Community News


July 2018




Vocation team seeks to deepen intercultural skills and understanding in vocation work

July 20, 2018



Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, chair of the Vocation Team, is currently at DePaul University in Chicago attending a workshop sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference.  Entitled Developing Intercultural Competencies in Screening and Assessment, the 2-day workshop is geared toward developing skills and cultural understanding that will help the team welcome and work with women of diverse cultural backgrounds who come to us for vocation discernment. Upon her return, Sister Karen Ann will be sharing the knowledge gained with other Vocation Team members.







Sister Lynn Marie travels to South Africa to meet with African Benedictine Sisters

July 16, 2018


Sister Lynn Marie first met Sister Theodora Ntuli and Sister Inviolata Kambanga in 2006 when they, along with three other Benedictine Sisters from Africa, attended the Federation of St. Scholastica General Chapter meeting as invited observers.  She has since crossed paths with Sister Theodora in other parts of the world as they have gathered for meetings of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB). This summer, Sister Lynn Marie had the opportunity to travel to see both Sisters during a visit to Twasana Priory in Kwa-Zulu Natal Provice of South Africa where she attended a meeting of Benedictine Sisters representing monasteries in Namibia, Tanzania, and South Africa. 


Since the 2006 Chapter, the Federation of St. Scholastica, through the office of the President, has remained in contact with the African Sisters and has lent support to their efforts to develop congregational and federation structures.  During the recent meeting in South Africa, Sister Lynn Marie gave a presentation outlining the ways in which our Federation structure provides for mutual support and encouragement between monastieries. 


Traveling with Sister Lynn Marie was Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup of St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, KY. In addition to their role as invited observers and as a presenter, the two canon lawyers served as resources for the Sisters during their two weeks at Twasana Priory.


Sister Lynn Marie described the time in Africa as an unforgettable experience.  In addition to the wonders of new surroundings, there was the special joy of sisterly bonds being renewed and deepened. 























One of the Sisters is a nurse and operates a clinic on the monastery grounds.









Look closely in the tree tops and you will see three grey monkeys.  Sister Lynn Marie says they occasionally make their way into the monastery, leaving banana peels on the window sills.

















One of the papaya trees on the monastery grounds.













With Mother Magdalena, Prioress General of
the Benedictine Sisters in Namibia.  Note the cool-weather attire.  It is winter in the southern hemisphere.










 With Mother Asante and Sister Redempta of the Congregation
of St. Agnes of Tanzania.













Sister Mary Catherine at the Twasana Priory bell tower.



Sister Michelle Renee makes Perpetual Monastic Profession

July 9, 2018


Saturday, July 7, was a jubilant day at Sacred Heart as Sister Michelle Renee St. Marie, O.S.B., made her Perpetual Monastic Profession.  Her Profession was received by Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., Prioress of the monastic community.  The Sisters were joined in the celebration by monks of St. Bernard Abbey, clergy and Religious of the diocese, and family and friends of Sr. Michelle Renee.


Perpetual profession marks the completion of Sister Michelle's intial formation in the monastic way of life and expresses her permanent committment to seek God through the monastic way of life within this monastic community.


Above, Sister Michelle Reneereads her profession document during the Rite of Perpetual Monastic Profession. Additional photographs from the day are below. 


More information about the profession ritual and Sister Michelle can be found at this link.








The profession ring rests on the altar prior to the Eucharsitic celebration. It was placed on Sister Michelle Renee's finger during the profession rite as a sign of her vocation in the Benedictine Community of Sacred Heart Monastery. 
















Awaiting the opening procession, Sister Michelle Renee enjoys a reflective moment with Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, and Sister Mary McGehee, Scholastic Director.




























The opening hymn.




















The gathered assembly included monks of St. Bernard Abbey and Religious from around the diocese.

























Sister Sara Aiden Burress proclaims the first reading.























Sister Karen Ann Lortscher proclaims the second reading.




















Fr. Linus Klusarits, O.S.B., reads the Gospel. Listening to the reading is Fr. John O'Donnell, O.S.B., who served as Principal Celebrant and homilist.














Following the Liturgy of the Word, Sister Tonette, Prioress, called forth Sister Michelle Renee.


















Sister Mary lit Sister Michelle Renee's profession candle from the paschal candle.  Sister Mary served as Sister Michelle's formation director during her years as a Scholastic.













Sister Michelle Renee signs her profession document on the altar after having read it aloud to the gathered assembly.
















Sister Michelle Renee sings the Suscipe, an antiphon of profound self-giving and trust that is traditionally sung at the time of monastic profession. 

























