Mother Willibalda (Franziska) Scherbauer was born in 1828 in the secularized Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter in Kastl, Bavaria. At an early age, Franziska was sent to the Benedictine school in Eichstätt, Bavaria. When she was 13, she received a five-year scholarship to the Royal Institute in Altötting from King Ludwig for producing the most artistic work in drawing and embroidery. Besides her talent in the arts, she excelled in vocal and instrumental music.
On December 17, 1849, Franziska entered St. Walburg Convent in Eichstätt. In May 1850, she became a novice and received the name Willibalda. She professed her vows on November 13, 1851, and four years later, she volunteered to join the two groups of Benedictine nuns from St. Walburg who had gone to the United States in 1852 and 1854 to establish the first community of Benedictine women in North America at St. Marys, Pa.
In 1857, Mother Benedicta Riepp of St. Joseph Convent, St. Marys, appointed M. Willibalda as superior of a group being sent to establish a new convent in St. Cloud, Minn. For 11 years, she guided this small community until she was deposed in July 1868 by the newly elected Minnesota abbot, Father Rupert Seidenbusch. After her deposition, she obtained permission to transfer to another Benedictine convent. For three years, she spent some time in Shakopee, Minn., Chicago, and Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, she returned to St. Joseph in 1871.
During the following year, M. Willibalda was sent to open a school in New Trier, Minn., where during the next five years, she attempted to establish an independent convent. The attempt failed because the bishop of St. Paul did not approve of opening another motherhouse in his diocese. On October 18, 1877, she returned to Saint Benedict’s Convent and spent the next 25 years as an organist and music teacher in Minnesota parishes in New Munich, Pierz, Chanhassen, and St. Joseph. She died on February 12, 1914.
During her years as the first prioress of St. Benedict’s Convent*, M. Willibalda was firm in her attention to the community’s observance of the Rule of Benedict and was much loved by the sisters. It was said of her that she was gifted with a kind heart and a tenacious will.
*Our community was named Saint Benedict’s Convent until 1996 when it was formally changed to Saint Benedict’s Monastery.