I’ve been visiting a Benedictine monastery close to my apartment in Chicago lately. It’s for a class project, but I’ve been surprised to notice how much a part of my life Benedictines have been. I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m interested in the the ins and outs of daily live in a Benedictine community…I’ve bounced around on their edges for years.

I grew up in Watertown, South Dakota–home of the Benedictine Mother of God Monastery, located on the appropriately named Harmony Hill. My mom used to take classes out there and my grandparents lived at the assisted living center the sisters owned. I knew several of the sisters from my summers at Vocation Camp. Without explicit consideration of Benedictines, I chose to attend the College of St. Benedict and moved on the fringes of that community, occasionally attending the evening Liturgy of the Hours and supper with my “Benedictine friend.”

These Benedictines inspire me. I met women who teach and write and garden and minister; they set a model just by living their lives. I remember asking one of them if they were worried about the decline in numbers of sisters joining. She shocked me by explaining that Benedictine communities have been around for hundreds of years, in lots of different forms and shapes. She explained that they are open to the ways the Spirit reshapes the community and there is very little sense in worrying too much about it.

To find myself moving, again, on the edges of a Benedictine community feels oddly familiar. Their signals of hospitality, their prayers, their care; these are things I have come to appreciate.

Kate Dugan is a PhD student at Northwestern University and co-editor of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women & Catholicism.

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