Congratulations to this year’s jubilarians, who are celebrating 25, 60 and 75 years of monastic life!
Hélène Mercier, OSB
Left to right: Lucy Revering, OSB, Stefanie Weisgram, OSB, Elaine Schroeder, OSB, and Joyce McNerney, OSB
Sandra Fleischhacker, OSB
Hélène Mercier, OSB
When Sister Hélène came to Saint Benedict’s Monastery in August 1995, she came with a rich variety of experiences including a solid introduction to monastic life.
Hélène Louise Mercier was born to Cécile and Jean-Paul Mercier on October 23, 1945, in Montreal, Canada. She grew up in the provinces of New Brunswick and western Quebec. S. Hélène spoke French at home and studied in French until her junior year of high school. Wanting her to have a quality education in both French and English, her parents sent her to boarding schools where she grew to love and appreciate the Ursuline and Congregation of Notre Dame sisters who taught her. The boarding schools she attended felt to her “like a large family.” Her friendship with the Notre Dame sisters remains one of S. Hélène’s greatest blessings to this day.
In 1984, after almost 20 years of working in the business field and as executive director of the Montreal Volunteer Bureau in Montreal, S. Hélène pursued her lifelong dream and entered a small Benedictine priory of men and women in Montreal founded by John Main. In 1987, she made her first vows, and after five years, the women’s community of the priory was dissolved. S. Hélène subsequently pursued a bachelor’s degree in theology at Concordia University while working in the registrar’s office at Marianopolis College, both in Montreal.
In the summer of 1995, S. Hélène returned to actively discerning her monastic calling at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn. She entered initial formation in 1996, made first monastic profession on July 11, 1997, and perpetual monastic profession on July 11, 2000.
Since coming to Saint Benedict’s, S. Hélène has held a variety of positions at the monastery: director of the Spirituality Center (1998–2001); director of oblates (2002–2010); and formation director for sisters in first monastic profession, a position she has held from 2013 to the present time. During these years, she also finished a master’s degree in Christian spirituality with certificates in spiritual direction and monastic studies. In 2012–2013, S. Hélène attended the Institute of Religious Formation in Chicago. She has also been involved in Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and sees persons in spiritual direction.
Coming from a family who served in politics, it is natural for S. Hélène to be keenly interested and up to date in international affairs. She became a United States citizen in 2019.
Of all the highlights she has had over the years, there are three that stand out: In 1982, she attended the canonization of Saint Marguerite Bourgeois (founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame sisters in Canada); as part of a group of exchange monastics, she visited Japan in 2011 and spent three weeks visiting Buddhist monasteries; and, at the invitation of our Sister Baulu Kuan, S. Hélène spent three weeks in China with other U.S. Benedictines in the summer of 2011.
Profile written by Josue Behnen, OSB
Elaine Schroeder, OSB
Sister Elaine thinks of herself as a “meat and potatoes kind of gal”—no frills, no fuss. She is consistent, hardworking and hospitable to her core. The second of 10 children, she grew up on a farm near Richmond, Minn., in a close-knit Catholic family where the love of nature, the importance of hard work, and the enjoyment of music and liturgy were fostered. Like her mother before her, she took piano lessons from Benedictine sisters whose influence (and her own love of liturgy) later led her to monastic life. These seeds of interests and characteristics have been watered and nourished in community life as well, bearing much fruit.
The first 22 years of S. Elaine’s Benedictine life were spent in elementary education as teacher, administrator and musician/liturgist in St. Martin, Albany, Hutchinson and Pierz, all in Minnesota. She was much loved in these roles, bringing joy and energy to the work she did. After her teaching days, S. Elaine came back to the monastery and assisted in liturgy, attended Saint John’s School of Theology, Collegeville, Minn., and became the liturgy director for our community in 1990, a position she still holds. Thanks to countless hours of preparation and attention to detail, the liturgical engine of the monastery has run smoothly and well these past 32 years under her leadership, enriching thousands of people’s lives. Whether it be Liturgy of the Hours or a grand jubilee celebration, you can bet that S. Elaine has had a hand in shaping it.
Though the job is enriching and satisfying for S. Elaine, it is admittedly a relentless one, with three to four liturgies a day. Besides doing behind-the-scenes work, she also leads as cantor or organist. In addition to planning our regular liturgies, she has coordinated the funerals of over 400 of our sisters and assisted the campus ministry department of the College of Saint Benedict.
Including guests in liturgies is something S. Elaine has always encouraged as liturgy director. If you attend Sunday Eucharist with us on a regular basis, S. Elaine has probably asked you about your family, job, where you live, and if you would like to be a lector, cross bearer or communion minister. This is not just a simple volunteer recruitment exercise— she truly cares about our guests, their life stories, and the gifts they have to offer.
