Sister Ephrem’s community knows her as a woman passionate about and faithful to Benedictine common life: shared prayer, the common table, work, and leisure. We experience her as a good listener, compassionate, warmly human, and observant. We marvel at her historian’s ability to recall events and dates long past and in detail.
S. Ephrem (Rita) Hollermann was born in Melrose, Minn., on July 13, 1942, the fourth of Henry and Eleanor (Wiener) Hollermann’s five children. She entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery in September 1961 and made final profession on July 11, 1967. From 1964–1976, she taught junior high English and religion in several diocesan schools. Thereafter, she served as the community’s director of novices and the initial formation program for seven years.
In 1991, S. Ephrem received a doctorate in historical theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. She then began teaching at the College of Saint Benedict, expecting this to be her last full-time assignment. However, in 1995, the community elected her as their 14th prioress. During her two terms, she presented frequent conferences on the scriptural and monastic foundations of Benedictine life. In addition, she often served as presenter, retreat director, federation delegate, and visitator for other Benedictine women’s monasteries. Never eager for travel, she visited Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Italy, Germany, Taiwan, and Japan in her role as prioress.
After 10 years as prioress and following a sabbatical year, S. Ephrem returned to the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University as an associate professor of theology from 2006 until her retirement from the classroom in 2014.
In 1994, S. Ephrem’s doctoral dissertation, The Reshaping of a Tradition: American Benedictine Women, 1852–1881, was published by St. Mary’s Press, Winona, Minn. In it, she explored the 19th century founding experience of Benedictine women in the United States. In recognition of her many contributions to the understanding and vitality of monastic life and history, she received the Egregia Award from the American Benedictine Academy in 2016.
Continuing her passion for the Benedictine legacy, S. Ephrem accepted a commission from the Federation of St. Scholastica to write the history of the first Benedictine women’s monastery in the United States at St. Marys, Pa., from which Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn., was founded in 1857. Her book, Like a Mustard Seed: A History of the First Benedictine Women’s Monastery in North America, was published in 2022. In her own words, “…the full story of American Catholicism will not be known until the stories of women religious have been lifted out of the shadows of mainstream history into their rightful place as stalwart shapers of an American Catholic identity and ethos.”
Profile written by Delores Dufner, OSB