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The Bristow Bulletin Inside this Issue Monastic Stewardship

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Election of Prioress Labor Day Weekend On the Journey First Impressions Finding a New Ministry Benedictine Counseling Services Jubilee 2011 Ministry Minutes Newsreel New Faces

Monastic Stewardship Because the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia believe in the sacredness of all creation, we claim monastic stewardship as our corporate witness. (BSV Vision Statement)

A good steward is someone who takes special care of what is given. From a monastic point of view, the reason for this special care is that we recognize in all creation the loving work of God, and we are grateful. At first glance, being a good steward may appear to be a simple task. But this kind of mindful attention requires much more than a passing acknowledgement of God’s presence. It requires of us a daily, even minute by minute, conscious recognition that everything we have been given is pure gift and deserves respect because of our love of the Giver. Everything. Plants, trees, animals, minerals, waters, natural resources, each other and ourselves – all are a part of creation. All are sacred, and the intellect, gifts and talents we each have been given are sacred too. Monastic stewardship calls us to take good care of all, because we have been placed by our God into a holy relationship with every fiber of creation. It is from this effort to attend deliberately to God’s generosity that we are instituting this online version of The Bristow Bulletin. Much is said these days about environmental awareness and “going green.” Here at the monastery, we are continually looking for ways to live more simply and to contribute, even in a small way, to the preservation of our natural resources. This means we are taking care to evaluate what we have, what we use, and how we use what we have. One area of mass overconsumption we have noted is with regard to the amount of paper we waste. In these days of continuing technological advancement, is it really necessary to use so much paper for our ordinary tasks? In the ages of long ago, when monasteries were largely responsible for copying and printing books and documents, paper was a precious commodity. Today paper is a throw-away item; make a mistake and grab another sheet. Copious pages pour from

our printers and copy machines – paper just isn’t cherished as it was long ago. We don’t think twice about the God behind the creation of that sheet we just tossed in the garbage. Improving, slowly but steadily, our technology is enabling us to go paperless for many of our communications. This is helping us in turn to use less space, reduce our trash, redirect some costs, and perhaps contribute to saving a tree. And we’re paying closer attention to the paper we do use: being careful to use both sides of a sheet, avoiding printing too many copies, posting a “community copy” rather than individual copies when we can, and recycling as much as possible. Limiting oneself to one sheet of paper can make one very careful of the words put on that paper! Through The Bristow Bulletin online, we will be able to share our life with many more people than we otherwise would be able to reach. In addition, future issues will bring you more reflections and stories from our Sisters as well as pictures from the monastery and from our events. We hope you will join with us in our efforts to preserve our common resources and be good stewards of all that has been given to us by our gracious God. Sister Joanna Burley, OSB Editor

If you do not wish to receive further Bulletin announcements, or if you would prefer only a paper copy, please call Maureen O’Donnell at 703.361.0106 or email her at

On June 26, 2011, Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB was installed as Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia for a final four-year term. According to Canon Law, a Prioress may serve for a total of 12 consecutive years. Sister Cecilia has shepherded the community twice for a total of twenty years, from 1987-1999 and again from 2003 until the present, when she was re-elected by the Sisters.

In her guidance of the monastery, Sister Cecilia is advised by the Monastic Council. During the Installation Ceremony, the five members of the Council were blessed: Sister Andrea Verchuck (Subprioress), Sister Vicki Ix, Sister Veronica Joyner, Sister Lisbeth Cruz and Sister Glenna Smith. In Benedictine monastic life, the prioress is “believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery” (RB 2:2) and St. Benedict devotes the entirety of Chapter 2 of the Rule to the qualities of the prioress (or abbot). God has indeed blessed us many times over with wise leadership throughout our history. It is with deep trust and joy that we again place ourselves into Sister Cecilia’s loving hands.

The Blessings of New Life – Labor Day Weekend

At our monastery, Labor Day weekend is the time we set aside for all our formation ceremonies. This September we were busy indeed with four women deepening their commitment to Benedictine life with us. Reception to the Novitiate is the ceremony that institutes the year-long period of prayer and study that enables a woman to grow in understanding and love of God and the monastic life. This September 4th we welcomed three women into the “womb of the community” as novices. Sister Joanna Burley, OSB, Sister Shirley Ann Arce, OSB, and Sister Andrea Westkamp, OSB will spend the coming year in very limited ministry but with an intense focus on prayer and monastic studies. This precious time of communion with God in the protection and love of the community will prepare these women for First Monastic Profession next September. Sunday, September 5th, saw the conclusion of the novitiate year for Sister Patricia Jean Novak, OSB, as she made her First Monastic Profession at Evening Prayer. In the presence of the Sisters and with her family in attendance, Sister Pat made the three-fold promise of obedience, stability and fidelity to the monastic way of life that shapes the Benedictine life. Sister Pat’s profession is for three years with the hope that she will make Perpetual Profession – a permanent commitment to this community and to the Benedictine search for God. Community Statistics: Sisters in Perpetual Profession








With gratitude to God, we rejoice in the vibrancy and growth of our community!

