What's New

We shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Rule of Benedict

All Saints Day

Sister Mary Core writes, "All Saints Day – and the vigil on the All Hallows Eve – are set aside for remembering and rejoicing in the wonderful people we have known who will never be officially declared 'Saints' by the church, but who made a holy difference to us just the same.

"They include all our loving grandmas and grandpas, sweet neighbors, loving parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers and dear friends who were just 'good folk,' and good to us."

Learn why she loves All Saints Day, and thinks you should, too!

Read with the Benedictines!

Sister Mary Core is sharing a wonderful book, loaded with the realities of living, with her Wisdom Seekers Book Club, and online, with you.

She says, "I laughed. I cried. I was filled with emotions across the spectrum. I met characters about whom we could all say, 'Yeah. I know someone like that!'"

A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
is a New Your Times best seller that she had a hard time putting it down.

Join her and her group online for the Transformation, Redemption and Resurrection she says make it a wonderful spiritual book!

Your Online Summer Retreat

We take a week every summer for a silent and much-needed retreat. You probably need one, too (we all do)!

So we share our experience with you here. It was led by Father Brendan Moss, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana, who currently serves as the President-Rector of Conception Seminary College in northwest Missouri.

Fr. Brendan introduced the subject of our retreat this way:

As the woman at the well went at noon to be refreshed and gather water for the day, so Benedictines must return readily to the wellspring that is the Rule. 

Our time together will provide an opportunity for us to reconnect with the vows and values that make us Benedictines. 

From leisure to obedience—and everything in between—we will drink fully from the well that is our Benedictine Spirituality.

We hope these 10 retreat posts will help you drink deeply from the well, too!

Annual Volunteer Dinner

Saying "thank you" with a special dinner to the wonderful women and men who have become our extended family is an annual tradition at St. Mary Monastery. 

Sister Stefanie took the pictures ... but did get to enjoy herself, too!

No Ban, No Wall

Five Benedictine Sisters stood with 200 protestors on Feb. 4 outside the U.S. Federal District Court in Rock Island.

They were there to protest the travel ban on immigrants and refugees.

Sisters Catherine Cleary, Helen, Ruth, Mary Core and Susan Hutchens chanted, sang and cheered speakers who spoke of the need to welcome all.

Lisa Killinger, an activist from the Muslim community who has worked with Sister Catherine on the Christian-Muslim Women’s Dialogue, spoke and led a prayer.

Many other Quad-Citians, including Rev. Rich Hendricks, Metropolitan Church, also led the crowd in chanting and prayer.  More.

A Princess Retreat

Nineteen Catholic school girls gathered at the monastery recently to learn to pray, bless, and gift like princesses ... daughters of God, that is!

Sister Stefanie led the retreat for kindergarten-4th grade girls. It included learning special prayers, making rosaries and paper flowers, blessing each other with holy water, and creating fun activity kits for the children who come to the food pantry we help supply. It was a wonderful day for all!


Oblate Day

On the crisp autumn morning of October 22, 2016, 48 oblates of St. Mary Monastery gathered for their annual Oblate Day.  The theme was “Sharing our Talents.”  Sister Sandra Brunenn, Prioress, welcomed them and gave a brief report on the monastery future planning process.  She invited the oblates to partner with the sisters in living and carrying the Benedictine way of life into the future.  Following this Sister Ruth Ksycki, Oblate Director reported on the work of the Oblate Advisory Council, and Oblate Jean Wolf gave a report on the oblate conference on “Shared Leadership” at St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN.

Ten minutes of chair yoga preceded presentations by Oblates Feli Sebastian, Bill Maakestad, Cynthia Smith, Linda Clewell, and Florrie Dammers about programs which they had initiated in their areas.  Liturgy of Hours at Noon was prayed with the sisters.  As part of  this prayer,  there were rituals for candidates and those making oblation.   At the conclusion the prioress gave a blessing on the labora (work) the oblates would be doing in the afternoon.

Following a sack lunch, the afternoon saw oblates doing a variety of work around the monastery.  There was great visiting along with completion of many tasks.   What a wonderful day it was for sisters and oblates. Read more!


