The celebration of the Priory’s beginnings in St. Paul doesn’t just celebrate the building, but the people who were involved. Nine young women also began their studies and commitment to becoming Benedictine nuns. One of these was Mary Louise Inhofer who is now the librarian at the Monastery.
Please take a moment to enjoy her experiences upon first entering the Priory in 1948.
I arrived after supper on September 7, and joined eight other girls. The nine of us shared the large room on the third floor of the building along with three Sisters who occupied the two smaller rooms. Imagine! twelve women sharing one bathroom. It was quite an experience! Each of us had a bed, a chair, and an orange crate ‘dresser’ until proper ones could be purchased. I never got really homesick, but I did feel lonely at times. Many Sunday afternoons I sat in the dormer window area just watching the activities on Summit Avenue and thinking about what I might be doing if…
Now for the daily life; up very early, prayers and Mass in chapel; breakfast, wash the dishes (in silence, can you imagine? but with plenty of giggles). We filled the days working in the kitchen, cleaning, laundry, and anything else that needed doing. We took turns scrubbing the kitchen/baking a cake for Sunday supper. Actually, I think the Sisters didn’t quite know what to do with us. We also had classes where we learned how to pray the Divine Office as it was called in those days. Every morning at about 10:00am and afternoon around 3:00pm we met for coffee and homemade brown bread (wonderful) with tomato jam (ugh!).
We gradually settled in and as soon as school started (three of us to the Diocesan Teachers College or DTC as it was called, and five to Visitation High School) we had plenty to do. We studied and recreated in a large room under the chapel. We had many good times together and friendships developed as we gradually acclimated to our new lives.
Two more joined us and on December 8, six of us became Postulants. I remember the day well because I choked on a piece of chocolate-filled vanilla cream! We then wore a black cape over our black and white uniforms, received a copy of The Rule of St. Benedict (which I still have) and began preparing for the day when we would become novices. We had classes on The Rule with Mother Loraine and a class with Father Gerald O’Keefe. We also learned how to make our own work habits.
When we returned after Christmas we moved into St. Peter’s Hall, the old carriage house, which had been renovated into living quarters with a dormitory and bathroom on second floor and study/recreation room on first floor.
Life was still full of mysteries as we prepared to begin the next phase of our journey to full membership as a Benedictine Sister. They were good days.
We received the habit on June 13, 1949, and I became Sister Louise. Life went on in the Novitiate as we continued to prepare for the future. We made First Vows on July 11, 1950, and Final Vows on July 11, 1953, and I’m the only one still here to tell you about it.