in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. As a child, she loved singing along with her schoolmates in a one-room country school. She recalls her excitement during those early school days when she discovered she could read musical notation and hear the sounds in her head. Thus began her lifelong adventure as a student and teacher of music, eventually to become an internationally known liturgical hymn writer.
To receive a college education was the dream of S. Delores’ parents for their children. Along with other small gifts at Christmas time, the children would receive war bonds to finance their college education. S. Delores chose to attend the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music and a minor in English. In addition to learning and appreciating liturgical hymns and chants from her Benedictine teachers, S. Delores was inspired by their way of life and discovered her own vocation to become a Benedictine sister.
After her first monastic profession in 1961, S. Delores served as a school music teacher, a private piano and organ instructor, and an organist/choir director for 12 years. Thereafter, she was appointed liturgy coordinator for the monastery, followed by 15 years of service as the director of the St. Cloud Diocesan Office of Worship. Her expertise was requested by the Diocese of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, where she served as a liturgical music consultant for a little over a year. During these years, she also earned two master’s degrees—one in liturgical music and the other in liturgical studies.
Since 1979, S. Delores has been writing liturgical, scripture-based hymn and song texts now found in many Christian hymnals, published not only in the United States but also in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and China. She has written over 200 hymn texts and has published four collections of her liturgical music texts. At the monastery, she continues to serve as an organist and a member of the Community Worship Committee, as well as the liturgy planning team.
Having received seven prestigious awards in the area of liturgical music and lifelong commitment to liturgical renewal, S. Delores humbly admits: “I have always loved writing and wrestling with words, and I love the liturgy…Singing together empowers us to celebrate our faith and claim the liturgy as our prayer.”
Profile written by Ephrem Hollermann, OSB
JoAnne (Marvin) Backes, OSB
Sister JoAnne and her twin sister, Jane, were born into the Backes family living on a farm near Farming, Minn. With her parents and five siblings, she learned what it was like to live community life through work, prayer and fun time together.
After joining Saint Benedict’s Monastery and receiving her education, S. JoAnne taught 22 years in primary grades in the St. Cloud Diocese. She then moved to the New Ulm Diocese. For six years, she taught at St. Anastasia School in Hutchinson, Minn. It was there she proudly received “Teacher of the Year” award. Following her teaching career, she spent 34 years as pastoral administrator in five parishes. S. JoAnne believes that growing up in a rural setting played a major role in her relationship with the people to whom she ministered in small rural parishes. She also believes people are the church and that they need to be involved in the life of their parish. S. JoAnne served as a guide and leader for the parishioners.
As pastoral administrator, S. JoAnne was responsible for the spiritual life of the parish. That meant creating and leading programs in faith formation for children, youth and adults. She prepared parents for baptism, children for First Communion, teens for confirmation, couples for marriage, and adults in becoming full members of the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. A priest living in another parish would come to celebrate the sacraments. A very important ministry for S. JoAnne was bringing Holy Communion to the sick, homebound and those in nursing homes. She says it was much more than bringing Holy Communion; she was an important listening ear for many. When loved ones were dying, she would be by their side through death and with the family in funeral planning.
It was a joy for S. JoAnne to work with leadership groups in parishes such as councils, committees, catechists and directors of religious education. In addition to the spiritual duties, she took on projects that needed attention, such as a 50-year-old water leak in a church basement. Thinking big, she also worked with a building committee to plan and finance a new addition with an elevator to the church in Comfrey, Minn. A joy for S. JoAnne was working with the people of Leavenworth, Minn., to prepare and celebrate the 150th anniversary of their parish. S. JoAnne was honored with the “Bishop’s Medal of Service” in 1994.
JoAnne’s resignation from the New Ulm Diocese was effective July 1, 2018. After a short time of rest, she moved to Saint Benedict’s Monastery where she began her new ministry in the Whitby Gift Shop and as director of hospitality. She says her love of pastoral ministry continues as she finds herself listening to customers and guests.
