Prioress' Reflection

    Given on the 70th anniversary celebration (June 10, 2001) of the arrival of our Sisters 
in this country and the occasion of the ground blessing for our new monastery chapel.

        They came with the gifts of youth: vibrancy, enthusiasm, and first fervor. Time and grace matured these gifts into steadfastness, dedication, and true service. So quoted Father Donald Raila OSB in his wonderful article on our community in the Saint Vincent college magazine called, "The Sisters of Saint Benedict: Earnest in prayer and mighty in their labor of love."

        Today we, the heirs of that incredible living legacy, celebrate their gift of dedicated monastic life in our country for 70 years.

        I use the word, 'we" deliberately for I, too, am an heir and, a primary heir, of their gifts of youth that allowed them to give themselves so generously to God in Germany that they agreed to leave the abbey they entered, family, language, and culture to come to America.

        Gifts of youth that expressed themselves in long walks during their break in the afternoon and plays for Mother Leonarda for her feast day.

        Mature gifts expressed in the daily offering of oneself day after day, year after year, and decade after decade in the ora et labora of Benedict that formed their hearts and their relationship with God and expressed itself in the daily service of preparing and cooking food, serving and doing dishes, cleaning and getting ready for the next meal - especially at St. Vincent.

        This year it is 50 years since I first met the Sisters when they served the dinner after my uncle was ordained a priest at St. Vincent in 1951; I was 7 years old! In 1962 I entered St. Emma Monastery and I am privileged to have known all but the first five Sisters who died before I entered. Mother Leonarda, Mother Emmanuel, and Mother Agnes were all my superiors. Indeed we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

        It is so humbling for me today to be the tip of this basically hidden iceberg of love of God, prayer and faithful service that has been their lives for 70 years-- and the grace of mine for 39.

        We dare to implement our vision for the future, Monastic Life: A Gift received, A Gift Shared because we stand on the shoulders of these giants in the faith. Mother Leonarda was 80 years old when she built the first monastery wing in 1960. During the first 29 years the Sisters were in this country, apparently no one had seriously asked to enter and no Sister at that time was under 50. What faith, what foresight, what courage that enabled her to take that bold step! The very next year the first American women entered. And Mother Leonarda was 83 when she built our second monastery building.

        We have this beautiful expression of monastic life and this wonderful St. Emma because of the faith and the vision of our Sisters who have been our foundation stones. 

        Today we marvel at the graces that God has worked through our community in allowing the Sisters to impact the lives of so many. At St. Vincent the Sisters prayer and work touched the lives of all the monks, seminarians, collegians, prepsters and retreatants for 56 years. Here at St. Emma's it is so humbling for us that we have been a touchstone to God for more than 175,000 people who have come here since 1943. 

        We thank you, who number more than 200, who join us today in giving thanks to God and who are representative of all of volunteers, retreatants and friends. We thank you for all of your prayer, love, friendship, work and other kinds of sacrifices that have helped to sustain us during these first seven decades.

        With faith in God that his incredible Providence will continue, a Providence expressed in the legacy of our founding Sisters, and a Providence we have experienced through your prayer and support, we take this step of blessing this ground for our new monastery chapel and the renovations that accompany it. It is a step very much in line with our past and a step that situates us squarely in the third millennium.

        Today we celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the central mystery of our faith. How fitting that we bless ground for our new monastic chapel where the praises of God will continue to be sung not only in our name but in the name of the church for the needs of the entire world!

        With this enlarged monastery chapel, you will be able to join us for the Liturgy of the Hours that we sing 6 times a day. 

        I thank our Sisters who were the foundation stones for their witness of dedication and perseverance and I thank the younger members of the community who are heirs as I am for responding to God's invitation to join our monastic community and for their witness. I thank all of you for sharing our life through so many wonderful ways.

        We pray for the grace of God that our community will always be "earnest in prayer and mighty in our labor of love." May God bless us all.

