As the Sisters of St. Benedict have so much wisdom and inspiration to share with us, St. Paul’s Monastery monthly newsletter will include a new series that allows us to learn more about each Sister. In addition, this series allows the Sisters to share with us their wealth of spirit, kindness, love, and wisdom that each embodies from their years in the “school for the Lord’s service” (Rule of Benedict, Prologue).
I came to St. Paul’s Monastery in spring 2014 as a job applicant. Sister Lucia Schwickerath was serving her last months as Prioress, and she attended my second interview. Sister Lucia impressed me with her kind and compassionate demeanor. I left the interview thinking that whether or not I got the job, I was happy just to have met Sister Lucia.
I recently spoke with Sister Lucia, who currently serves as the Monastery’s Healthcare liaison. Anyone who knows Sister Lucia also knows that the Monastery Healthcare Sisters and staff could not be in better hands. I’m not sure what job you could give Sister Lucia that she couldn’t do. Again, if you know her, you know that she would make a joke about all of these positive comments. But you also know that everything I’ve said is true.
Sister Lucia grew up as Marie Catherine Patricia Schwickerath; the third oldest daughter of seven children born to farmers Herman and Katie in New Hampton, Iowa, “straight South of St. Paul.”
As a sixth-grader, Sister Lucia overheard a high school senior talking about working for the FBI, and the idea piqued her interest. As a high school senior, Sister Lucia was hired by the FBI to work as a stenographer in Washington D.C. At this point in her life, Marie “got serious about ‘how do I want to spend the rest of my life, to make it worthwhile?’ And the answer for me was to pursue the possibility of vowed religious life in service to God and all people.
“I joined a group of other young women in D.C. also considering a religious vocation. Once a month, we visited nearby communities, and I found that the Benedictines seemed to best fit my style of life. In the spring of 1957, I received guidance from an Elizabeth, New Jersey, Benedictine Sister to contact the new St. Paul’s Priory in St. Paul, Minnesota. I arrived there on September 8, 1957, as an aspirant and continued through the postulancy and novitiate, making my first profession in the St. Paul Cathedral on the Feast of St. Benedict, July 11, 1959.
“In our Community, it is important that we professionally prepare for our ministry. As my ministry was in music and teaching, I completed a double-major B.A. in Music and Education at St. Catherine’s College and later an M.A. in Sacred Music and Liturgy from DePaul University in Chicago and St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Indiana.”
When she began her ministry at St. Boniface Parish (which merged to become St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Parish) in Hastings, Minnesota, Sister Lucia was the school music teacher, church organist and, in her spare time, taught 53 piano and organ students each week. Sister Lucia said, “It never seemed like work because I found such joy in it!
In addition to serving the Community as Novice Director, Liturgist/Musician, and Development Director, Sister Lucia was Prioress of St. Paul’s Monastery from 2009-14. From 2016-20, she served as the Pastoral Care Coordinator at St. Therese of Woodbury.
About her current ministry in the Monastery Healthcare Center, Sister Lucia says “My preparation is not medical, but I have a desire to heal the heart. I think I have that desire because I’ve known what it is like to experience isolation, loneliness and fear. To be vulnerable is very humbling and it gives you an instinct for how to reach others in that state. My current calling allows me to extend my concern and love for others.
“I have always had a heart for those who were sick, less fortunate, or just brought low in some way. Though I never found an opportunity to work with the very poor, I know what it’s like to be sick, and when I’m sick I feel very poor. I long to be there for anyone who feels that way. Right now, so many are experiencing loneliness and isolation. Something I’ve found that cures my loneliness is to reach out to someone else who may also be lonely. Then I’m not lonely any longer and neither are they!
“I find happiness by making others happy; but I find contentment in receiving kindness and compassion from others. That gives me strength and builds me up! We all know how important it is to give. But at this time in my life, I realize how important it is to receive. We can’t always just keep giving. We have to get filled up, too!
“Another thing that fills my heart and spirit is God’s love that radiates through creation, which is so beautiful and is calling out to us to experience it. This beauty of creation reflects the beauty within us, and it’s healing to experience such communion between ourselves and God. So, amid all that might be discouraging and frightening right now, there is hope, happiness and healing all around us. All we need do is look for it and receive it from our God of grandeur!”