Debunking the myths
We get lots of questions
Let's address them head on
No question is too outrageous – we’ve heard some doozies!
OK, OK, no one ever said that religious life is easy. Or that it’s for everyone! Women who choose religious life think long and hard before making their decision. And sometimes, a sister does fall head over heels in love and chooses to leave the monastery. Some women become sisters later in life, after experiencing romance and even having children. What we’ve learned is that being celibate has freed us, in many ways, to love others more, and more often.
We are lucky to have many friends, some of whom are brother priests and bishops. We almost always have a visiting priest celebrating mass with us on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Nope. The Prioress—a woman—assisted by a team called the Monastic Council, is responsible for the monastery. The community of sisters prayerfully discerns who the next Prioress will be in an ancient process. The community and Prioress select the members of the Council. At Benet Hill, the Council also includes an oblate (male) and an employee (female).
Well, sure! If we ever went stir crazy and began worshiping a Great Mother Goddess statue, the Vatican would come down on us like a load of bricks. But we’re not planning on doing that; instead, we’ll just keep gently lifting up the feminine side of God in our worship work. And sure, it’s also true that we have to live within the male hierarchy and rules of the Church. But we’re used to that, and we have a good working relationship with our local bishop.
Benedictines are taught that we are to welcome every visitor to the monastery with hospitality, as if they are the Christ. That’s worked pretty well for 1,500 years so we’re going to keep at it.
Think of us as your great-aunts
We are overjoyed when you visit, especially when you come hungry. We may surprise you with silly costumes and we’ll go bonkers when our favorite sports teams win. We tell stories about our travels and work with all kinds of people. And we love to hear all about your travels, work, and relationships. When you get to know us, you’ll find that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
What it really means to be welcoming
In the middle of a spring blizzard at 6:40am, there was a knock on the front door. Pastor Heath was at the door with 15 other pastors from all over the country. They were on a Colorado mountain experience that morning with plans to watch the sunrise, walk in the forest, pray, and fast. Mother Nature had other ideas for that springtime day in the Rockies!
Sister MT Summers, Prioress welcomed the group as Christ. She invited the group out of the cold wet snow and into the Chapel. The pastors spent silent time and prayer in the chapel and then joined the Benedictine Sisters for morning prayer in the oratory. They left with Sister Lucy’s cinnamon rolls in hand to share when their fast ended.
Benedictine women have extended hospitality to strangers arriving at monastery doors for over 1,500 years. More than a foundational principle, this welcoming spirit is a daily practice here at Benet Hill.
What a modern sister is, and isn't
Even most cradle Catholics believe a nun and a sister are the same. Technically, that’s not true but practically, it doesn’t matter. We all answer to “Hello, Sister!”
At Benet Hill, we are:
At Benet Hill, we are not:
The Second Vatican Council was convened by St. John XXIII (then Pope) and was held from 1962 to 1965. It produced a series of documents to guide the Church in the 20th Century and beyond. The documents called people of faith to renew themselves and the Church. Because Benet Hill became an independent “priory” in 1965 and the sisters dedicated themselves to study and make decisions in response to this call to renewal, they are a Vatican II community.
Yes, Benet Hill Academy operated from 1965 to 1982, graduating over 700 young women. We are still in touch with many of our alumnae, with an annual reunion in July.
After closing Benet Hill Academy in 1982, we recognized a need to support not only Catholic adults in their faith development but also adults from other faith traditions or without religious backgrounds. That work continues today, both here in the Black Forest of Colorado Springs and globally through our online ministry programs.
Benedictine sisters first arrived from St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas in 1914. They were responding to a desperate plea from the Bishop of Colorado to educate the children of immigrants who were working in the coal mines. The sisters arrived by train in Walsenburg and taught up to 150 students at a time in one classroom. They worked for room and board only, receiving food from the grateful community.
Yes, that’s right. Sisters didn’t receive wages or health and retirement plan benefits from the dioceses until the 1980s. They were typically paid only room and board until they began organizing and advocating for themselves. Even then, they often had to fundraise to pay for their own salaries!
Have we mentioned that religious women are tough and resilient? Many re-trained as healthcare professionals and others received advanced degrees to qualify for well-paying jobs. We learned how to advocate for salaries and benefits from the dioceses we served as liturgists, musicians, and educators. We took all kinds of jobs to pay the bills. And through it all God was with us, along with generous donors, who believed in our Benedictine values of hope and hospitality.