On the Journey ……. Sister Vicki Ix, OSB Vocation ministry is just that – a ministry, one of welcome, presence and encouragement. Each year our Vocation Team plans special days that will introduce women of all ages to our monastic life. As we look forward to a new program year, it is wonderful to recount the blessings of the past twelve months. There have been so many! We met eight new women this year through our Monastic Discernment Weekends. Two of them are now in a serious discernment with us. Two women became Affiliates this past year. Affiliation is a non-binding expression of mutual interest – an imaginary tether that reaches from the heart of the seeker to the monastery. Two wonderful women began our Live-In Program this year. Andrea is from Germany and Mary Frances is from Poland. Both women have blessed us just by sharing in our prayer and work. We are happy to have them with us as they continue to discern a monastic vocation. Three more women have been accepted into our Live-In Program over the summer months. They will all move into the monastery during the last week of August. [Yes, it’s getting a bit crowded upstairs. That’s a problem we love to have!]

The program year ended with our third Wonder Week. We doubled our previous enrollment as we welcomed twelve 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls for six days of fun, faith and friendship. Purple tie dye tshirts reigned supreme that week – on the “Wonder Girls” and on the Sisters who shared their gifts with them throughout the week. I survived my 3rd sleepover in the Subiaco Room. We actually slept some this year! Wonder Week would never happen without our two counselors – Marie and Emily. Marie is a graduate of our high school, St. Gertrude’s, in Richmond. Emily will be a senior there this year. Looking forward now to a new year, we bless God who builds this house and express our gratitude for all who pray for vocations to our community.

Wonder Week Participants

First Impressions…... Mary Frances Majewska

Mary Frances has been part of our Live-in Program since June of this year. For more information abut our Live-in Program for discernment, contact Sister Vicki at

First impressions have both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, they are fresh and unbiased; on the negative, they may sometimes be superficial and not grounded in real life experience. I have been here a little over one month now, so I guess my impressions still count as “first”. I am a “live-in”, discerning my vocation and getting to know the community of Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. My very first impression of this house goes back to one December morning in 2009 when out of the snowy and frosty weather I walked into the place, which radiated warmth, kindness and hospitality. A year and a half later, I still consider these three things to be qualities which describe the community at Bristow. One may wonder what the recipe is for such a welcoming atmosphere and a perceptible sense of mutual love and support. It is not because Sisters live here in some kind of artificial environment, protected from the struggles of daily life, or free from the natural tension of personalities, temperaments and backgrounds. No, life here is very real, and represents the same challenges as found in any other circumstance where people live and work together. I see several ingredients of this successful recipe. The first one is faithfulness to the essence of religious call, with its centrality of Christ in the lives of individual sisters and of the community as a whole. I have been very impressed by how seriously the message of the Gospel is taken and lived here. From the principal goal of a religious community and its ministries, through prayer and work, down to daily interactions, table conversations and the overall atmosphere of mutual care-the central values of the Gospel are embodied here with simplicity and authenticity. This mature faithfulness to Christ’s teaching creates a milieu which bears fruit in the form of the second

ingredient: mutual love. Here it is love, which is genuine and perceivable, lived and expressed in a variety of ways - in big projects and undertakings, and in daily small acts of kindness. It is love which binds the community together and carries it through happy times and difficult moments. It is also love which reaches beyond the monastery walls. Guests are welcome here with open arms, lay friends of the monastery form a circle of support, sharing and reciprocating this love, and even complete strangers are received with the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict always in mind: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” (RB 53) The third ingredient which characterizes this place is open-mindedness. The 143-year old community has lived through many changes of the modern world and of the Church, and it has evolved by discerning the signs of the times and adapting its life and ministries to the needs of people whom it serves. The histories of many religious orders, congregations and individual communities have shown how difficult this process may be. But change is a sign of vitality, and this community embraced the spirit of renewal with wisdom, which I attribute to respectful listening and responding to the spirit of God, and to each other. I said at the beginning that first impressions may sometimes be superficial. It is true that I have been here only a short time now, but my experience of this community has been deepening every day, and the impressions mentioned above have been continually reinforced. In his apostolic exhortation, John Paul II said, “The first duty of the consecrated life is to make visible the marvels wrought by God in the frail humanity of those who are called” (Vita Consecrata, 1996). The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia have made visible those “wonders of grace”, and have been sharing them for almost 150 years now. For a newcomer like me, it feels like a right place where I can learn and grow.

