Sisters’ Words of Wisdom: Sister Monica Raway, OSB

Sister Monica rolls up her sleeves and jumps right into her head laundress job at St. Paul’s Monastery, 1964.

Sister Monica Raway, OSB, jokes and laughs easily as she talks about her life and what her roles have been in Community. “I am a jack of all trades,” she says with a laugh. When asked what this means she mentions that she has worked in housekeeping as head laundress, as a cook, and even spent some time as the official chauffeur for the Monastery. When asked if she was a good driver, she just says “of course” as if she does everything well.

It is not hard to believe that Sister Monica has enjoyed and been good at many things throughout her life in Community at St. Paul’s Monastery. She entered Community at age 26 and made her first Profession on July 11, 1954. She said that she thought about religious life for quite some time and for many years she thought, “I did not think that I could do the work.” Ultimately, she felt the call from God and listened to that call. Community was the right decision for her, she recalls.

Throughout her life, and especially in Community, her ability to connect with others and make others feel special means she has made many friends and always leaves an impression.

Sister Monica loves to spend time with human and canine. Here, Julianna Sandin and her dog, Harper Lee, enjoy an afternoon together. At one point Sister Monica said she was afraid of dogs. Julianna and sweet Harper Lee helped her with that fear.

Julianna Sandin, close friend to Sister Monica and volunteer at the Monastery, recalls how she met her and the time they have spent together since. "Sister Monica came to my art class at the Monastery and informed me that she was not artistic and couldn't paint or do anything creative. She sat and just watched at first, but then started participating. She grew to be my most loyal follower and budding artist! She always has a funny joke to open a conversation, a smile, and a kind word to say about everyone. She always gave sound advice, thoughtful insight, and over the years we became close friends. She is an inspiration to me, and makes me want to be a better person."

Sister Monica was born Mary Ellen Raway on November 26, 1925. She grew up in Miesville, MN, a small town just south of Hastings. Her father, Louis, was a farmer. Her mother, Barbara Raway, encouraged Mary Ellen to help her father and brothers in the field. She likely learned her work ethic from those early days. When asked what her parents thought about her entering religious life, “they were very happy for me.”

After many years of working, now in retirement, Sister Monica stays busy with reading, writing letters, playing bingo, and praying. It is her prayers that keeps her going now as she continues to quarantine during COVID-19. She says, “Psalm 25:4 speaks to my heart and I speak it often throughout the day when I feel I need to grow closer to God: 'Make me to know thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths' (RSVCE). It is a true inspiration to me." She encourages others to find what truly inspires them. Especially in the pandemic, she encourages people to find connection in whatever way possible – “prayer, letter writing, and phone calls” are so valuable she says. And, without pause, she adds, “please pray for us!”