                                                                                       Mother Mary Anne Noll OSB

February 25, 2001 - Our Community

L-R:  Front Row:  Sr. Boniface, Sr. Maria, Sr. Gaudentia, and Sr. Bonfilia
Middle Row:  Sr. Pancratia, Sr. Wiltrud, Mother Mary Anne, 
Sr. Corona, Paula Martin (postulant) and Sr. Maria
Back Row:  Sr. Mary Therese, Sr. Carolyn (novice), Sr. Renata,
Sr. Franziska, Vincenta Grum (postulant) and Sr. Mary Clare

Our Sisters at St. Anne Home with Mother Mary Anne (second from left)
Sr. Gabriele, Sr. Hedwig and Sr. Ancilla

70th Anniversary of Arrival of our Sisters

        We celebrated the arrival of our first Sisters on February 25, 1931 at St. Vincent Monastery, College, Seminary and Prep in various ways. On the feast of St. Scholastica, February 10, Archabbot Douglas Nowicki OSB, St. Vincent, Latrobe, PA officiated at solemn Vespers and mentioned several times very strikingly that our Sisters were co-workers with the monks in their section of God's vineyard. He and the 15 monks also joined us for a wonderful dinner together in our refectory to continue this celebration. 

               SAINT VINCENT, the magazine of St. Vincent College, featured a wonderful article by Rev. Donald Raila OSB in their winter issue on our Sisters. The local Greensburg newspaper, Tribune-Review, highlighted our community on the actual date itself.

Photo of the Sisters taken at St. Vincent in 1934.

Skit Presents History

        On the 70th anniversary itself, some Sisters presented a skit depicting experiences of the Sisters entering the Abbey of St. Walburg, Eichstaett and coming to America. Scene one showed a very nervous young woman asking for admission to the monastery. Actually Sr. Monica was so nervous that instead of asking the Abbess that she be received as a postulant, she asked that she might be received as the Abbess! Mother Benedicta was very kind and responded that normally they had one Abbess at a time and they already had one!

       Another scene showed the Sisters crossing the ocean and two were terribly seasick. A third Sister was showing them a delicious orange - a rare, almost unheard of treat at that time - and saying that she would not give it to them for they would only give it to the fish!

        In the third scene the statue of Liberty welcomes them to America. Next we saw the young Sisters cleaning and serving at St. Vincent - and pushing one another around on a  only serving cart for fun. Finally we were allowed a glimpse of heaven with St. Walburga and St. Emma pointing to St. Emma Monastery on the world globe and talking about the wonderful lives that the Sisters have lived. It was delightful!

Photo far left:  the aspiring postulant (Sr. Mary Clare) asking Lady Abbess (Sr. Franziska) for admittance to the community 

Left:  working at St. Vincent (Vincenta, Paula and Sr. Carolyn)

Photo far left: Lady Liberty (Sr. Renata) welcoming the Sisters to America

Left:  St. Emma (Sr. Franziska) and St. Walburga (Sr. Maria) speaking of the wonderful celebration

70th Public Celebration and Ground Blessing

        About 220 people joined us on June 10 for our official celebration of the 70th of our Sisters. Our chaplain, Msgr. Robert J. Shuda, was the main celebrant and homilist. The other concelebrants were retired Archabbot Paul Maher OSB, Rev. Warren Murrmann OSB, Rev. Gilbert Burke OSB and Rev. Ignatius Purta OSB. Rev. Cyprian Constantine OSB played the organ.

        Referencing the Acts of the Apostles, Msgr. Shuda created a bit of an "Acts of St. Emma Monastery" in his homily as he listed the various accomplishments since the Sisters arrival in 1931, but went on the say that St. Emma Monastery is more than dates and names and ministries and buildings. Despite the homesickness and tiredness, despite change of residence and differences of personalities, despite failures and even successes, the Spirit of God is present here to inspire the life, to be the soul of this monastic community. Thus the soul of this Monastery is and must always be the Spirit inspiring monastics to proclaim the good news of loving community through their gathering daily at the Eucharistic Liturgy and at their Hours of corporate prayer and, in between, through the sacrificial offering of self in the ordinary service of others. The names of the monastics change, ministries come and go, buildings are raised up and razed down; but the community of many will continue to be formed only as one life in the Spirit...