Profile written by Lucinda Mareck, OSB
Josue (Veronice) Behnen, OSB
Sister Josue Behnen was born and grew up on a farm north of Richmond, Minn. She was the second of nine children. S. Josue became the oldest sibling when two young brothers died, so she ended up being the one to give a hand to her parents on the farm. Growing up in a religious family sowed the seeds, and during those formative years, she felt a call to religious life.
Josue earned a registered nursing degree in the nursing program at the St. Cloud Hospital after high school. After three years at the hospital, she and a classmate spent a year in the Bahamas as lay missionaries serving as nurses in local clinics. In her own words, “It taught me that being a missionary is not about doing as much as ‘being with’ the people.” After the year was over, she knew that it was time to accept God’s invitation and join the monastery.
Just a few short years later, she would be asked to embark on her greatest adventure: being sent to Taiwan. S. Josue spent 17 actual years in Taiwan, where she learned to speak and read Mandarin Chinese, and had a variety of responsibilities helping with the beginning of a Chinese Benedictine community. Besides caring for the babies in the orphanage, she served as formation director and liturgy director at the time of Vatican II when the use of the vernacular (Chinese) was encouraged. She returned to Taiwan many times since, giving retreats and workshops and helping with translation. She is most grateful for having the opportunity to experience a culture vastly different from our own, which gives perspective to life in general.
One of S. Josue’s attributes is her call to listen. She learned to listen in her early years in her family. To practice nursing well, listening was a skill that was essential. Being a foreigner and learning a tonal language like Chinese required attentive listening. After a short stint in New Hampshire, she shifted her listening skills to the area of spiritual direction and retreat work, which she has been engaged in for the past 30 years.
Over the years, her study of monastic spirituality and love of the monastic life have been enriched by a love of art and poetry. One of her greatest joys is to work on writing a poem until she feels it “says what it wants to say.” Here is a poem she wrote in January 2021:
We are one humanity
have one human nature
eat from the same table
of food grown in the soil
of the same garden.
Thank you, S. Josue, for your 60 years of love and fidelity to our way of life.
Profile written by Hélène Mercier, OSB
Margaret (Alberta) Maus, OSB
Growing up in Pierz, Minn., Sister Margaret Maus said she learned a lot about how to teach from the sisters who taught her: “They tried to be kind, gentle, prayerful, understanding and affirming. They had a strong sense of dedication. They made me feel special.” That’s high praise when we learn that Margaret spent 46 years teaching more than 1,000 first and second graders and now celebrates 60 years as a Benedictine! To review her archival files is to rejoice in a person who was a self-admitted but also softened perfectionist, an enthusiast for learning and giving of her talents, one deeply loved and appreciated in many parishes of the St. Cloud Diocese. She writes of her teaching philosophy as follows:
I believe that children are a precious gift from God. Forming minds and hearts of children is a great responsibility and an awesome task!
I believe that parents are the first teachers of their children, and what is taught at school will not go far or last long unless the same is taught in the home.
I believe that children need to succeed, and therefore need a great deal of encouragement and affirmation…Perhaps more is taught by what we do than by what we say.
Music was her second love—liturgical music, particularly liturgical music for children. For 10 summers, she also coordinated liturgy at St. Norbert’s in De Pere, Wis., during their summer School of Theology.
After retirement from teaching, while working at the Spirituality Center at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Margaret participated in a StrengthsFinder program! Her top five strengths are consistency (treats everyone well, regardless of station or skills), harmony (a peacemaker), empathy (senses others’ feelings), discipline (being prepared), and being a maximizer (excellence is her measure).
It was with reason that Margaret was called “the brain,” selected as the “one most likely to succeed,” and honored as valedictorian of her 1959 class at Fr. Pierz Memorial High. Her life, including her more recent service at bringing people to God, was being an important guitarist and vocalist with the Polka Mass Movement in the St. Cloud Diocese. The Country Polkateers, under the direction of her brother, Gilly, played 20–25 such Polka Masses each summer, usually as part of parish festivals. “Attendance could reach up to 3,000 people,” said Gilly. In a newspaper article about these Polka Masses, an attendee said, “Polka is part of the ethnicity of our diocese, part of our German and Polish heritage where concertinas, accordions, tubas, drums—even clarinets and guitars provide an Old World soundtrack for Central Minnesota life.” People interact with the music to create a happy crowd of worshippers.
