Marking the end of an era

After much prayer and discernment, it became clear in 2014 that St. Joseph Monastery, St. Marys, PA, the first Benedictine women’s foundation in North America (1852), would need to close due to a climbing median age and the lack of new members. The community of 17 sisters began to visit other Benedictine communities and arrange for transfer, four of whom eventually transferred to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.

Sister Rita Brink, OSB, of St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, KY, has been the primary representative of the Federation of St. Scholastica for the past five years in assisting the community with its communal and personal discernment and the monastery closure. With the work of the monastery suppression reaching completion, Sister Rita organized a special prayer service to honor the first Benedictine women in North America and 162 years of dedicated service by the Sisters of St. Joseph Monastery. A permanent marker was placed in the sisters’ cemetery in St. Marys as part of the commemoration—an event that also brought closure for the sisters who have now been welcomed into different Benedictine communities.

A large group of Erie Benedictines, as well as Benedictines from Bristow, VA, Lutherville, MD, Chicago, IL, and Pittsburgh, PA, swelled the crowd that also included parishioners from the local church. “This was a very special happening in many regards,” said Sister Anne Wambach, Erie Benedictine prioress. “For most of the St. Marys’ sisters, it was the first time they were together again since they moved to other communities. I am so pleased this event provided the opportunity for them to come together and visit with one another. It was a beautiful moment for them."

During the service, prayers were prayed, hymns were sung, reflections were shared and the marker was blessed. A reception followed in the Parish Center.