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Monastery of St. Gertrude

a monastery for the future

vision & mission... Our vision: Prayer awakens. Justice Impels. Compassion Acts.

Thy Kingdom Come.

Our mission: Eager to welcome God’s transforming power in ourselves and our world, we seek God together through monastic profession and respond with our core values: Healing Hospitality Grateful Simplicity Creative Peacemaking

“The sisters at St. Gertrude have a legacy of contemplative awareness, pioneering tenacity, and monastic rootedness where, together, we make a difference in the world. I see this time as a grace-filled opportunity for the community for us to deepen our Benedictine charism and the unfolding of our vision and mission. I trust that the support and prayers of our employees, oblates, and partners in ministry will carry us forward.” ~ Sister Mary Forman, Prioress Gertrude has a

The Monastery of St. rich history, a vibrant present, and an inspired future.

We are a flourishing Benedictine community of sisters, oblates, volunteers, retreatants, visitors, donors, and friends answering the call to transform ourselves and the world. Nearly twenty thousand people visit our rural and forested monastery each year to renew at our retreat center, learn at our Historical Museum, experience monastic life through the volunteer program, enjoy Raspberry Festival, stay at the Inn, attend classical and sacred music concerts in our acoustically acclaimed chapel, join the sisters in Mass and prayer, and more. Since our founding in 1882, our community has lived the centuries-long Benedictine legacy of continual prayer, service, and community life. Today, we seek to pass this legacy on to the next generations of sisters and beyond. We move into a bright future knowing that our presence, our ministry, our faith, and our prayers witness to the transforming power of a way of life centered on God.

“I appreciate the ordinariness of everyday which is never really ordinary — there’s always something new. We are a vibrant center of spirituality and hospitality.” ~ Sister Mary Geis

Sisters Barbara Ann Bielenberg, Elisa Martinez, and Margie Schmidt during their Golden Jubilees.

“The sisters offer a place to slow down. Society doesn’t always allow you to experience this. That’s the beauty of this place: people can come and slow down to get a glimpse of God’s life.” ~Father Meinrad Schallberger, Chaplain

We are a monastic community that follows the Rule of Benedict. “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’” ~ Rule of Benedict

Using early Christian communities as our model, we live out the values of praying together, living together, sharing all things in common, and serving the wider community and one another. We are a Catholic religious community that manifests Benedictine spirituality in the world — a part of the Federation of St. Gertrude with 650 members. While we are a canonical community of papal jurisdiction, living in the Diocese of Boise, we do not receive financial support from the diocese or Church. We are a non-profit, 501c3 organization. St. Gertrude’s includes over 80 oblates in nine area groups throughout the Northwest, numerous volunteers and interns, and nearly 20,000 visitors to our campus each year.

Sisters Oblates Friends

Below: Oblates regularly gather for retreats at Spirit Center. Our oblates are women and men, of any Christian denomination, who commit to living their lives according to Benedictine spirituality in conjunction with the Monastery of St. Gertrude.

“My life here is rich in prayer, faith, and purpose! By living a simple life by the Rule of St. Benedict I’ve made incredible selfdiscoveries, uncovered challenges, and found new strengths.” ~ Oblate JoAnne Zimmer


Our community was founded by creative, courageous, pioneering women ministering to the needs of the times.

Our foundress, Mother Johanna Zumstein

Our legacy of rich Benedictine spirituality and service in the Northwest began with the courageous leadership of Mother Johanna Zumstein, Sister Magdalene Suter, and Sister Rosalia Ruebli who arrived in 1882 from a cloister in Sarnen, Switzerland. Immediately they began responding to the needs of the times, founding schools and growing the community. Since then, the Benedictine sisters have established 14 schools and two hospitals and maintained an unwavering focus on prayer, hospitality, and spiritual care. The journey took these women through Eastern Washington to Cottonwood, Idaho, where the motherhouse was founded in 1909, and remains today.

“I love my monastic community and am very proud of it.We are a stable group with a rich tradition and history. We are also a community that is moving forward. We continue learning how to listen to God’s voice to change and grow into the future.� ~ Sister Corinne Forsman

In addition to our many ministries in Cottonwood, sisters are engaged on mission in Idaho, Washington, and California. They serve as health care professionals, educators, pastoral care providers, spiritual directors, retreat facilitators, and social workers. We continue to live and demonstrate with our lives the spirit of our founding sisters in our ministries. Together we continue to respond to the needs of the times.

retreats... We are an inventive and evolving community, finding new ways to live Benedictine values into the future.