Thank you, S. Margaret, for teaching us so well and for helping us dance before the Lord.
Profile written by Renée Domeier, OSB
Marlene (Hyacinth) Schwinghammer, OSB
A warm smile, a ready laugh, a compassionate presence: These are only a few of the treasured gifts with which Sister Marlene Schwinghammer has graced the monastic community over the years. Her buoyant spirit has “spilled over” and shaped each of her ministries. She cherishes growing up with loving parents, Louis and Hyacinth (Sperl), and nine siblings. Strong family bonds of care and concern for one another—for friends, relatives and neighbors—prepared her for life as a Benedictine, a life in which community is highly valued.
Born in Albany, Minn., S. Marlene was raised on the family farm where she learned the importance and dignity of hard work, an appreciation for the land, and the joy of working together. As the oldest daughter in a large family, she assumed responsibility early on, developed leadership skills, and modeled a life of integrity.
While compassion for others seems natural to S. Marlene, the death of an older brother, Ron, in an auto accident in 1968 deepened her sensitivity for those who experience tragedy. It was formative in her relationships with students throughout her 20 years of teaching. Students who knew sorrow or loss found a tender, consoling presence in S. Marlene. A skilled teacher loved by students, her teaching assignments include: St. John Cantius School in St. Cloud, Minn.; St. Mary’s in Melrose, Minn.; Holy Name in Bimini, Bahamas; St. Ann’s in Wadena, Minn.; and St. Mary’s Mission in Red Lake, Minn.
Ministering to her Benedictine community began after her teaching career. Her love for and fidelity to monastic life prepared her for the position of vocation director. This was the beginning of a wide range of ministries: community life coordinator, subprioress, and her present ministry as dean of Saint Scholastica Convent, the retirement center for our sisters.
Marlene participated in a year-long residency program at Abbot Northwestern and Children’s Medical Center in Minneapolis for certification as a clinical pastoral counselor. This experience further honed her skills for sensitively being with others on their life journey. In addition, S. Marlene earned a master’s in pastoral ministry at St. Mary’s University, Winona, Minn.
Her talents and educational expertise combined with years of serving others prepared her for pastoral ministry at St. Peter’s Parish in North St. Paul, Minn., and St. Mary Help of Christians in St. Augusta, Minn. Everywhere she served, S. Marlene made lifelong friends.
When asked on the entrance application why she wanted to become a Benedictine sister, S. Marlene wrote, “Because I want to do what God chooses.” This single sentence by a faith-filled young woman reveals her lifelong desire to seek God.
Marlene has embraced Benedictine life with a profound love for God and given herself generously and graciously to serving God’s people. For 60 years of “being a blessing in our midst,” we are deeply grateful.
Profile written by Michaela Hedican, OSB
Mary (DeLourdes) Schumer, OSB
When the Minnesota Twins play, Sister Mary Schumer keeps her eyes on the ball. If they only knew she’d be their best player in the outfield. Mary, quite reserved, prefers to observe from a distance while taking full responsibility for the task at hand. A ball in the air would soon be a secure catch in her mitt. Mary learned responsibility early in her family’s life.
Mary Schumer arrived on August 15, 1941, at the St. Cloud Hospital, the third of 12 children born to John and Martha (Justin) Schumer. Mary writes, “Ora et Labora—yes, there was plenty of both growing up in a large family on a farm in St. Stephen. It seemed a good preparation for Benedictine living.”
Mary attended grades 1–8 in St. Stephen Public School, St. Stephen, Minn., grades 9–12 in Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, Minn., college at the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., and various workshops and events throughout the years.