        It is appropriate, therefore, to celebrate such community today, the Feast of the Trinity of God. Though three Persons, God is one. Though many, this Community of differing personalities, this Community of old and young, this Community of lengthy faithfulness and beginning commitment is one. Fed by Word and Sacrament, the Sisters in our midst, supported by those who have gone to God's Glory, are first and foremost called to answer the prayer of Christ that all be one in His love by serving and loving each other and others in selfless sacrifice. It is such Trinitarian love that united the early Christian Church. It is such Trinitarian love that brings us together today. It is such Trinitarian love that draws us unto the tomorrows yet to be. It is such Trinitarian love that is the soul of the yesterdays, todays and tomorrows of St. Emma Monastery.

        After Mass we Nuns lead the procession and the singing of the Litany of Saints to the site of the new monastery chapel which was outlined in white paint. After a prayer and sprinkling the site with holy water, Msgr. Shuda invited each Sister to bless the project with holy water also. A reception in the nearby courtyard under a warm sun and blue skies allowed everyone to enjoy the day. About 75 joined us for Vespers.

        The next morning the last Mass was celebrated in our old chapel and each Sister carried something from the sanctuary accompanying our chaplain who carried the Blessed Sacrament to our temporary chapel in what was our chapter room (the place the community meets for conferences and official business). The mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus occurs in such varied ways in each of our lives and leaving our old chapel was part of the death experience on our way to the resurrection experience that our new monastery chapel will be.







Above, left:  Msgr. Shuda, our chaplain, Sr. Boniface, Sr. Wiltrud, Sr. Pancratia (standing l-r) Paula, Sr. Franziska and Sr. Mary Clare blessing ground for new Monastic chapel; above, right:  Mother Mary Anne and Sr. Corona with model fro new chapel at June 10 celebration.  Left:  As a special remembrance of our 70th anniversary, we spent several 
recreations attaching small wax angels with red ribbon to keepsakes. Above working on the assembly line are: (l-r) Sr. Mary Therese, Sr. Wiltrud, Sr. Renata, Paula, Vincenta, Sr. Franziska, and Sr. Pancratia. 

Community News

Vocation Update

Above, Sr. Carolyn receives the habit.
    On February 24 Carolyn Littlejohn of Eastern Maryland became a novice and received the habit. On July 7 Vincenta Grum, Wilkes- Barre, PA also received the habit and began her canonical year. Tune into our Christmas newsletter for photo.

        Since February 2000 we have received an ever increasing number of requests for information about our monastic community-a sign that people are beginning to name their God-hunger. How do people find out about us? They see our ad in Guide to Religious Ministries, meet a monk from St. Vincent Archabbey or a priest who studied at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, PA where our Sisters cooked and served for 56 years, visit our website, or hear about us from a friend. Women who are discerning a vocation to our community sometimes begin with our Monastic Live-in Experience in early July of each year or choose another time that suits them. Ideally they will be able to make a number of visits so they can get to know our community and we can become acquainted with them before they would enter.

Sr. Mary Bernard Dies

        After a valiant 7-year struggle with several kinds of cancer, our Sr. Mary Bernard Schloder died quickly and unexpectedly on December 29. Born on July 18, 1921 in St. Marys, PA, she entered St. Emma Monastery August 15, 1961 (the first year American women could enter our monastery) and made vows on February 25, 1963. Before she entered, she worked in an insurance agency. Sr. Mary Bernard was our treasurer and kept excellent records and accounts. By last fall the cancer had ravaged her bones literally to the breaking point and the very serious side effects of the treatments had her hospitalized for 10 days. After another 4 weeks of physical therapy at St. Anne Home, Greensburg, PA, Sr. Mary Bernard was home in our monastery for three weeks and really enjoyed every aspect of Christmas. The morning of her death, she seemed good. After Mass and Terce, she had serious trouble breathing and in 45 minutes she had gone home to God. Archabbot Douglas Nowicki OSB and 15 other priests concelebrated her funeral Mass.