Following the Suscipe, Sister Michelle Renee prostrated and was covered by a pall representing her death to self and her rising to life in Christ.  As she lay under the pall, the monastic community chanted the Litany of the Saints, calling on all the saints in heaven to help Sister Michelle Renee give her life totally to Christ.  Following the litany and pictured here, Sister Tonette prayed a prayer of consecration over Sister Michelle Renee.



























The placing of the ring.

















Perpetually professed members of the monastic community offer the kiss of peace, a sign of Sister Michelle Renee's full acceptance into the community.














Sister Madeline Contorno offers the Prayer of the Faithful. At right is Abbot Cletus Meagher, O.S.B., of St. Bernard Abbey.



















Sister Michelle Renee's sisters, Paulette Haynes and Annie Scarborough, present the gifts along with Oblate William Busic. 



















Following the Eucharistic Liturgy, Sister Tonette offered a reflection.

























The traditional greeting by the community in the 2nd Ottilia hallway.

















A festive buffet followed Mass. 


















Young and old alike rejoiced together.


















Friends, family, Sisters, monks, Oblates enjoy table fellowship together.




















Thanks be to God!



June 2018


Feast of the Sacred Heart

June 8, 2018


During last night's Vigil for our Patronal Feast of the Sacred Heart, our Prioress, Sister Tonette Sperando, exhorted and encouraged us with her reflection on the Feast. You may read the thoughts she shared with us here.


The Feast fell on the final day of our annual retrat, led this year by Fr. Xavier Nacke of Conception Abbey in Missouri.   Our week of retreat, with its attendant silence, ended with today's Mass.  A joyous lunch followed, during which we shared with one another some of the fruits of the retreat.   


With retreat over, we are now busy getting ready for the Federation of St. Scholastica General Chapter meeting which will be held here beginning next Wednesday.  We are looking forward to the arrival of 59 Benedictine Sisters from around the country.



May 2018





Sisters announce news regarding Benedictine Manor

May 18, 2018


Today, the Sisters announced the closing of Benedictine Manor, the residential ministry that the Sisters have provided to independent, retired seniors for the past 35 years.  The News Release may be read by clicking here or by clicking on the image of the Release at right.


Although the news is about closure, the Manor will continue to offer a warm, welcoming home for the community of residents until the last resident relocates.  During these months of transition, the Sisters and staff of Benedictine Manor will remain fully engaged in providing residents with the safe, peaceful environment and the caring community life to which they are accustomed.


Please pray for the Manor residents, staff, and Sisters during this period of transition and change.



















Sister Kathleen-Christa celebrates 25 years of monastic profession

May 12, 2018


With joyful hearts, the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Sister Kathleen Christa Murphy, O.S.B., on Saturday, May 12, at Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel in Cullman. Rev. Joel Martin, O.S.B., served as Presider and Homilist. Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., Prioress, received Sister Kathleen Christa’s Renewal of Monastic Profession and offered a reflection at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Sister Kathleen Christa’s journey to Sacred Heart Monastery began in the warm cocoon of a close and loving family whose life centered around their parish, school, and neighborhood. Daughter of the late Raymond and Kathleen Murphy, and sister of Dick Murphy (now deceased) and Maureen Murphy, Sister Kathleen Christa was born and raised in Northampton, MA. She was baptized at Annunciation Catholic Church in Florence, MA, and attended nearby Catholic elementary and high schools.

After earning a B.A. degree in English and Art from College of Our Lady of the Elms, Sister Kathleen Christa embarked on a successful career as a designer in retail advertising. Her creativity and artistic talent found an outlet in this work, but Sister Kathleen Christa’s desire to serve others led her to eventually grow dissatisfied with the business environment in which she worked. After an extended discernment retreat in Colorado, Sister Kathleen Christa began serving with a Catholic volunteer program in the Diocese of Pueblo, CO. She later served with the Trinitarian Sisters as a Missionary Cenacle Volunteer in Brooklyn, NY. Sister found great fulfillment and a new sense of purpose in working with the homeless and the poor, even as she still treasured times of retreat and solitude in which to listen deeply for the voice of God in silence.Sister Kathleen-Christa celebrates with community and family at her jubilee Mass

While at a gathering of Cenacle Volunteers at a Trinitarian retreat center in east Alabama, Sister Kathleen Christa was encouraged to visit the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman on her way back north. As she describes it, “I arrived just in time for Vespers, and my soul soared as I heard the community sing the Psalms.” An extended visit with the monastic community at Sacred Heart led Sister Kathleen Christa into a discernment process, and eventually led her to enter the community. She entered the Novitiate on July 11, 1992, made her First Monastic Profession on July 31, 1993, and her Perpetual Monastic Profession on November 29, 1997.