Mary writes, “From very young on, I wanted to be a sister and teacher. As I observed sisters at CHS, I saw happy, kind and professional women. That example helped me choose which community I wanted to be a part of.” Her desire for teaching was realized when she was sent to teach primary grades in St. Cloud (St. Mary’s and Sts. Peter, Paul and Michael) and Long Prairie in Minn.; St. Paul’s in Anaconda, Mont.; Recife, Brazil; and Pine Apple, Ala. Mary writes, “I
enjoyed all my mission experiences. Each gave me opportunities to learn the specific culture (the varied cultures of Montana miners; the black population in Alabama; the Brasilian [sic] people living in poverty) no matter their location. Good friends were made in each place.”
It was in Anaconda where I first met and lived with Mary. In the years I worked with her in Anaconda and later in the monastery, I learned that Mary was an excellent teacher—children and parents loved her; she is a dear friend, devoted to her family, a dependable and thoughtful listener, and an exceptional proclaimer of the WORD. She has a great sense of humor and loves her community. She is a prolific reader, a meticulous sacristan, reliable, kind, caring, and one who continues to work in a computer program that now and then puzzles and frustrates her. She is patient and long-suffering. People who know Mary will know that these are just a few of her many good qualities. Mary says, “Perhaps my love of travel and visiting new places/people was awakened when my obedience took me to Anaconda. I fell in love with the mountains, and years later when in Brazil, I so appreciated the daily views of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Mary mentioned two challenges she remembers. One was “beginning teaching before being fully prepared” and the second was “studying the Brazilian Portuguese language in Brasilia.” I recall another challenge she encountered in September 2010 while on the Tribal Lands of the Haulapae (Wal-lah-pie) Indians. Unaware of her fear of heights, we were about to begin our walk on the glass horseshoe-shaped Skywalk jutting out 70 feet above the Grand Canyon’s huge boulders and jagged peaks. Mary can tell you what happened next better than I, though I will tell you we are still alive.
Lyle Jacobson, a scout for big game hunters, would drive several of us on a Saturday into the mountains in his jeep while looking for game. It was breathtaking to see thousands of mule deer feeding on a mountain side, white mountain sheep darting from rock to rock, or a huge moose staring back at us from a wooded area. Majestic mountains surrounded us. Mary said she has “always been awed by nature and the natural wonders of the world from seeing deer in a field to driving through Yosemite Park; from a spectacular sunset or sunrise to the mind boggling wonders of the vast universe; from learning how cashews grow in João Pessoa, Brazil, and to simply enjoying soft snowflakes falling in St. Joseph.”
Profile written by Ann Machtemes, OSB
Moira (Mary Susan) Wild, OSB
Sister Moira Wild was born and raised on a farm near Langdon, N.D., a city located in the northeastern part of the state. She is the youngest of eight children—four daughters and four sons—born to Ted and Billie Wild. S. Moira credits her older siblings as strong role models who guided her in her younger years to make good choices and good decisions.
How did S. Moira get from her home in northeastern North Dakota to the Benedictine sisters in Central Minnesota? Her older sister, Joyce, studied at and graduated from the College of Saint Benedict. S. Moira followed in her footsteps, arriving at CSB in fall 1957, and graduating in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in home economics.
Moira has said that coming to know the Benedictine sisters both in the classroom and in the residence area during her college years “claimed her heart,” drawing her to monastic life. This she did, joining the community after her sophomore year in college and making her first monastic profession in 1961.
Moira’s service in community over her 60 years has been threefold. Her first 10 years were spent in education at St. Boniface High School in Cold Spring, Minn., and at St. Benedict’s High School in St. Joseph, Minn., where she taught home economics and served as principal. Then for about 20 years, she served the monastic community as assistant director of finance, and later as director. She found this responsibility of overseeing and managing monastery funds and property both challenging and rewarding, and she came to know and appreciate the monastic community from a totally different vantage point.
The third service area of S. Moira has been her involvement with the Haehn Museum in our Art and Heritage Place. As assistant and then director, her responsibilities include receiving, cataloging, housing and caring for artifacts in the museum’s collection. These artifacts, now numbering over 8,000 items, are received from community members, friends and relatives of the sisters or total strangers who may just have come upon them. Another major responsibility is planning, preparing and mounting a yearly exhibit for the museum. Each exhibit features some aspect of our community’s heritage over its 160 years, including, for example, our ministry among Native Americans, the celebration of our 150th anniversary of presence in Minnesota, the founding of the College of Saint Benedict, our missionary work in China, and the wonderful history of Sacred Heart Chapel.