Spirit Center opened in 2005 and is renowned for year-round individual, group, and facilitated retreats on topics including Benedictine spirituality and the arts. It is a green facility with twenty-two double-occupancy rooms and three meeting rooms for groups up to 120. Spirit Center is busy throughout the year, serving over 3,500 people annually. “At St. Gertrude’s it is easy to feel the presence of God. I have found that private retreats refresh and feed my soul so that I may return better able to handle the demands of ministry. My parish vestry has been served well by spending time in deep conversation during retreats. We eat together and pray together and work together and come home as better leaders. Without St. Gertrude’s I do not know where I would turn for any of those vital services. I am deeply grateful for the ministry of St. Gertrude’s, for the hospitality and prayers of the sisters and all who work and live there.” ~ The Reverend Gretchen Rehberg, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane

“It feels as though the sisters have created a cradle of prayer in which each retreatant is held; it’s a perfect place to slow down and be quiet and reflective.” ~ John Bieter, Professor at Boise State University


“O choice balsam of Divinity, pouring out like an ocean of love into never-ending streams that fill the whole earth.” ~ St. Gertrude

“What refreshes me and gives me a sense of hope, anchor, balance, and trust in the enduring power of God is knowing there are communities like this who give so much of their time in prayer.” ~ Bishop Peter F. Christensen, Diocese of Boise

All Things Flow from Prayer Daily communal and personal prayer is the heart of our life. As a community we gather three times daily to pray for the needs of the world. Our life and our ministries are grounded in prayer. It is through our common faith commitment that we witness to the world the transforming power of God’s love. We witness what it means to live the Gospel by sharing all things in common and bearing one another’s burdens. Our way of life is both ancient and radically new as we answer Benedict’s call to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ.” “Prayer is so much a part of being Benedictine — gathering together to pray. During Formation I was asked, ‘Does this way of life give you life?’ It is, without a doubt, giving me life.” ~ Sister Kim Marie Jordan

“The sisters are warm and welcoming as well as being wise spiritual directors. The invitation to move from solitude to communal prayers is the terrain for much needed renewal.” ~ Pastor Dave Wilkinson, The Porch Spokane

Our monastery is a sanctuary for a way of life that not only inspires transformation in our sisters, but also in the thousands of volunteers, retreatants, monastic interns, staff, donors, and other friends who just stop in for Mass or a walk around our grounds, deepening their own faith experiences. All of these people are indispensable in assisting with our ministries and sharing Benedict’s vision of a more hospitable and faithful community.

“God led me here. Before my oblation I was like a child clinging to the mother’s skirt. Now I have this experience of melding into God. I am swimming in this ocean of life.” ~ Oblate Esther Wheeler

“Moving here has enriched our lives in terms of beauty, friendship, and deepening spiritual movement.” ~ Grant and Oblate Peg Griffin

spirituality & the arts... Like many Benedictine monastic communities throughout history, our monastery is serving to protect a cultural heritage as well as a spiritual one. We are preserving the past for the future through our Historical Museum that is engaged in carefully curating artifacts and faithfully interpreting the stories they represent. We are a sanctuary for the arts with dynamic classical and sacred music performances as well as art retreats, residencies, and programs that serve to deepen spirituality through creativity and share healing beauty.

Annual Gonzaga University Concert Choir performance.

“The Monastery of St. Gertrude graciously opens its doors each autumn to more than 60 students of Gonzaga University’s Concert Choir. Over the course of three days, our spirits are refreshed by the beauty of the grounds, our music finds new heights of inspiration in the beautiful chapel acoustic, and the hospitality of the sisters surrounds us with kindness and warmth. What our students and I have found at St. Gertrude’s is that this setting helps us be more present to those around us, more present to beauty of sight and sound, and more present to the inner voice of love.” ~Timothy Westerhaus, Director of Choirs and Vocal Studies, Gonzaga University

Palouse Choral Society performs Brahms’ Requiem Below: Iconography retreatants are blessed by Fr. Damian Higgins.

Artwork by Heather Berndt, a Spirituality and the Arts retreat leader.

history... Sr. Mary Alfreda Elsensohn started what is now the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in the attic of St. Gertrude’s Academy in 1931. Over the next nearly 60 years, she earned the distinction of being one of Idaho’s outstanding historians and a pioneer in museum collecting. The state’s most prestigious museum award is named for her and it was awarded to the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in 2010. The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude continues today, sharing local history with new exhibits, dynamic programming, partnerships with state and granting organizations, and more. In the tradition of Benedictine spirituality, the sisters sponsor and direct the Museum to be a permanent, public, nonprofit educational institution, which provides for the systematic collection and care of its artifacts. Through the ministry of our Historical Museum, we and our visitors are made more aware of and are grateful for the accomplishments and lives of our ancestors.

“The Monastery is fundamental to who we are. The most meaningful thing is the spiritual wisdom we find here. The sisters teach about how to live and die, and how we can love and celebrate one another.” ~ Oblates Fred and Jeannette Kelley

“The Benedictine rhythm can increase our awareness of the value of others, and lead us to ways in which we can be more present to those in our lives and in our world.” ~ Oblate Nikki Nordstrom

The Museum’s biggest fundraiser, Raspberry Festival, is held each year on the first Sunday in August. It is a celebrated regional event with fun for all ages.

care of the land... The Monastery of St. Gertrude is a sacred place, a place of peace, a place of renewal — which we are dedicated to preserving and sharing.