Sister Kathleen-Christa renews her monastic professSister Kathleen Christa’s childhood experience of a close family life steeped in the life of the local Church prepared her well for life in monastic community.  Likewise, years of volunteer work and an innate spirit of hospitality prepared her well for ministry. For many years, Sister served in the Retreat Center, welcoming guests, offering retreats, and engaging in administrative
work. Her warm and open nature, welcoming heart, and enthusiasm for sharing the monastic spirit with others made Sister Kathleen Christa a natural fit for this ministry.

Within the monastic community Sister Kathleen Christa served for a time as Novice Director, and has served on several committees, including the Liturgy Committee and the Peace and Justice Committee. She is generous in sharing her artistic gifts with the community, and her artwork and creative ideas have added much beauty to the monastic environment over the years.

Sister Kathleen Christa is known and cherished within the community as a loving, generous, and
thoughtful community member who lives well the promises of her monastic profession. A person of deep prayer, Sister recently wrote that “life here lures me into listening for the voice of Jesus, the very Heart of Love.” Dwelling in that Love, Sister readily shares it with others.

Community and family of Sister Kathleen Christa celebrate with a festive mealSeveral family members from Massachusetts were able to join the monastic community for the Jubilee celebration, including Sister Kathleen Christa’s sister, Maureen Murphy McMahon, four nieces, and a nephew-in-law.


Following the Jubilee Mass, a Southern barbeque lunch – specially requested by Sister Kathleen Christa for her Massachusetts family – was enjoyed in the monastic dining room.


Click on the link to read the reflection Sister Tonette gave at the end of the jubilee liturgy:

Silver Jubilee - Sister Kathleen Christa - Reflection by the Prioress



Sisters enjoy Christmas preparations and celebrations

December 28, 2017


All of the Advent preparations and the multitude of pre-Christmas decorating culminated in a beautiful and joyful celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord. The celbratory mood continues as the Octave of Christmas and the rest of the Christmas season proceeds. The Sisters are most grateful to all who have contributed in various ways through prayers, visits, acts of kindness, cards, gifts, and donations. Here are a few scenes capturing the joy of the season shared in monastic community.

Sister Regina decorating the tree at monastery entrance

Sisters Minona Anne and Tonette decorating the tree in the 3rd floor community room











Sister Magdalena practice the organ in chapel













Sister Elisabeth decorates Ottilia parlor fireplace























Sister Janet Marie makes her famous gravy for Christmas dinner

Sister Madeline serve up slices of pie for Christmas dinner





















Sister Regina oversees the Christmas dinner preparations



Sisters Emilie and Sara Aiden visit while waiting for dinner






















Sister Cecilia opens a Christmas gift

Sister Bernadette reads out the list of food gifts received in the kitchen




















Sister Virginia and Marie at the community Christmas party






Sister Lynn Marie opens one of the community's gifts

















+ Sister Margaret Frederick, O.S.B., 1935-2017

December 24, 2017


The monastic community is mourning the death of Sister Margaret Frederick, O.S.B., who died late in the evening on December 22, 2017.  Reception of the Body followed by Vespers will be Tuesday, December 26, at 4:45 P.M. in the monastery chapel.  The Mass of Christian Burial will be Wednesday, December 27, at 10:30 A.M. 


Even as we mourn her loss, we celebrate with great fondness the memory of Sister Margaret's life, esepcially as we transition from Advent into the Christmas season.  A copy of Sister Margaret's obituary can be read here






Winter Benedictine Update published

December 15, 2017


The Winter edition of Benedictine Update has been published and mailed.  If you are not among those who receive a printed copy by mail, the issue is available here for on-line reading.


A few highlights from the issue:

  • Sr. Tonette's Jubilee
  • Update on our landscaping project
  • Our pecan 'cottage industry'
  • Ministry and activity updates
  • Sr. Priscilla elected President of NAABOD (Oblate Directors)
  • Benedictine Manor news and Retreat Center news
  • And more...






NOvember 2017


Sister Tonette celebrates Silver Jubilee

November 20, 2017


Saturday, November 18, was a day of jubilation for the monastic community as we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress of the community, marking the 25th anniversary of her Monasteic Profession.  We were joined by many of Sister Tonette's family members, friends, monks of St. Bernard Abbey, and other Religious, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Virginia, Kansas, and Indiana.  A solemn yet jubilant Eucharistic Celebration was followed by a festive luncheon in the Retreat Center Dining Room. 


Sister Tonette chose as theme of the Jubilee That in All Things God May Be Glorified, a phrase from I Peter that is quoted by Benedict in his Rule for Monks and that expresses Sister Tonette's strong desire that her life and ministry bring glory to God. 


You may read more about Sister Tonette and Saturday's celebration by clicking here.  The reflection offered by Sr. Janet Marie can be read here. Photos from the day are below.







Sisters gather in the 2nd Ottilia hallway to await the opening procession.





















