Benedictine Sisters from 17 monasteries across the United States and Mexico gathered at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, from June 15-19 for the Federation of St. Scholastica Chapter. Besides the Sisters conducting their regular meeting, held every four years, to discuss matters of concern, plan for the future, and elect new leaders for this union of autonomous monasteries, they also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Federation’s official approval by the Vatican on February 25, 1922. Sister Eileen Dunbar was the delegate from our community who attended.
Visiting Sisters were greeted at the Sophia Spirituality Center on the Mount St. Scholastica campus with historic displays coordinated by Elaine Nadeau, who serves as archivist for both the Atchison monastery and the Federation. Photos detailed previous Federation chapter gatherings and presidents, along with artifacts collected over the past century.
Postulant Dorothy Herring from Valley Falls, Kansas, who began her formation at Mount St. Scholastica in January 2022, contributed her artistic talents to a series of banners, featuring photos of the many Federation delegates who have served over the decades.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be tasked with such a large project,” Herring said. “Seeing what the women have done in the past 100 years gives me hope for what impact my generation and future generations of women religious will have not only in the Church but in the world.”
To open the Chapter, Sister Esther Fangman, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica, welcomed the Sister-delegates. A ritual followed, where the delegations presented portraits of their respective monastery’s prioress at the time of joining the Federation, and pledged to “welcome the challenges, questions and opportunities of radical hospitality.”
The Sisters at Mount St. Scholastica embodied that radical hospitality, serving at the hospitality desk, washing dishes, preparing meals and a wide variety of home-made snacks for the delegates to enjoy.
“So much as changed in the past 100 years,” said Sister Esther. “Yet, the Benedictine charism continues to thrive because it adapts to the times. Welcoming the delegates to our monastery offered a chance to enrich each other and look toward the future with hope.”
Sister Judith Sutera, OSB, of Mount St. Scholastica, facilitated a discussion on the role of the portress – traditionally, the Sister who greeted monastery guests – in radical hospitality on June 16. Sister Maricarmen Bracamontes, OSB, of Monasterio Pan de Vida, Torreon, Mexico, looked at radical hospitality in the context of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti on June 17.
Delegates also met in the evenings after supper, with Sister Judith Ann Heble, a Benedictine Sister of the Sacred Heart, Lisle, Illinois, speaking June 16 on “Creating a Legacy – One Community,” and Sister Lynn McKenzie, Federation president, giving her address on June 17.
The Federation re-elected Sister Lynn McKenzie of Cullman, Alabama, to serve as president. Sisters Elaine Fischer, Atchison, Kansas (first councilor); Maricarmen Bracamontes, Torreon, Mexico; Kimberly Porter, Covington, Kentucky; and Anne Wambach, Erie, Pennsylvania; were re-elected as councilors. Sister Susan Quaintance, Chicago, Illinois, was elected to a term as councilor, as well. The delegates also voted to change the Federation’s name to the Monastic Congregation of St. Scholastica, to better describe their purpose.
During the Chapter’s closing ritual on Sunday evening, each delegation received a plant and seeds to sow “deep listening and radical hospitality by the mercy and grace of God” upon their return to their respective monasteries.