        Several months after her death, we received a new revelation about heaven. It came on a postcard addressed to Sr. Mary Bernard and began, "As the new owner of a motorcycle…" We believe in a bodily resurrection but did not expect her to get "wheels" as well!

Besides "decking the halls" for Christmas, we paint the windows in our monastic refectory with a Nativity scene.  Some of our artists:  (l-r) Sr. Mary Clare, Paula, Vincenta and Mother Mary Anne.

News Briefs

        On the Feast of St. Scholastica, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco celebrated Mass for us and joined us for dinner…Volunteers and their families numbering 40 joined us February 11 to share each other's company, to pray Vespers and to enjoy a meal together…On February 20 Sr. Hedwig OSB celebrated her 80th birthday… On June 1 Sr. Gaudentia broke her hip, had surgery, received physical therapy at St. Anne Home, Greensburg, and is back home in our monastery again. At 87, she was worried about "job security" for she 
serves the volunteers and guests their meals, cleans our refectory, and folds laundry. We assured her that we would hold her position open for her…We inherited a major part of a phone system which allowed us to update our previous one. Our old system disconnected once or twice a day but we assured people that it did so randomly!

New Monastic Chapel Begun

They call it Construction?

        Four weeks after the ground blessing, here is the status of our building project. In the first monastery building in which 16 rooms are affected, 11 cells with furniture needed to be removed and "homes" found for it. Our "angel factory" needed a new location so Sr. Corona (nearly 89) has a place to make her wax angels. New storage areas for paint, light bulbs, floor finish, strippers and all the other etceteras, etceteras and etceteras that basements tend to collect were found. We are very grateful to the 7th and 8th graders who helped move all those items.

        In some instances, the very next day after moving furniture out, the cement block walls between rooms in the basement and between cells on the first floor were demolished for the new laundry, three-story elevator, and library. Two bathrooms are also undergoing complete renovation. Trees have been removed, digging the big foundation (complete with HUGE stones) is nearly complete, and our old chapel has been razed. And at no extra cost, a lot of dust, dirt and noise are included in the project!

Construction updates on Website

        You can check out our construction and its progress without leaving your home by clicking onto On the home page, click onto "Constructing the Future" and walk around without need of a hard hat or danger of falling or being in someone's way. Rejoice with us over each shovel full of earth removed, each block laid for the foundation and each wall in place.

Capital Campaign

        We report with great joy that donations totaling over $1,100,000.00 in pledges or one time gifts have been received towards our capital campaign, Monastic Life: A Gift Received, A Gift Shared. We are deeply touched by your generous support and have confidence that donations will continue to come in. A $10, $20 or $50 a month pledge really adds up over the three-year period of this campaign. We are grateful for WHATEVER size gift that you can consider. Gifts totaling $500 will be listed on a plaque in your name or the name of loved ones (living or deceased) and specific memorials are also available.

        We have also received gifts that fall into the "first time we have ever received this item" category. Instead of trading his truck in or selling it, a friend gave it to us so that we could sell it. Another person plans to give us a monetary gift that will provide income during this person's lifetime and the principal becomes ours at the time of the individual's death - called an annuity. Both of these gifts have a benefit to the donor as well.

        We know there are so many worthy causes asking your support so we are always honored if our monastic life has impacted yours in such a way that you want to help bring us into the future and that you choose among your many requests to support.