Benedictine tradition includes the reverent care for and use of all things, so that the earth can be a healthy and enduring home for all creatures. We steward 1,400 acres of beautiful land, which includes farm, grazing land, gardens, and orchards, as well as 1,000 acres of forest. Many stories of our early history revolve around this space; the present monastery building was built in the 1920s with stone quarried from the nearby hillside. Our community and guests enjoy fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables, as well as contemplative space in this setting. The commitment to sharing and preserving this sacred space — land and buildings — is central to our legacy and will carry long into the future. Its preservation and stewardship will continue to be an integral part of our community and the faith experiences of generations to come. “In more recent years the mission and lifestyle of the sisters of St. Gertrude has changed from a teaching mission to following more closely the Rule of St. Benedict, ‘Ora et Labora’ (Pray and Work). When they pray daily together it is more than two or three gathered in God’s name to make God’s presence truly experienced on the Camas Prairie, in the Diocese of Boise, in our nation, and throughout the world. With their work for the protection of our environment, their promotion of human rights, and their concern for the poor, they are dedicating their lives to building a Kingdom of Justice, Peace, Love, and Mercy.” ~ Monsignor Andrew Schumacher “I have chosen to support St. Gertrude’s as a member of the Zumstein Legacy Circle because of the rich blessing I receive each time I visit and which continues to reverberate within when I return to my home in New Jersey. I want the ‘domino effect’ of blessings coming from St. Gertrude’s to bless many more in the future.” ~ Dr. Rhonda Hazell, Professor at La Salle University (making Raspberry Jam with Sr. Wilma, above)


We strive to be models for the broader community through our award-winning Peace & Justice and Care of the Land ministries. Benedict offered us a very practical guide in how to organize as a sustainable community, hospitable to creation and serving as responsible stewards of the land. This model inspires our work for justice. We provide regional leadership on issues related to health, food security, poverty, human trafficking, and violence against women.

“I am really convinced of the value of Benedictine life and the vision we have to share with the world. Diverse people with different backgrounds can come together respecting one another, caring for one another.” ~ Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth


The Inn at St. Gertrude opened in 2010 to extend Benedictine hospitality to travelers. The Inn is a TripAdvisor® GreenLeader for our environmental practices and a TripAdvisor® Service Excellence Winner for consistently high reviews. The Inn team was one of the recipients of the 2016 Idaho B&B Association Bonzey Award for “Innspirational Innkeeper of the Year.” Guests experience award-winning ecological stewardship and stunning views of the prairie and mountains.

Innkeepers Sister Chanelle Schuler, Grant and Peg Griffin, Frank Halter, and Sister Corinne Forsman.

“The hospitality of the sisters is so full of the joy and love of Jesus Christ, that the privilege of living less than a state away from them became a contributing factor to my decision to return, from across the country, to the Pacific Northwest. Thank you, sisters, for the ‘Christ-forming’ impact you’ve had and continue to have on my life.” ~ Daniel Kaufman, volunteer

“St. Gertrude’s provides a wonderful way to begin your personal journey into more authentic human living. Grounded in Benedictine spirituality, seekers are supported with a depth of wisdom, good humor, and a caring community not found in most parish or contemporary church settings.” ~ Margaret McCarthy, retreatant

We are the Monastery. The Monastery of St. Gertrude is a dynamic community with an inspired future.

Benedict heard the call to sacred community, organized as a faithful people for God’s work. He had a vision where people, with all their human strengths and weaknesses, could unite to be a community that is a bright and consistent beacon of prayer, kindness and hospitality, and the Gospel message of love.

“Community is about accepting both the strengths and the weaknesses of each other. It’s our responsibility to welcome others this way. You are a part of us.” ~ Sister Bernadette Stang

Gertrude, our patroness, heard the call in her prayerful visions guiding her in ministry. Our founding sisters heard the call as they left their European home and traveled to the United States in 1882. Generations of sisters since have heard the call as they served God’s beloved people as teachers, nurses, and more. The call guides us now as we engage in diverse ministries at home and beyond. The Rule of Benedict instructs us to receive all as Christ. We believe that creating a home of hospitality, beauty, and healing that truly welcomes every person is needed in this world, now more than ever. We are consistently affirmed that our visitors and radiating community are enriched with connection, tranquility, education, and deepening prayer.

Sisters. Oblates. Volunteers. Donors. Friends. We are the Monastery of St. Gertrude. We share a commitment to the steadfast way of Benedict and the heart-centered devotion of Gertrude. We each radiate God’s goodness in the places we are called to shine. Together, we are the Monastery.

Sister Mary Forman, Prioress

You are welcome here. There are many ways you are invited to participate. Learn more at

Monastery of St. Gertrude 465 Keuterville Road Cottonwood, Idaho 83522 208-962-3224 Annual Raspberry Festival:

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Monastery of St. Gertrude Case Statement  

An overview of the vibrant mission, expanding community, and growing programs at the Monastery of St. Gertrude -- also home to the Benedicti...

Monastery of St. Gertrude Case Statement  

An overview of the vibrant mission, expanding community, and growing programs at the Monastery of St. Gertrude -- also home to the Benedicti...