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Birth Pangs and Growing Joys Theresa Schumacher, OSB

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n January of 2015, two major Benedictine ministries of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, the Spirituality Center and Studium, scheduled a three-day retreat with a professional facilitator. The goal was to reflect on the mission and vision of these two programs and to discern how to integrate them into one entity while maintaining what is unique in each. The programs’ staff established a two-year implementation plan with three phases: “Coming Together on Immediate Needs,” “Moving Forward Together” and “Realizing the Dream.” They divided the strategies and actions into eight categories and worked within groups to determine target dates for accomplishing the tasks. First, the participants created a joint mission statement. Adopted in March 2015, it reads:

We, the Spirituality Center and Studium, of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota, share the Benedictine monastic tradition by fostering love of learning and desire for God for the sake of the church and the world.

The core of this mission statement, “the love of learning and desire for God,” has echoed through the centuries of monasticism. The monastery’s foremothers inherited this mission and integrated it into their work on American soil. Guests and participants assure us that this core meaning continues to flow through the Spirituality Center and Studium, both of which are housed in Evin Hall.

The Spirituality Center aims to provide both individual and communal responses to the “desire for God,” by offering a variety of opportunities for spiritual renewal. Individual offerings are always available, such as spiritual direction and personal retreats in a hermitage or in the Center. Group offerings include retreats and programs centered on seasonal liturgical themes, prayer and spiritual practices and writing workshops. Topics often focus on current life issues and personal challenges that challenge our Christian grounding in faith, hope and love.

Studium was created to continue the Benedictine dedication of cultivating the mind through intellectual pursuits or, in the words of the mission, “to foster the love of learning.” This rich inheritance was transplanted in Minnesota by the monastery’s foremothers who began, built up and sustained institutions to give glory to God, to uphold human dignity and to prosper learning and the arts in the church and the world. Studium offers support and space for writing, reading, reflecting, illustrating and other intellectual pursuits. One of Studium’s unique benefits has been to take scholars into the center of the life of the community where they can participate in the daily prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours

Studium Scholar, Michael Maurer, found a place to finish his most recent book, Perfume River Nights, on the monastery grounds in St. Joseph, Minn. He describes the Spirituality Center/Studium as “a place of transitions and connections.”

and the celebration of the Eucharist. Scholars also share meals with the sisters in the monastery dining room. Inevitably, a sister will ask, “What are you working on?” Most scholars appreciate this kind of exchange because they say it gives them a chance to speak about their work, gain new insights and points of view and realize new research possibilities. Sometimes the scholar is energized or propelled into a new, more creative approach.

There are many factors that play into a major reconfiguration of two programs into one. At this time in monastic history, many of the sisters involved in ministry are looking at transitioning out of full-time work. Some critical factors involved in this transition are finding ways to consolidate programs and job descriptions so that ministries may continue in the most effective way. The availability of funding, human resources, building constraints and program promotion are all considerations when engaged in ministry planning for the future.

A great deal has been accomplished since the retreat one year ago. The Spirituality Center/Studium now have one operating budget, a joint advisory group and a common database of participants, retreatants and scholars. In addition, space in Evin Hall is now being used more efficiently and there are integrated environmental services for the building. This integration will continue for both ministries as the hopes and dreams of serving as one entity unfold. The presence and support of old and new friends in cooperation with the Spirit’s movement within and among us provide the door, the key and the threshold to fostering far and wide “the love of learning and desire for God.”

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Benedictine Sisters and Friends, Spring Summer 2016  

Published by the Office of Mission Advancement, Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. The purpose of Benedictine Sisters and Friends...