Finding a New Ministry – Immigration Law Sister Karen Lynn Trespacz, OSB

One of the challenging parts about making first profession and becoming a Scholastic is starting a full-time ministry. Please understand – working full-time is not the issue; all of us who are “older vocations” have worked full-time for years. The challenge is to get the hang of working full-time as a Benedictine Sister. Gone are those golden days when, as a Novice, ministry hours were limited to six a week and we were immersed completely in our new life as a monastic within the womb of community. Novices may only engage in ministry six hours a week, but as a Scholastic the ministry hours are increased to 30, and the work schedule can take you away from the monastic schedule. Working with a Benedictine monastic heart means balancing prayer and work and community – not always an easy task! My first ministry as a case worker with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) was based here at the monastery, so I was able to explore, somewhat gently, the balance needed for monastic life. But although our program had the biggest impact on reducing the number of homeless persons in Prince William County, the grant monies ran out and I needed to look for a new ministry.

My work with the HPRP program led me to consider finding a ministry that used my law degree. As I explored different practice areas – Family law? Guardian ad litem , for children? – one area kept popping up: Immigration Law. I had always been hesitant to practice any area of law that directly represented individuals – the responsibility for getting everything just right seemed too huge. But my experience with HPRP had taught me the power of working with a client, rather than taking charge of a client, and so the investigation began. I knew I wanted to work with experienced people in a successful practice, and I had heard many good things about Hogar Immigrant Services, a branch of Catholic Charities. One phone call became a moment of God’s grace; the person I spoke with said he had just recommended an expansion of their legal immigration services into the Manassas end of Prince William County – and here I was looking for that very opportunity! After a round of interviews and reference checks, I started Hogar’s internship program this past May along with two law students. Often God’s kindness leads us along in baby-steps, with each step contributing beautifully to the journey in a way that may not be clear except in hindsight. As a Novice I was sheltered in the monastic life. As a beginning Scholastic I began to explore ministry. Now I am gifted with the challenge of balancing this life of prayer, community, and work in the Benedictine tradition. With God’s grace, and the support of my Sisters and the wonderful coworkers at Hogar, I am excited to begin!

Legal Services Staff of Hogar Immigrant Services Sister Karen Lynn is in the bottom row, second from right.

For more information on Hogar Immigration Services in general and its legal services in particular, visit the website at .

Benedictine Counseling Services is expanding! Sister Kathleen Persson, OSB

Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB, Prioress, has announced that Benedictine Counseling Services is expanding its services to include the Richmond, VA area. Sister Kathleen Persson, OSB, has relocated to Richmond at the direction of the prioress. Sister Kathleen’s task is to offer mental health therapy with the Benedictine charism of hospitality and unconditional regard that is an integral part of both the Benedictine and social work philosophies. Sister Kathleen is living in the convent in Richmond with her Benedictine sisters and offering her counseling services to the greater Richmond community. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 25 years of experience as a social worker. Sister Kathleen has worked in Maryland as a Director of Counseling Services for the chronic mentally ill and has also worked for many years with Capital Hospice as Director of Counseling Services. She has been nationally certified in Grief and Bereavement and is also trained in EMDR therapy. Sister co-authored the book, Good Mourning, and has attended and offered grief and bereavement trainings nationally at conferences for those working with persons with life limiting illness. For the last 5 years Sister Kathleen has been working with Benedictine Counseling Services in Bristow, Virginia serving the homeless population and also providing therapy for individuals and couples. Sister Kathleen is certified in Virginia as a supervisor for licensure for other social workers and has been regularly providing that service to newer clinicians. She has also had many student interns over the years from universities and colleges which include University of Maryland, Catholic University, Marymount University and Loyola College. Sister Kathleen is very happy to be able to help meet the needs of others and hopes to develop a warm and therapeutic relationship with those encountered in the Richmond area. As the sisters in Bristow were first established in the Richmond area and have been a presence there since 1868, it is a relationship that the Sisters find very sacred and one that they consider important to maintain. Sister Kathleen is excited to be a part of this history through her new ministry. “It is a privilege to be able to bring our services to Richmond. I feel I will be touching our Benedictine roots,” says Sister Kathleen. “The move is both a challenge and an opportunity to connect with our founding sisters in a unique way. I have heard so many heartwarming stories from our sisters as they share their own experiences in the Richmond area.” Through the generosity of Monsignor William Carr at Saint Bridget Catholic Church, Sister Kathleen has a private office for her ministry. She can be reached at 804.814.2793. We ask for your prayers that this new endeavor be rewarding and beneficial to both the sisters and the Richmond community.

