Sisters' Words of Wisdom: Sister Benita Gerald, OSB
If you see Sister Benita Gerald at the Monastery you will likely see her reading or exploring something. She has always been known as someone who seeks more learning and knowledge. Her friend, Ruth Kinney, calls her “the seeker.” At Monastery events, Ruth would notice Sister Benita “was there with her notebook writing down things.”
Sister Benita’s life of exploring led her to a career in dietetics and nutrition. She received a degree in dietetics from the University of Minnesota, Crookston. On this day, when I ask her why she chose to learn dietetics, her simple answer is “I just wanted to explore.”
Sister Benita was born and raised in St. Benedict, MN, a small community south and west of the Twin Cities near New Prague. Her father, Egon, was a farmer and her mother, Agatha, stayed home with her and her four siblings – Anyce, Mercedes, Celine, and Dennis.
But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29 (RSVCE)
Sister Benita has many fond memories of her childhood. She recalls climbing trees and playing with her best friend and sister, Celine. She tells one story of climbing trees and how she got all the way to the top. Sister Lucia, who is also in the room when doing this interview with Sister Benita, asks her, “what then?” as if Sister Benita may remember another memory and tell more of her childhood.
Sister Benita looked up at her and said in her unique sense of humor, “I climbed down.”
This summer was a special summer for Sister Benita. On July 10, she celebrated 70 years of vowed monastic life with her 70th Jubilee. As part of the weekend, Sister Benita celebrated with family and friends. In her curious way, she loved playing cards and games with them. About the Jubilee, she says “it was a special time.”
In her Monastic life, Sister Benita has had many roles, including cook. The Benedictine Center staff gave her the nickname of “Cookie Lady” as she would always bring around trays of cookies. “I loved being the cook and making food for others,” said Sister Benita. One story that is told is about her changing the food and stripping out a lot of the sugar from recipes when some of the Sisters were doing Weight Watchers. Sister Benita loved changing things up and being curious even with the food.
Sister Benita’s wisdom to us all this month is to stay curious, keep exploring, and seek the “Lord with all your heart” in everything you do.