By Sister Denise Schonhardt, OSB
Sister Lenore Paschke became prioress in August 2005. During Sister Lenore’s term, the Benedictine Sisters dealt with issues regarding the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours book, land stewardship, a study of the use and future of Marian Hall, master and strategic planning, and ongoing formation.
The sisters determined that the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) books needed updating. The sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours three times daily. The community invited an Old Testament expert to speak to them on the psalmody. Input the sisters received helped them appoint a committee led by Sister Anne DeMers to develop a new Liturgy of the Hours book. The committee took more than three years to complete the project.
Saint Benedict states in the Rule of Benedict that the goods of the monastery are to be treated as the sacred vessels of the altar. With this in mind, the sisters from the beginning engaged in organic gardening rather than using chemical pesticides and fertilizer. Examples of this included growing buckwheat and then plowing it under to fertilize the land, using ladybugs to rid the garden of aphids, and utilizing diatomaceous earth to clear the garden of pests. With increasing awareness of environmental issues, the sisters approved a statement on the environment titled “On Holy Ground: Statement of Land Use.”
Care of the goods of the monastery also extended to the use and future of Marian Hall. Marian Hall was a large four-story building constructed in 1960-1963 as a residence for high school girls. After Mount Saint Benedict Academy closed in 1982, retreatants, participants of programs such as Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) along with other groups like quilters and spinners, used the building. Sisters also lived in part of the building. Eventually, the building was too large for the sisters’ residence, and the sisters no longer had the resources to host programs. Closing the fourth floor led to closing all programs held there. The sisters tried selling the building; they even tried giving it away, but no one wanted it.
Realizing they needed the help of people with more expertise, the sisters engaged laymen and women in a Master Planning Committee. The committee made recommendations to the sisters and led them to consider a wider range of planning than property and buildings.
In addition to giving attention to temporal goods, the sisters initiated a Benedictine Renewal program. They invited others from Benedictine communities from across the nation to participate. Some of the best scholars in the Benedictine world gave presentations on a variety of monastic topics. Sisters came from such places as New Jersey, Texas, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
Another event happened closer to home. Since 1976 the sisters had operated a dental clinic in Warren with Sister Anita Whalen as the dentist. After more than 30 years, Sister Anita knew it was time to retire and the dental practice was assumed by another entity. Other projects undertaken included the construction of Subiaco – a hermitage for the use of the sisters and other people seeking solitude – Wi-Fi installed in Marian Hall, and inclusion of daily prayer for the parishes of the diocese.
After Sister Lenore’s term ended, Sister Jennifer Kerhwald started a new current in the stream of the history of the Sisters of Saint Benedict.