Jubilee 2011 After each jubiliaran renews her religious profession, she places her written copy on the altar. Then together they sing their act of self-giving in the Suscipie: “Receive me, O God, as you have promised…”

On Sunday, June 5, 2011, Sisters Anita Sherwood, Henry Marie Zimmermann, Mary Patricia Herrity, Anne Marie Lange, and Miki PlanterBromell celebrated a combined total of 260 years of professed religious life as Benedictine monastic women.

Sister Anita Sherwood, OSB 75 Years

Sister Anne Marie Lange, OSB 50 Years Sister Mary Patricia Herrity, OSB 50 Years

Sister Henry Marie Zimmermann, OSB 60 Years

Ministry Minutes On the Literacy Forefront BEACON is on the move! Executive Director Debbie Abbott reports that BEACON has extended its ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programs to the Woodbridge area in two locations. Woodbridge has seen a rapid population growth since the 2000 Census, increasing in size by more the 40% to over 53,000 residents in 2009. More than 11,000 of those residents identify as Hispanic, and the need for English education among the non-English speaking population has become critical. To answer the need, Carlos Castro of Todos Super Market and the community of Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church (pastored by Reverend L. Wayne Carter) have made space available to BEACON to offer ESOL classes to those seeking to improve their command of the English language. Classes this Fall will be held at both sites, with daytime and evening options, at various proficiency levels. We are extremely grateful to both Mr. Castro and Reverend Carter for their generosity. To make the Woodbridge service a reality, a few more dedicated tutors for the program are needed. Please call BEACON ( at 703.368.7491 for further information about how you can become a partner in Beacon’s award-winning Adult Literacy Program.

News from BARN It has been a summer of transformation for BARN! With much gratitude to HomeAid Northern Virginia and Miller & Smith, a $250,000 renovation project has been realized. What began as a simple rebuilding of our old playground became much more as our wish list of needed repairs grew. In addition to a new playground for the children, a new deck, new landscaping and a track around it for bikes and walking have been installed. Inside the house, additional kitchen cabinets, stoves, dishwashers, new flooring, insulation in the attic, and new paint have generated much excitement and pleasure. The project required the help of 26 different subcontractors, and the results are beautiful. Our families and staff extend their most sincere thanks to all who helped to support life at BARN.

Pastoral Calendar The Benedictine Pastoral Center welcomes Sister Andrea Westkamp, OSB. During her novitiate year, Sister Andrea will work with the Pastoral Center in retreats, spiritual direction and office operations. Upcoming and Ongoing Events: The Gospel of St. Mark

Wednesday mornings, 10:00 am to 11:30 am. First Fridays

Conference from 10:00 am to 11:15 Mass 11:30-12:15. Lectio Divina/Centering Prayer

1st and 3rd Tuesdays, 10:00am to 11:30am. Advent Quiet Day with Father Michael Hahn

December 13, 2011 Samaritan Woman Retreat

A nine-session Directed Retreat based on Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. For more information please contact the Benedictine Pastoral Center at 703-393-2485 or Sister Charlotte Lee, OSB at 703-361-0106 Visit programs.html For a full listing of programs.


Sisters Cecilia Dwyer, Vicki Ix, Veronica Joyner, Karen Lynn Trespacz, and Joanna Burley traveled to Saint Meinrad Archabbey to attend the Monastic Worship Forum Conference “Ancient Wine in New Wineskins: Celebrating Eucharist with Twenty-First Century Documents.” Benedictine musicians and liturgists gathered to share their talents and wisdom and to discuss the implications of the revised Roman Missal.

Sisters Karen Lynn Trespacz and Kathy Persson participated in the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (BSWR) at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, AL. BSWR is an annual three-week experience for Benedictine women who are preparing for Perpetual Monastic Profession. The Sisters attended conferences on various topics relating to monastic life during the first two weeks. The final week was a silent, directed retreat for personal reflection and discernment.