Her interest in each person’s uniqueness and building and maintaining relationships is also evident in her family. Even with all her monastery commitments, S. Elaine somehow manages to maintain close bonds with people from multiple generations of family, including with distant relatives in Germany.
Other life-giving activities S. Elaine enjoys are reading, gardening and walking in the monastery woods. Time spent out in nature—especially in the garden—is very rejuvenating for her. It brings her back to her roots (figuratively and literally) and recharges her batteries. The community benefits from this activity as well: the fresh fruits and vegetables (and dill pickles!) regularly make their way to our dinner tables.
Thank you, S. Elaine, our “meat our potatoes (and veggies!) kind of gal.” You have bore much fruit these past 60 years!
Profile written by Janine Mettling, OSB
Joyce McNerney, OSB
Joyce is a cheerful sounding name. It seems with this name, one would be joyful, smiling and pleasant—this describes Sister Joyce McNerney well. The community already had two sisters named Joyce when she came, so she suggested, “Just call me Sister Re-joice!” She loves to play with words like crossword puzzles, scrambled words, crypto-quotes and puns, but she also genuinely enjoys people and conversing with them.
Joyce was born in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri to Robert and Carol McNerney, the second child and only daughter of their four children. The family lived on a small farm and had animals, crops and a garden. She went to grade school at Sacred Heart School taught by Benedictine sisters from Fort Smith, Ark., and then attended high school at St. Scholastica Academy, the sisters’ boarding school, in Fort Smith, graduating in May 1960.
“I was attracted to religious life,” S. Joyce says, “by the goodness and holiness of prayerful women who accepted our high school foibles and still respected us and helped us grow. We saw them praying in chapel, and they seemed to love being with God.”
S. Joyce made monastic profession in 1962, then taught in grade schools in Arkansas and Missouri. While in Missouri, S. Joyce became a founding member of the new Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia, Mo., begun by the Benedictines of Fort Smith.
Later, S. Joyce earned a master’s degree in theology because she wanted to understand more about Vatican II. Scripture and Benedictinism were always high on her need-to-know-more list, and she worked for several years in the Diocesan Office of Religious Education in Jefferson City, Mo.
In 1977, S. Joyce survived a life-altering car accident, sustaining four broken limbs, broken ribs, and broken teeth. Advised against standing for long periods, S. Joyce went into parish religious education work and parish ministry. She always felt close to people in each parish situation. When her newly founded community had been in existence for 10 years, they called S. Joyce to serve in leadership as the second prioress in 1979.
After 21 years of serving in parishes, S. Joyce went to care for her mother, who had just had back surgery, and stayed to help for several years. During this time, her monastery closed, and she needed to find a new home after her mother passed away.
She visited and then lived with the sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and in 2019, she transferred her monastic stability to our community. Here, she works as a receptionist and in mission advancement, where she is often making or receiving phone calls. She has a clear voice, keen hearing, and is pleasant and joy-filled, so these are areas in which she serves her new community well. She reflects, “These 60 years of listening to God’s call have really given me joy.”
Profile written by Patricia Ruether, OSB
Lucy Revering, OSB
Sister Lucy is a woman of many talents and interests which have set the path for a multifaceted life of ministry with a wonderful sense of humor and delightful laugh. She always wanted two things: to be a Benedictine sister and to work in health care. She achieved both.
Born in Millerville, Minn., on July 27, 1942, Beatrice grew up on the family farm with her parents and older brother. She attended St. Mary’s Grade School in Millerville where she was impressed by the Benedictine sisters who taught there. When she decided to enter Saint Benedict’s Monastery after high school, she says she felt certain of her vocation when she overheard sisters laughing and talking down the hallway while awaiting her interview with Mother Richarda Peters, who was prioress at that time. This was the place for her.
S. Lucy made perpetual monastic profession on July 11, 1966, then began to explore and develop her talents and interests. Through the years, she ministered on the missions as a homemaker and in a nursing home as a baker, floor supervisor, nursing assistant and physical therapy aide. These experiences led her to pursue formal education in physical therapy. She completed an associate degree from St. Catherine’s University in 1994, becoming a licensed physical therapist assistant. S. Lucy was instrumental in setting up the physical therapy department at St. Scholastica’s Retirement Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Interest in “mission work” led S. Lucy to Red Lake Indian Mission in northern Minnesota. She has fascinating stories of coordinating the hot lunch program and providing meals for 17 other missionaries who taught and ran the mission. S. Lucy’s signature laughter could often be heard emanating from the mission kitchen. Her stories include experiences of cleaning wildlife when a retired monk presented her with 10 dead ducks needing to be cleaned. Another gem was when a Native American living on the reservation gave S. Lucy a “good deal” on fresh pork. After the farmer shot the pig, she had her first experience of butchering it!