Welcoming New Volunteers

We are pleased to welcome 2 new volunteers to share our lives, prayer and spirituality.

Read the prayer Sister Sandra led us in, as we began our lives together.

Learn about our Volunteer program!


Sister Martina Brinkschroeder

Our wise and loving Benedictine Sister Martina went home to the Lord on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. Here is her obituary.


Wisdom Seekers

Sister Mary Core has begun her Fall 2016 Wisdom Seekers online Book Club with “Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God, Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding,” by Heather King.

Join her and the rest of the group after the 9:00 a.m. Mass at St. Maria Goretti in Coal Valley, IL on Wednesdays. Call Sister Mary at (309) 283-2100 to confirm that the schedule hasn't changed.

Or join the Wisdom Seekers online!


Missioning Day

We held our annual missioning ritual during Vespers on Sunday, Aug. 7, in our chapel.

The ritual is one in which our Sisters receive special direction from the prioress for the coming year.

We’ve done it since our founding in 1874.

Read more.


Catholic Benedictine Sisters during Missioning Day ritual at Vespers, Rock Island IL

Benedictine Oblate attends “Nuns on the Bus”

By St. Mary Monastery Benedictine Oblate Toni Wilken

The Nuns on the Bus – which included Sister Simone Campbell and Sisters from various orders all over the country – had 2 stops in Bloomington. 

First stop: the YWCA. During a community round table discussion inside the YWCA, the Nuns heard clients' stories of navigating the immigration system. (Photos from Network)

Sr. Simone spoke about the purpose of the Nuns’ trip, to engage with the people and encourage everyone to do their part to “mend the gaps.”  It’s up to us. 

Sr. Simone’s talk was outdoors in the Y parking lot near the bus. I’m guessing there were about 50-75 people. I was personally very excited to be there! 

We were then invited to sign pledge cards pledging to mend the gaps in our community and to call on policymakers to do the same. The cards will be delivered to legislators. Then we were invited to sign the bus, so we would be “on the bus” as it travels on. 

Sr. Simone is a Sister of Social Service and living her calling as Director of Network. She advocates for justice as inspired by Catholic Sisters.

Sr. Simone has an energy about her that draws you in. She’s so approachable and so knowledgeable. 

At 7:00 p.m., the Nuns on the Bus held what they call a “caucus” at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington. Approximately 90 people gathered at tables. (Photos from Network)

Each table had one of the 7 policy areas that need “mending” to focus on: Mending the Wealth and Income Gap — Tax Justice; Living Wages; Family-Friendly Workplaces – and Mending the Access Gaps — Access to Democracy; Access to Healthcare; Access to Citizenship; Access to Housing. 

The remarkable session lasted about 2 hours. The Nuns on the Bus were stationed around the room to facilitate discussion, teach on the policy and help summarize a concise plan for how we can do our part toward mending the gaps. 

At the end, Sr. Simone asked each table to report on its plan.  She was very pleased with how it went. It was their first “caucus” on the trip.   

The Sisters were so well-informed, which one would expect, but I was just as impressed by the attendees. 

This was a room full of serious and sincere concerned citizens, gathered to listen and learn and speak up. 

I felt I was in the presence of greatness. 

The entire evening was educational regarding the “gaps” in Illinois, and yet hopeful in the spirit of community. “It’s up to us,” as Sr. Simone said repeatedly.

Sr. Simone had a way of weaving our faith and Catholic tradition into her presentation that I found very encouraging and in balance with the topics at hand.

After the caucus, we were invited to sign the pledge and sign the bus, as we had in the afternoon at the site visit.

I want to be a part of the solutions to “mend the gaps,” to “reweave the fabric of society.”  Attending these events by the Nuns on the Bus was very motivating.

These Sisters and our Sisters at St. Mary Monastery, and Sisters all over the world, are the salt of the earth. They are the doers, the workers, exemplars for all of us. They are heroines to me!


