Sister Katherine Howard was born in La Crosse, Wis., on January 24, 1936. She entered Saint Benedict’s Convent* in St. Joseph, Minn., on December 2, 1956, became a novice on June 18, 1957, made her first profession on July 11, 1958, and her final profession on July 11, 1961.
Prior to her election as the 12th prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in 1981, she served the community as a teacher of Latin and religion at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., and as an instructor of Latin and theology at the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) in St. Joseph. From 1969–1974, she served as director of alumnae relations at CSB, followed by three years as vice president of academic affairs. After her service in the college, she served as subprioress from 1977–1981.
S. Katherine was elected prioress on April 20, 1981, and re-elected for a second term on April 8, 1985. Within months after her election in 1981, implementation of the Sacred Heart Chapel renovation project began with the installation of a construction fence. She embraced the challenge of the radical renovation of Sacred Heart Chapel and successfully led the community through the transitions of theological and liturgical updating, as well as the changes in community living that this project demanded. By the fall of 1983, the Gathering Place as the reception area and main chapel entrance was opened, and the altar was put in place for the dedication of the renovated Sacred Heart Chapel on October 24.
Under S. Katherine’s leadership, the community continued to reach out to its missions abroad. A new convent was built and blessed in Japan, and the community there was granted independence in 1985. Independence was also granted to the community in Taiwan three years later. During the period from 1982–1989, four more sisters were missioned to Recife, Brazil, and a sister was sent to teach at a seminary in Thailand.
Social justice initiatives were also implemented under S. Katherine’s guidance. Saint Benedict’s was declared a nuclear-free zone in 1984 and offered as a public sanctuary to Central American refugees in 1987. More locally, space was set aside in the St. Joseph Carpenter Shop for the parish food shelf.
A year before the end of S. Katherine’s second term, an addition was built to St. Scholastica Convent which housed Louise Hall, a new chapel, and a new main entrance.
When S. Katherine finished her years as prioress, she spent nine months at Osage Monastery, Sand Springs, Okla., for study and renewal. Since that time, she has served as the executive secretary of the board for Monastic Interreligious Dialogue and as novice director for the Benedictine community. Currently, she serves as a spiritual director at the Spirituality Center.
*Our community was named Saint Benedict’s Convent until 1996 when it was formally changed to Saint Benedict’s Monastery.