They just lived their lives….


Nepomucene Ludwig took vows in St. Mary’s, PA in 1857; but from 1859-1862 lived in Newark, NJ and from 1862-1866 was the superior of our fledgling community in Chicago.  She died (and was buried) in St. Mary’s in 1921

I was in North Dakota last week, primarily to talk with their novice–and whoever else wanted to come hear–about the early history of Benedictine women in the United States.  I enjoyed the week, not only because it was a break from my usual routine and because I got a chance to spend time with a community of women I enjoy, but also because it gave me an opportunity to think in a concentrated way about the changes and challenges that faced Benedictine women as they planted this kind of religious life in a different cultural milieu.  I find that, since we also live in a time of great change and challenge, their stories help me understand how to move forward and live this life the best that I can.

One of the topics that we focused on this week was the question of monastic stability–one of the vows we take as Benedictine women.  What did it mean in the mid-to-late nineteenth century for a Sister to take a vow of stability and then live in two or three cities as new communities branched off from existing groups?  What did they imagine community to mean in a time when communities were growing rapidly and women moved between communities as new groups were founded?  What does it mean to take a vow of stability in the first decades of the twenty-first century as communities merge and reconfigure in new ways. What do we imagine community to mean as our communities have fewer women and our peers in religious life (both in age and in time in community) are spread throughout the United States?


Sisters from a few Benedictine communities–as well as other orders–were present at my final vows. 

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions.  I suspect few of the Sisters who lived in the early days of Benedictine women in the United States would have felt that they had the answers either.  They simply lived their lives–as one of the Bismark Sisters observed–as faith-filled women, trying to listen to the voice of God and trusting in the future. For me, reflecting on these questions while visiting another community and building relationships there brings me hope.  We don’t know what the future will bring, but we too are living in faith that God’s voice is calling us to the future.