Benedictines hope capital campaign spreads ‘Light of Christ’ to others

| Susan Klemond For The Catholic Spirit | October 11, 2010 | 0 Comments

Participants in the iLLUMINARE program gather in small groups Oct. 8 to talk about journals they have been keeping. From left, they are Carol Witry, from the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Carole Zempel from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Franciscan Sister Lois Erpeldin from the Diocese of Winona, Kay Osborne from the Diocese of New Ulm, and Celeste Egger from the Diocese of Des Moines. The program, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Paul’s Monastery, provides experienced church ministers with advanced ongoing formation that nourishes their commitment to their ministry. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Streetlights at the intersection of Lar­penteur and Century avenues in Maple­wood ensure that bus riders aren’t waiting there in the dark. But a different kind of light emanates from St. Paul’s Monas­tery located near the northwest corner.

The Benedictine sisters at the monas­tery have sought to illuminate the area with Christ’s light, through their ministry work and by opening the property to those with physical and spiritual needs.

“When we finally realized all the people that we have on campus now, one of the sisters said we’re sort of a light on the corner,” said Benedictine Sister Lucia Schwic­kerath, the community’s prioress.

Hoping to make their metaphorical light shine brighter, the sisters are seeking support for their work serving the church and the poor, as well as for their own long-term needs with a three-year capital campaign called “Celebrate the Light,” which they will launch on Oct. 18 with an event at the monastery.

Supporting work, elderly

Nearly half the campaign’s goal of $5.45 million will support not only the sisters’ work but also help them provide health care and other needs for their elderly sisters, Sister Lucia said. The remaining $3 million will go toward a long-term monastery maintenance fund and an endowment fund for the ministries of the 48-member community.

This fundraising campaign is the first the sisters have undertaken for their ministry work and their own needs since the community began in the Twin Cities in 1948, Sister Lucia said.

“It will mean that our ministries will not only be able to maintain the good work they are doing but they will be able to be more effective,” Sister Lucia said. “They will be able to touch more people. They will be able to grow.”

The sisters are seeking support for their work in parishes, health care, childcare and social justice, as well as in the monastery’s three key faith-related outreaches, she said.

Their Benedictine Center, located within the monastery, offers space for retreats and reflection. The sisters’ iLLUMINARE ministry offers spiritual and pastoral development and renewal for experienced lay ministers. In the community’s Ministry of Mothers Sharing, women receive spiritual support and prayer as they develop skills to communicate and pray with their families.

Early in 2008, the sisters moved into a new, smaller monastery after selling their old one to Tubman, which assists women, children and families in crisis. They also sold a portion of their land to CommonBond Communities, a nonprofit affordable housing provider.

Some of the sisters continue to reach out to their new neighbors in the 48 CommonBond townhouses and Tubman facility, Sister Lucia said. This fall, a new 40-unit CommonBond senior apartment building is also scheduled to open there.

“We’re thinking that just our presence here is not only the influence we have because we pray for our neighbors three times a day, but also the availability of our worship space and our sisters’ wisdom and compassion,” Sister Lucia said.

Going where needed

The fact that sisters now work more in ministry than in teaching and nursing reflects their efforts to go where they are needed, Sister Lucia said.

The sisters also hope the campaign attracts young women to the sisters’ life and work, and they consider joining the community, she said.

Supporting the sisters’ work will especially help women and children in need, said former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer. Latimer is serving as an honorary chair for the campaign along with Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, former Hill Murray High School principal and band director

Frank Asenbrenner, and Benedictine Abbot John Klassen of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.

“The work [the sisters] do is so selfless and so effective and really affecting a large number of people,” said Latimer, a parishioner at St. Stanislaus in St. Paul.

“Really, the light is on other people,” Sister Lucia said. “The focus is on our ministries and those people that can be helped by that and also on the sisters and on our own needs.”

For more information about the Benedictine sisters and the Celebrate the Light campaign, contact John Joslin or Harriet Rydel at (651) 777-8181.

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Category: Local News, Spotlight