With ministries at the Red Lake Indian Mission and in the culinary arts behind her, S. Lucy ventured south to Minneapolis and joined Sisters Care, a home care ministry where she assisted elders in providing services that allowed them to stay independent and in their own homes. In addition to Sisters Care, she worked for three other home care agencies over the course of 15 years. Getting to know the variety of people she served and their families was an enriching experience for her, and she continues to value friendships made during this ministry.
After a few life-changing experiences, S. Lucy continues her ministry of serving the elders in our monastic community: She executes a variety of ministries for our elder sisters who live at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud. She has not slowed down yet!
S. Lucy continues to live a full, diverse, challenging, stimulating monastic life. We celebrate her and her energizing 60 years of vowed life with us.
Profile written by Shirley Nohner, OSB
Stefanie Weisgram, OSB
At a very young age, Sister Stefanie Weisgram knew she wanted to be a Jesuit like the priests in her home parish. Alas, she didn’t qualify for this vocation.
S. Stefanie calls Mankato, Minn., her hometown. However, her early years and first three years of schooling were in Dickinson, N.D., where the example of Sister Tharsilla Weinans, her first-grade teacher, inspired her desire to become a sister. Coming to Saint Benedict’s Monastery at age 18, S. Stefanie knew she had come home and has never regretted her decision.
After accomplishing a double major in elementary education and English, S. Stefanie taught at St. Mary’s Grade School in St. Cloud, Minn., before moving to Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, and then to Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. During these years, she earned a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and needed to retrain. She chose to pursue a master’s degree in library science.
This led to a 36-year career of library work for the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University as collection development librarian, work she loved and that allowed her the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream: a master’s degree in theology. She also taught theology and transfer symposium at CSB+SJU.
S. Stefanie traveled to Esquipulas, Guatemala, for over 25 years, where she gave her vacation time cataloging books and training and assisting the monastery library staff. She harbors a dream of returning one more time. S. Stefanie also taught sisters in Beijing, China, on two short teaching adventures. As an extracurricular activity, she walked five sections of the Great Wall of China.
Along with her primary responsibilities, S. Stefanie has been a book review editor and a writer of numerous homilies and articles. She has also served in our community archives. In recent years, she delights that she has become a gardener.
After 60 years of monastic profession, she says there is nowhere else she would prefer to live than at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and now at Saint Scholastica Convent, St. Cloud, where she is involved in various responsibilities such as serving as a receptionist. She also continues to read whenever she can.
S. Stefanie appreciates living at Saint Scholastica Convent, especially because she is able to get to know more sisters. She also enjoys many memories, such as those of her 7th and 8th grade students at St. Mary’s who still warm her heart and give her joy.
S. Stefanie admits to holding a soft spot in her heart for the people of Guatemala, for dogs, and for spaghetti. She is grateful for her monastic life and all she has been able to do. We, her sisters, join her in this gratitude…and we are glad she did not become a Jesuit.
Profile written by Mary Reuter, OSB
Sandra Fleischhacker, OSB
Sister Sandra is well known for her joyful spirit and a twinkle in her eye. At a party the year she turned 96, S. Sandra was asked to share some words of wisdom. The words she shared were: “Follow your star, and don’t listen to everybody.” When asked at another time what she does to unwind or relax, her response was walk, read, listen to music—classical and semi-classical, not jazz!
Most people might not know that S. Sandra is a first-generation American born in Tony, Wis., and lived there on a farm until age 11, when her family moved to St. Paul, Minn. She was the third child in her family of four; she had one sister and two brothers. S. Sandra also had three aunts in our community—her father’s sisters and her mother’s sister, a nun in Bavaria.
After her monastic profession in 1947, she worked for 15 years in the radiology department at the St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minn., and for 15 years at St. Benedict’s Hospital in Ogden, Utah. After returning to Saint Benedict’s Monastery, she worked in the monastery’s business office and spent eight years as community secretary. She is now happily retired at Saint Scholastica Convent, our retirement facility in St. Cloud. Utah was her favorite mission, and her most memorable moment was hiking to the top of Ben Lomond in Utah with her family.
In a 2001 article published in Community News, our internal newsletter for sisters, S. Sandra was asked what drew her to the monastery. She stated: “My first response is that I felt I was called to religious life; secondly, I suppose, I was influenced by my three aunts who belonged to this monastery. I chose to stay because the life was suited to my personality. I especially liked and was drawn to the prayer life of psalmody and daily Eucharist (I had attended our local church on a daily basis before I entered the monastery).” What is not included in her quote is that she always looked forward to Centering Prayer weekends.
S. Sandra will turn 99 at the end of this year. It is a joy to visit her. She is still able to enjoy life, and she loves to look out of her window and enjoy the beauty outside and watch the sunset in the evening.
One day, she seemed to have had a preview of heaven. She had an episode in which she was not responding. When she became conscious, she said, “I went home; it was so beautiful.” S. Sandra has enjoyed life on earth and is now looking forward to her joyous heavenly home.
Profile written by Helen Weber, OSB