Catholic Benedictine Oblates at Nuns on the Bus Rally
Sister Simone Campbell at Nuns on the Bus rally in Bloomington, ILNuns on the Bus come to Bloomington, IL before Republican National Convention

A Plea for Civility

We call for a return to civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction that promotes the common good, reaches out to others, engages in constructive dialogue, and seeks together the way forward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkBN9IzCVX4

Renew Your Spirit

Our annual summer silent retreat – directed by Father Joel Rippinger, OSB – was a graced time. Father Joel Rippinger, OSB shared topics that stem from our common life as Benedictine Monastics.

We share his talks here, as an online retreat for you. We hope they speak to you, and help lift you in whatever direction God calls.


Catholic Princess Retreat

Sister Stefanie held her Catholic Princess Retreat recently for girls from kindergarten - 4th grade.

They prayed and played, made new friends and created crafts.

Woven into the day were the reminders that they are - as daughters of the King - are true princesses, and that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God, with her own unique personal beauty.

It was a wonderful day!

Sharing the Grounds

Underserved children will continue to visit our grounds on Fridays in July, thanks to a collaboration of Quad-City-area agencies that make up the Summer Enrichment Initiative.

Here's what United Way says about the program:

Over summer vacation, many students lose some of the academic gains they made over the previous school year. Mid- to high-income students – who spend the summers at camp, or taking special classes, or going on family vacations – tend to lose less than a month’s learning, and some of them even show academic gains. On the other hand, low-income students, whose families cannot afford these sorts of enrichment opportunities, lose on average two to three months’ worth of learning each summer.

The Summer Enrichment Program is a service model which places trained local educators at summer programs for low-income youth. These educators take part in all camp activities, often infusing reading or math instruction into the program’s art and athletic activities.

This program achieves remarkable results. In Summer 2014, Summer Enrichment students served showed a 9.3% gain in literacy skills. Based on these results, the Quad Cities was named a Pacesetter in the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

This year, the program placed educators at 8 local sites, providing educational support for 458 low-income students.

The Sisters are happy to be a part of it!


Renew Your Spirit

Our annual summer silent retreat – directed by Father Joel Rippinger, OSB – was a graced time. Father Joel Rippinger, OSB shared topics that stem from our common life as Benedictine Monastics.

We share his talks here, as an online retreat for you. We hope they speak to you, and help lift you in whatever direction God calls.


A Special Piano Recital

Sister Mary Jane Wallace, OSB put on a wonderful show recently in our chapel.

With a helium-filled gold star balloon for each performer, Sister Mary Jane welcomed her piano students to a joyous recital.

Noah Kelly (right) won the Gold Cup award for the 3rd time, following 9 consecutive superior ratings in 9 years. Congrats, Noah!

After the performance, we enjoyed a fun reception in the dining room.

It was a fun day for all!

Happy Birthday, Sister Mary Jean!

We gathered after Mass recently for a donut party to celebrate Sister Mary Jean Feeney's 98th birthday!

Sister Mary Jean says taking leisure time - Holy Leisure, as directed by St. Benedict - is important to spiritual health.

“People go to the mall on their day off. That’s fine, you need to pick up supplies. But you also need to enjoy quiet. I enjoy a good book, visiting with a friend, walking, watching children play in the park. You need to renew yourself.”

Sister Mary Jean shares more of her wisdom in this story.

Benedictines Host Volunteers


We enjoyed a lovely evening with our volunteers during our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner recently. Good food, great conversation, warm and happy feelings filled the dining room!

Benedictines Host Dan Schutte in Concert

Wonderful concert!

In a joint venture between the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery and St. Ambrose University, Dan Schutte played a concert and held a workshop April 8-9 in the university chapel. Many Sisters joined a wonderful audience for the event. Schutte is an American composer of Catholic liturgical music and a contemporary Christian songwriter.

Benedictines Elect Prioress

Sister Sandra Re-Elected Prioress

Sister Sandra Brunenn, OSB was re-elected prioress of St. Mary Monastery on April 3. She will begin serving her second term immediately.

Our election process is quite unlike the one used in public elections. We use a process of discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, minus electioneering, TV ads, and mailers.

