The original convent for the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, across the square in San Antonio, was built to be a hotel. It was a large three story frame building. Early on the townsfolk didn’t want a hotel because of the “kind of people” it might draw. So when the Sisters came in 1889 it was given to them to be their convent and boarding academy.
In 1911 when we acquired property in the town of St. Leo, the Sisters didn’t have money to build so they decided to move the building the half mile uphill. Most said it couldn’t be done. Mother Rose Marie, a woman of small stature but great determination, proved them wrong. She hired a minister from Tampa who worked in construction during the week to accomplish the move.
The building was raised up on log rollers; they encircled the house with a steel cable, and with a winch and two oxen circling a dead-man timber buried 50 feet ahead of the house, it inched forward. They could only do one setting a day. It took six summer weeks to complete the move — and the best part is — the Sisters and students lived in it while the house was being moved!
See the nun in the Model T? That’s Mother Rose Marie. She was the first woman in Pasco County to have a driver’s license!
The original Monastery was built in 1889. Made of wood, it served us well for seventy years. It was condemned in the late 1950’s so the students and Sisters moved in with local families while our second home was constructed. That edifice was first occupied in 1960 by the Sisters and their Holy Name Academy students.
In the years to come, the academy’s student body became too small to be feasible and after Vatican II many religious left their Communities. The Benedictine Sisters’ three story old building became a financial and logistical challenge. After five-years of prayer and strategic planning, the Sisters decided to build in 2012 a smaller, more appropriate monastery for their needs. They excitedly moved into their current home (pictured below)on August 17, 2014.
Although our founding Sisters’ great legacy in Florida is education, our journey in the years that followed is a continuous one of listening and responding to the community and its needs, adapting accordingly and growing.
The Sisters came to this area to “begin a great work” of staffing a Catholic educational center. Our history attests to our commitment to this work. We operated Holy Name Academy from 1889 until its closing in 1964 and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School for Boys from 1929 to 1959.
We administered and staffed parochial and public schools in our neighboring area (San Antonio and St. Joseph, Florida) as well as mission schools throughout the state of Florida (Ocala, Sarasota, Venice, Jacksonville Beach, North Miami) and even in Texas and Louisiana. The Benedictine Sisters of Florida conducted summer catechetical programs and taught weekend religion classes in many of the nearby smaller parishes and in the schools they staffed.
Our current educational ministries range from St. Anthony Interparochial School to Saint Leo University, from teaching the three R’s to counseling and giving spiritual direction. Community and Hospitality are among other Benedictine values we share.
Saint Benedict and his twin sister Scholastica were born in 480. In times not unlike our own, groups struggled for power and were at odds with each other. The feeling of alienation and inability to change things prevailed. Benedict offered an alternative: a community of faith to bond rich and poor, educated and ignorant, young and old–where people could be a family, work together, and seek God through prayer and ministry–where the love of Christ would be preferred to all else.
Fifteen hundred years have time-tested Benedict’s vision and have brought countless ordinary people to holiness. Today those who live in a community under the Rule of Benedict share his vision and continue to experience and respond to the transforming presence of God.
In Benedictine Christian community all sorts of persons come together in a noncompetitive, nonviolent society to share gifts and decision making, to support and encourage, to give service for the common good. Community is a gift of God and a task. Each member strives to be open to the Spirit who makes us into a community of love by remembering we are Christ’s. We spend time and energy to nurture and build community among ourselves. We plant the spirit of community wherever we may serve — in the classroom, the parish, the local Church and throughout society.
Today is a time not unlike that of Benedict and Scholastica. There are still power struggles, violence, mistrust, alienation and hopelessness. We live out Benedict’s vision; we offer the alternative of a faith community where people can be a family, work together and seek God through prayer and ministry–where the love of Christ lives.