by Michael Kassner, Oblate
In 2018, the Sisters of St. Paul's Monastery will celebrate seven decades of faith-filled service to the people of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding metro area. During that time, the Sisters — like their community’s namesake: St. Paul — helped individuals and families find God and a better life.
St. Paul’s Summit Avenue
Something important to understand is that when 148 Sisters first moved to St. Paul's Summit Avenue in 1948, the only things they could count on were God and that they had a place — albeit cramped — to stay.
Undaunted, the Sisters hit the ground running: pooling their resources, talents, and faith in God to serve whenever and wherever they were needed. Case in point, it was not uncommon to see the Sisters traveling around the Twin Cities in the only vehicle they owned — a converted hearse — to help staff hospitals, orphanages, and schools.
Not to be, just yet
By 1955, the Sisters' hard work and thriftiness allowed them to purchase land at the intersection of Larpenteur and Century hoping to build their own monastery, as the homes on Summit Avenue were now even-more crowded.
However, that was not to be — at least not yet. There was a need for a Catholic high school for girls, and the Sisters were asked to help fund the building project and locate the school on the land they acquired.
A new home and bell
Remarkably, four years later, the Sisters once again had the funds for their monastery. Ground was broken in 1962, with the Sisters moving in on the first day of 1965. And, for the first time since the Sisters moved to the Twin Cities, they had a bell (a gift from the Credit River parish) not attached to an alarm clock.
A hard look
However unfortunate it may be, by the 1990s religious vocations, including Benedictine Sisters, began to dwindle. Being realists, the Sisters decided to take a long hard look at what they wanted their future to be — in particular, how best to serve the local community going forward.
The Sisters decided to move into a smaller facility, selling their share of Hill-Murray High School to the Hill-Murray Foundation and their original monastery to the Tubman Family Alliance. That meant the Sisters were going to relocate once more.
On February 10th, 2009, the Sisters moved into their current building, and their beloved Monastery bell once again announced the Benedictine Sisters' presence in the community.
Helping people — all people
Laws of nature limit the distance the Sisters’ Monastery bell can be heard. However, those restraints do not apply to the Sisters’ outreach. Through partnership building, skill sharing, and abiding by St. Benedict’s Rule; the Sisters are able to offer assistance to the local community and beyond.
The St. Therese Home is a perfect example of what the Sisters have achieved. Wanting to aid seniors, regardless of their faith, the original St. Therese Home opened in 1968. Today, fifty years later, the parent organization provides senior care and housing at five different locations in the Twin Cities.
Besides assisting the elderly, the Sisters also help women and children caught in situations dealing with violence, substance abuse, and mental-health issues. “In our early days, we became committed to helping women and children who were facing abuse,” mentions Sister Paula Hagen, prioress of St. Paul Monastery. “We now see that commitment being carried out at the Tubman Center.”
Education is important
To be a Benedictine is to seek and cherish knowledge, which, in turn, makes education an important outreach ministry for the Sisters. Besides teaching at various schools since 1948, in 1994 the Sisters reaffirmed their support for community education by opening The Benedictine Center. The center offers adults the opportunity to deepen their relationship with God, to encounter Benedictine spirituality, and to experience the Sisters' hospitality.
Associates and Oblates
As their ministries grow in scope and scale, the Sisters at St. Paul's Monastery are enlisting Associates and Oblates — lay individuals who profess association to the Monastery and Benedictine values — to help with outreach programs as well as internal Monastery business. "We invite people, who want a deeper relation with God through Benedictine spirituality, into formation," mentions Sister Mary Lou Dummer, sub-prioress and director of the oblate program. "We also encourage our Associates and Oblates to get involved in the community's ministries."
The power of prayer
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Paul's Monastery share the joys and suffering of this challenging world right along with the rest of us. "Through our community prayer, we hope to extend faith and hope," explains Sister Paula. “And, in return, we receive the prayers of others whose own values call them to service."
Another hard look
Twenty years later, the Sisters of St. Paul Monastery are taking another hard look at what they need to do to continue their serving. As a community, the Sisters are currently discerning what God sees as their future. Joan Chittister might say it best, “Imagination is learning to see beyond what we have to what could be if we simply rearranged our present resources in other ways.”
With today's advanced digital technology, some may put less stock in the significance of hearing the Monastery's bell several times a day. However, it's likely that many more people, including those who have been helped and those being helped by one or more of the Sisters' outreach ministries, are thankful the bell still rings out, signaling the Sisters are here and, with God's help, ready to assist wherever, whenever, and however possible.