Monastic Guest House

        On November 11, 2000 our new monastic guest house was blessed. Last summer's letter featured a photo showing the transformation of an underground house into our very beautiful monastic guest house. Since that time we have welcomed individuals from Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Canada and various places in Pennsylvania. We also hosted several directed retreats, leadership teams from two religious communities, the executive council of the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania and several pastoral/church councils.

New Programs for Bereaved, Cancer Patients
and their Caregivers at Monastic Guest House

        Having researched the symbolic meaning of flowers and painted them as floral portraits of individuals, Nan Keenan, Ligonier, PA has found her flowers to be a tool to help individuals struggling with cancer and others who have lost a child or a parent.

        CHESED AND CANCER (October 19-21, 2001) invites those who have been diagnosed with cancer and their care giver to a weekend program reflecting on God's loving kindness (Hebrew word chesed) through prayer, faith, friendship and creating a family meadow. A day program for care givers only of cancer victims will be offered October 10, 2001.

        Directed to parents who have lost a child of whatever age, MARIGOLD GARDENING (April 12-14, 2001) means to bring grief full circle, to grow from adversity. It also means Mary's gold, the virtues, the ponderings, and the gifts of the Mother of God. On April 10, 2002 a day program will be directed to adult children who have lost a parent.

New Program for Spiritual Development of Youth

        Nan Keenan also uses the symbolic meaning of flowers to help young people develop a deeper spiritual life. Designed to support children in their faith journey, BLOOM (Bring Love Out Of Me) will emphasize contemplative prayer, the Ten Commandments, keeping the Sabbath, and the identification of spiritual gift from February 15-17, 2002. On February 18, 2002 a retreat on contemplative prayer will be offered to students of all ages.

        Since these retreat programs by Nan Keenan will be held in the Monastic Guest House, numbers are very limited. For more information, please contact us for a brochure on these programs.

Retreat House

Rev. Angelus Shaughnessy OFMCap

        Beginning July 1, Father Angelus has accepted a three-year assignment with the Missionary Franciscans associated with EWTN in Alabama. We certainly pray for him and ask God's blessings on him, his new responsibilities and all the people he will touch. Please note the retreat masters who will be taking his place for retreats held here this fall and winter for which he was scheduled.

Youth Groups

        These past months we have welcomed various youth groups to make retreats, to learn what a monastery is and to welcome both individuals and groups as volunteers. First, second and third graders from Holy Cross, Youngwood, first Communicants from St. John, Delmont, 7th and 8th graders from Our Lady of Grace, Greensburg, a youth group from St. Benedict the Moor, Pittsburgh, college students from Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD and students from Pitt-Carnegie-Mellon came for retreat experiences of various lengths. The students from Frostburg came also to volunteer, as did several groups from this area.

        Calling it a Benedictine Pilgrimage, 7th and 8th graders from Concord Hill, MO visited here June 6 and also St. Vincent, Latrobe.

Priests' Retreats 2002

        From February 4-8, 2002 Msgr. William Biebel, St. Peter Cathedral, Erie, PA will be the retreat director for the preached retreat for priests.

        A directed retreat for priests by Rev. Tom Acklin OSB will be offered February 24-28, 2002 at the Monastic Guest House.


Our Gratitude

        In this summer newsletter we recognize in general the wonderful generosity of our volunteers; in the Christmas letter we give wonderful examples of what these generous people do to help us. We thank each one of them and you who support us by your prayer and love, who give us gifts of various kinds for our use or for our auction, and who by your sacrifices and prayer help support our building projects. We ask God to bless each one of you.

Promise of Prayer

        As we try to live our Ora et Labora in always deeper ways, we remember you as we offer our lives to God day by day and, in a special way during Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Retreatants also remember those who help make St. Emma possible in the daily lives of prayer and work.

        May the Lord give you the fullness of His love and peace.

Want Ad Section

        Because of your generosity in the past, we dare ask: that you might check your closets and basements again for unused

Coffee maker
CD player
Portable cassette/CD player for monastic 
guest house
Overhead projector

Thanks for checking your storage areas and for your willingness to share those items with us.