Moira would be the first to claim that all her ministries were both challenging and satisfying. Her gratitude for 60 years is profound, and she readily acknowledges that all her areas of service have contributed to her deep love for her monastic vocation.
Profile written by Dolores Super, OSB
Mary Jane (Georgene) Cournoyer, OSB
Born a twin, but never to be duplicated, Sister Mary Jane has always enjoyed a good laugh. Known to be a trickster, her colleagues quickly realized that this sparkling brown-eyed sister could manage a class with energy, great teaching methods and care for all.
Chippewa Falls, Wis., was her early home, but when she was 10 years old, S. Mary Jane and her six brothers and sisters moved with their parents down the river to Eau Claire, Wis. Her grade and high school education all happened at St. Patrick’s School, with Benedictine sisters teaching in most classes. When the stirrings of the Holy Spirit began prodding S. Mary Jane to seek religious life, she did not follow her three aunties to a Notre Dame convent; instead, she joined the Benedictine Sisters here in St. Joseph, Minn.
In 1948, together with 82 other Benedictine sisters, she returned to Wisconsin to found Saint Bede Monastery in Eau Claire. She was in the first class to pronounce her perpetual monastic profession there. That was 75 years ago!
Sister Mary Jane taught in parish grade schools in Wisconsin for 45 years, having received her B.S. degree from St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minn., and M.A. degrees from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn. Yet, nothing could have prepared her or the other parishioners at St. Patrick’s Parish in Onalaska, Wis., for February 7, 1985, when her friend, Fr. John Rossiter, who was the pastor there, along with the deacon and custodian, were shot and killed in church right after the morning Mass. She and the other sisters, faculty members and parishioners walked the long road of shock and grief together. A deep concern for untreated mental illness and gun control has long lived on with all the witnesses of that tragedy.
Sister’s next full-time career was 16 years as chaplain, confidante, grief counselor, chair arranger, wheelchair pusher and “fun raiser” at Oakwood Villa Nursing Home in Altoona, Wis. With over 90 residents and no designated chapel at first, her creativity and muscles had to work rapidly to accomplish her job! She proved a valuable consultant when the beautiful and spacious chapel was built at the facility later. Since the nursing home was some 10 miles from the monastery where she resided, winter driving and deer were often a challenge. Even if death came for a resident before or after hours, S. Mary Jane was known to brave the darkness in order to bring comfort to others.
Though she is no longer running wheelchair races, she has, until recently, logged many miles as the motor for the wheelchairs of others at Saint Scholastica Convent since coming back to Minnesota in 2010.
Mary Jane celebrates 75 years of faithfully living Benedictine life. We salute her with a raw onion sandwich and a cup of coffee…make that a very hot cup of coffee.
Profile written by Judy Kramer, OSB
In loving memory of our jubilarians who preceded us into eternal life. May they rest in peace.
Class of 1946
Ancille (Mary Louise) Vertin, OSB
Anne Louise (Mary) Dolan, OSB
Anrico (Rita) Stang, OSB
Carmen (Mary) Mulcahy, OSB
Constette (Alida) LeFevere, OSB
Dalene (Marie) Schindler, OSB
Elouise (Cecilia) Kucera, OSB
Evin (Josephine) Rademacher, OSB
Gregor (Doris) Bergerson, OSB
Innocent (Agnes) Preusser, OSB
Jeanice (Bernice) Janski, OSB
Jeannette Klassen, OSB
Joanne (Ethel) Muggli, OSB
Lorraine Klein, OSB
Mary Schneider, OSB
Mary (Dominic Loretta) Eickhoff, OSB
Romaine (LaVera) Theisen, OSB
Class of 1961
Adelyne Imperatore, OSB
Fidelis (Otilia) Hackert, OSB
Dominica (Carol) Freund, OSB
Barbara (Irene) Kort, OSB
Renee (Genesia) Rau, OSB