I had a most delightful experience this weekend visiting the Monastery of Holy Wisdom, home of the Benedictine Women of Madison (Wisconsin). I was invited to their Celebration of Ecumenism in which the community celebrated their first year as an ecumenical community. This is the first Benedictine ecumenical community and so a very historic moment. Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, the highest representative of the women and men in the Benedictinew Order worldwide, was there and gave a wonderful reflection on ecumenism worldwide and the good work and vision that the Benedictine Women of Madison are engaged in.
Though in its first year as a formal Benedictine ecumenical community, the Benedictine Women of Madison have been involved in the Benedictine way of life and in ecumenicsm for many years as a Roman Catholic religious community. Over time, and with much prayer and discernment, the sisters were called to form an ecumenical Benedictine community. Here’s what the sisters say:
In June, 1966, in the spirit of Vatican Council II, we decided to open a retreat and conference center. We would offer hospitality to Christians of any denomination and seekers of world religions. Our community prayers, retreats and programs would include the message: all are welcome here.
The response to our offer of hospitality has been overwhelmingly abundant. Formerly, Christians of various churches praying together seemed innovative; this practice is common today. We continue to know ourselves as Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Presbyterian. While these labels sometimes separate us, we also know our unity as Christians who live, pray and work together in our world. These experiences continue to transform our lives.
Fourteen years ago, we initiated a dialogue with our federation of sixteen other monasteries of women. We shared our vision of becoming a Benedictine community for women of any Christian denomination. Through these years our vision has become clearer and our desire to be a community of Christian Benedictine women from various churches has become stronger.
We have not made the journey alone. Prayers, encouraging words, counsel from our ecumenical board and discernment with our Benedictine Federation helped us birth this new community.
A new identity calls for a new name. We are now Benedictine Women of Madison. Holy Wisdom Monastery is the new name for our home, replacing Monastery of Saint Benedict Center.
Our community work remains the same: prayer, hospitality, justice and care of the earth.
For more information on how Holy Wisdom Monastery came to be, the Benedictine Women of Madison website.
The celebration was truly beautiful and a testament to the beauty, strength, vision, and faithfulness of these women as well as of the Benedictine Order and of the women, men, and children who are part of the wider Holy Wisdom Monastery community. In terms of religious life, single women who are of any Christian tradition can come together and live and worship and serve in a monastic community.
I have had many women ask me about becoming a sister and are looking for a monastic way of life that is not exclusively Roman Catholic. I would highly recommend getting to know this community.