Some things change your life forever—getting married, having a baby, getting a new job, or a promotion. Finding St. Benedict Center in June 2002, twenty years ago, makes my “forever” list. It was the beginning of a connection that has changed my life in countless ways. It started my journey of Being Benedictine.
As a busy mom, wife, and teacher, I had a desire for silence and prayer. I learned about a four-day silent contemplative prayer retreat at St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska from an advertisement in our local newspaper. I loved the silence; although the twenty-minute meditation sittings throughout the day were a little more challenging, I knew I would come back to this oasis of peace.
St. Benedict Center sponsors many retreats each year—these opportunities have nurtured my spiritual longing and love of learning. I wasn’t sure if I would come back for a silent retreat, but I knew I would return to this sacred getaway soon. It started out that I came two or three times a year….and it gradually increased over time to be once or twice a month. There was one summer that I came every week, and it was suggested that I build a little cabin out back. I’ve particularly enjoyed attending retreats given by the monks of Christ the King Priory, visiting monks, and by authors like Macrina Weiderkehr (who became a dear friend), Joyce Rupp, Anselm Gruen, Helen Prejean, and Michael Casey. I have even come back for more silent retreats too, and I eagerly look forward to them now.
I am most grateful for the relationships I have made at St. Benedict Center. My first St. Ben’s friend was Colleen, who I met at that silent contemplative prayer retreat. Both of us were from Lincoln, and we connected back at home after the retreat to debrief. We quickly became “anam caras,” soul companions–we read spiritual books and could talk for hours about our spiritual journeys. Colleen introduced me to Joyce, and from there we created a circle of friends that has continued to evolve. Colleen passed away in 2005—she is missed, but her memory lives on in “the circle” and she is an inspiration, an angel partner, for many retreats I have led through the years.
I have met some of my best friends at St. Benedict Center—the monks, oblates, and people from various retreats I attended. Later, when I started leading some of my own retreats, many women started to return year after year. These women have become “spiritual playmates” and soul companions. Steve is also a special Benedictine friend—Fr. Thomas introduced Joyce and me to him after a silent retreat since we were all from Lincoln. We have continued to meet these past 17 years for meditation, spiritual discussions, and friendship. In more recent years, I have connected with Sara (an Oblate), Ellen (a fellow pilgrim), and many others. A special story about Sara and Ellen here— A Divine Encounter: Trust the Journey
St. Benedict Center has become a spiritual home for me. It is important to carve out time for silence and prayer even when meeting with friends. The building and grounds are a sacred space with many places for solitude and prayer including The Stations of the Cross, St. John’s Bible, and the labyrinth.
Becoming an oblate is another gift I have received from Being Benedictine. I made my Final Oblation in 2013, promising stability, obedience, and conversion of life—to live as a monk in the world. A sense of community, the Lectio Divina discussions, prayers, and celebrating the Eucharist together are something I look forward to every month. During the pandemic time, we were able to meet on Zoom which provided spiritual support. Learning more about St. Benedict, my patron saint, has been the foundation of growth in my spiritual journey. Read more here—Happy Birthday, St. Benedict!
Through my connection with St. Benedict Center, I was able to attend the Benedictine Oblate World Congress in Rome, participate in two Benedictine pilgrimages to Europe, and learn and explore the future of monasticism. Learn more about 125 year anniversary of the Benedictine confederation HERE.
I have received spiritual direction from monks at St. Benedict Center. I cannot say enough about the benefits of spiritual direction—to be challenged and consoled but mostly, accompanied, on the spiritual journey is a sacred and personal gift. I have learned so much from the monks about work and prayer, hospitality, stability, obedience, and more. The Benedictines have helped heal the pain of growing up Catholic and later encountering fundamentalist Christianity.
St. Benedict Center is a blessing. Being Benedictine has become a way of life, not just a spiritual journey.
St. Benedict, in his Rule, said, “Always we begin again.” St. Benedict Center has given me and so many others a chance to renew themselves when they visit, this chance to begin again. I’m overjoyed to celebrate a personal 20-year anniversary of St. Benedict Center in my life!
Learn more about the history of Christ the King Priory HERE.