The process calls upon what Sister Mary Benet McKinney terms “a philosophy of shared wisdom.”*

Discernment is “seeing with the eye of the heart,” Sr. Johnette Putnam, OSB writes. “It’s … a way of life, the way of life of the Gospel, of the Rule of Benedict. The process simply facilitates the surfacing of the necessary information, i.e., the content of the decision, and helps to create an environment for attentive listening with the heart, freely sharing, and prayerfully reflecting together.”*

When we gather, we will listen with the ear of the heart, see with the eye of the heart, and prayerfully reflect both alone and together as we move through the election process. The process includes formal periods of questioning, sharing, listening and reflecting, and continues until the entire community votes as one.

“While there is no one way to do discernment, there are certain attitudes and behaviors that are critical to the process. Trust is essential. People must trust themselves and their personal wisdom, they must trust each other, and they must trust the Spirit to be at work within the group.

“Holy indifference is another critical attitude. It is a very difficult stance but it is absolutely necessary if the Spirit is to be free to function within the group. Each person must approach the process completely open to all possibilities. To decide in advance who you will vote for or who you will not vote for is to interfere with the work of the Spirit.” Mary Benet McKinney, OSB*

*Quotes taken from Discerning Community Leadership: The Benedictine Tradition, published by the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses, 1993.

Special Scholar

Congratulations to Olivia Best, for winning Alleman High School’s January Student of the Month.

Last year, Olivia also won the scholarship initiated by SMA alumnae following Sister Phyllis’ death in 2013. She says she's grateful for the scholarship, as it has helped her continue her Catholic education.

The scholarship itself is a fitting tribute to Sr. Phyllis, a grateful recipient of Catholic education herself. She served as principal of St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo, Ill. from 1975 until its closing in 1997.

Congratulations, Olivia!


Catholic Sisters for a Day

Area 5th-8th girls became Catholic Sisters for a Day at St. Mary Monastery recently.

We enjoyed Morning Prayer (Lauds), conversation and lunch together.

Sisters Stefanie, Bobbi and Mary Core shared on Benedictine community, ministry and prayer practices.

We made blankets for those in need, and prayer journals for our spiritual journeys. We even played Bingo!

It was a lovely day for all.


Preschoolers Serenade Sisters

Little ones filled the dining room and chapel with song, laughter and hugs this week during Grace Academy’s annual Christmas party with and for the Sisters.

Sister Stefanie’s preschoolers sang Christmas songs for the Sisters, then presented their Sister pen pals with special cards. Their Sister pen pals had gifts for them, too!

After cookies and milk, the children enjoyed watching Sister Mary’s train wind through her Christmas Village.

Finally, the children gathered in the chapel to sit in the big chairs, see the giant Advent wreath, and dab their fingers in the holy water that cascades down the sides of the beautiful font.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful students with us, Sister Stefanie!

Family Manger Scene Program

Children flew like angels, looked for rooms, set up their nativities and sang Christmas songs at the recent family manger scene program at Benet House Retreat Center.

The activities were designed to help children understand the meaning of the Christmas nativity, but the parents enjoyed it too.

“I had several people say they’d like to come back again next year,” Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB said. “It was a nice way to celebrate the Advent season.”

The program was directed by Sr. Stefanie’s parents, Kathy and Deacon Steve MacDonald, Dubuque. Sr. Stefanie was in charge of the music, which included an upbeat version of Joy to the World.

“My parents are both educators, so they know how to engage children’s senses,” Sr. Stefanie, herself a preschool teacher, said. “They had the children play act the story, pretending to be angels who brought God’s message to Mary, pretending to look for room in the inns, speaking the dialogue between Joseph and the innkeepers. They had fun and learned a lot.”

After the program, the children and their parents enjoyed hot cocoa and cookies.

Oblate Retreat Day

The annual Oblate Retreat Day was a joyfilled experience for both Sisters and Oblates Oct. 17, as the latter helped celebrate the closing of our 140th anniversary.

We showed a video and listened to story telling from the Sisters, enjoyed conversation and a lovely meal, and welcomed new Oblates making their final oblation.

Learn more about the Oblate program.


Oblate Photo Gallery