Sister Pat Novak and Sister Doris Nolte attended the Novices and Directors Institute (NADI) at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana. NADI is an annual, two-week conference for novices preparing to make first monastic profession and for novice directors to share resources. The theme for 2011 was “Listen With the Ear of Your Heart.”

Sisters Doris Nolte, Vicki Ix, Mary Clark and Pat Novak attended the Monastic Institute at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN. Sponsored jointly by Saint John's Abbey and the School of Theology· Seminary of Saint John's University, the Institute focused on the theme, "Bible and Prayer in Benedictine Spirituality."

Sister Charlotte Lange received the Commonwealth Catholic Charities 2011 Community Service Award for her many years of commitment to the greater Richmond community.

The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia received the 2011 Family Values Award from the Centerville Virginia Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The award honors community leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the family.

The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia have received a grant from the charitable organization Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR!). Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB accepted the $15,000 award in the name of the community at a dinner held in Washington, DC. The grant monies have been used to assist with the renovation of the monastery’s bathroom facilities, a need that could only have been filled with the assistance of the SOAR! Grant. To learn more about the history and mission of SOAR! and their good works, please visit their website: http://

Upcoming Events 

13th Annual Festival of Trees Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at the Westin Washington Dulles. The black tie optional event raises money to help the homeless mothers and children served by BARN each year. Register or make a donation securely online at

Linton Hall School’s 14th Annual Golf Tournament Monday Oct. 24, 2011 at Evergreen Country Club in Haymarket, VA.. To register, sponsor, or make a donation check the website

Holy Day/Holiday Sale Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 18-20. Check our website for further details and hours.

New Faces Among Us Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB, prioress, has announced the appointment of Mary Colgan Finnigan as Chief Operating Officer of the corporate activities of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. Finnigan has had an extensive career in management through her affiliation with Colgan Air Corporation, and is wellknown in the local business arena through her work with the Prince William County-Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce. As COO for the Benedictine Sisters, Finnigan will oversee the business operations of the monastery and the Sisters’ ministries. Finnigan has a long history of association with the Benedictine Sisters, having served as President and

member of the Board of Directors for the Transitional Housing BARN program. “I am absolutely thrilled to join such an outstanding organization which I have had the honor of serving as a volunteer for more than 10 years. I have known many of the Sisters most of my life. I have deep respect for each of them and truly believe in the wonderful work of their ministries,” states Finnigan. “We know Mary well because the Colgan family has long been supporters and benefactors of our community and ministries,” says Sister Cecilia. “We want to ensure the long-term success of our ministries and we think Mary is going to be just the person for this position. Her ties to the local community will be a huge asset and we know of her outstanding work ethic from her service on our boards.” Welcome, Mary !

Lynx Tales A renovation of the administrative offices and entrance foyer of the school greeted our Linton Hall staff and families this year! Emphasizing the Benedictine heritage of the school, the Benedictine Cross is now the central motif of the entryway. The school year was ushered in with two very successful events: the LHS Family Picnic and the annual Yard Sale. Four new members of the faculty have been welcomed into the world of the Lynx: Robin Martin (Kindergarten), Elizabeth Cheney (3rd Grade), Kathleen Hunt (Grade 4) and Michele Milano (Music/Choir).

Gator Bites Seventy-six new freshman walked through the front doors of Saint Gertrude High School for the first time as the 2011-2012 school year got underway. The class of 2015 brings the enrollment this school year to a total of 262 students. The SGHS family welcomed a new Principal this year, Richmond native and SGHS alumna (’83) Dr. Judi Lynch, Ph.D. Judi holds degrees in English, Education, and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Previously, Judi was Director of Special Initiatives at the Virginia Tech College of Veterinary Medicine. Other new faces this year include: Missy Ackerman (Athletic Director), Amber Berry (Development Assistant and Special Events Coordinator), Tamara Ingram (French), Roger Spinner (Director of Facilities), Amy Van Sumeren (Assistant Athletic Director), and Jenny Watkins (English). Hot off the press! Susan Walker, President, has announced the appointment of Nancy Parsons to the position of Development Director, effective October 24, 2011. Nancy earned her BA degree in English from St. Bonaventure and her MS in English and Language Arts from Syracuse University. She comes to SGHS with over 20 years of experience in fundraising and development.

Bristow Bulletin  

Benedictine Sisters of Virginia Fall 2011 Bristow Bulletin

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