Sister Tonette with Sister Bernadette before the procession begins.




















Sister Sara Aiden leads the procession into the chapel.




























Sister Tonette enters the chapel, holding her Jubilee Candle.


























The candle is placed on the altar.  In her right hand, Sister Tonette holds her hand-written renewal of Monastic Profession, which she will sign as part of her renewal.





















The opening hymn.















































Sister Bernadette reads the 1st Reading.
























Sister Therese leads the Responsorial Psalm.






















Rev. Joel Martin, O.S.B., served as Principal Celebrant and Homilist.

















Following the Liturgy of the Word, Sister Treva Heinberg, Subprioress, calls forth Sister Tonette to renew her monastic committment.
















In the presence of God, her Sisters, and the gathered assembly, Sister Tonette reads her renewal of Monastic Profession...





















...and signs it on the altar.



















Standing before the altar and in the midst of the congregation and monastic community, Sister Tonette sings the ancient chant of the Suscipe.   The text, "Recieve me, O Lord...", expresses the heart of the Benedictine committment. It was sung at the time of Perpetual Profession and is sung again now as she renews the promises of her profession.












Following the Renewal of Monastic Profession, Sister Margaret Mary offers the Prayer of the Faithful.














Sisters Veronica and Mary present the gifts.


Sister Magdalena at the organ.



























From right to left, Sister Tonette's father and mother, Steve and Catherine Sperando, her brother Michael, her brother-in-law Roland, her sister Sarah, and Joseph, a nephew.




















Sister Janet Marie offers a Reflection at the conclusion of Mass.





















Sister Tonette with Sister Treva.

























With another Prioress and close friend, Sister Jennifer Mechtild of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indiana...















...and with good friend Sister Margaret, PBVM.










Below, Sister Tonette with her sister Gina, Gina's husband C.D., and nephews Sean and Steven.







































Sister Tonette's mother and three of her nephews, Steven, Joseph and Sean.
























Following the Eucharistic Liturgy, Sisters and guests enjoyed bountiful fare and festive conversation in the Retreat Center Dining Room.








































































































































































































































































Sister Tonette's family gathered for a portrait.
























Much preparation went into the celebration.  Sister Mary Adrian coordinated dining table decorations and fashioned a hand-made clay medallion for each table with the theme of the Jubilee - That in All Things God May Be Glorified. Tonette made the stands that held the medallions. 


The monastery dining room was also decorated and received the overflow from the Retreat Center.






























Sister Therese prepares a Silver Jubilee table in the chapel. 











The monastery kitchen and Retreat Center staff did an expert job of preparing and serving the luncheon.

















Sister Treva presented the community's Jubilee gift to Sister Tonette on the day before the Jubilee.


















That in all things God may be glorified. 



August 2017



A cottage industry, from the ground up

August 12, 2017


A few years ago, Sister Jane began taking advantage of the bounty provided each year from the many pecan trees around the monastery.  She spent countless hours gathering pecans from aross the grounds, and then, with the help of a few Sisters, prepared them for use in baked goods the monastery kitchen.  Eventually she was gathering pecans from other sites around Cullman where she obtained permission to gather.


This past year, Sister Jane set her sights higher and began to consider the possibility of expanding her pecan project into a bona fide cottage industry.  She took the State of Alabama's Cottage Industry course and is now certified to sell roasted pecans.  An additional permit allows her to sell shelled pecans. 


Last week, Sister Jane made her first sales to the public.  The venture was so successful that she sold out of her entire supply within a couple of days.  But it is almost Fall, the pecans will soon be ready for gathering, and another season of Sister Jane's Heavenly Oven-Roasted Pecans cottage industry will be underway. 


Above, Sister Jane (right) with Sister Treva sell pecans.  Below, Sister Jane with one of the monastery's pecan trees.





Community holds annual summer meetings

August 1, 2017


This past week saw the community gathered for their annual summer meetings. During this time together, the Sisters received updates on their various ministrires, discussed the business aspects of their life together, planned for the future, and heard from experts on topics pertinant to their life in monastic community.   There was also plenty of time for recreation and sharing time together as a monastic family.


At right, Sr. Tonette exhorts the community as the meetings conclude. Below are additional photos from the week. 
























































































































































































































































Benedictine 'summer school'

August 1, 2017


Summertime is the season when many Benedictine organizations hold their annual or biennial meetings, and when other special programs are held.  Such programs have drawn several Sisters to locations ranging from North Dakota to Florida over the past couple of months. Among our recent travels are the following journeys in support of our continuing formation and deepening in the Benedictine way of life.



In July, Sisters Mary, Magdalena, Michelle Renee, and Minona Anne attended the Wisdom Connections - T4 Symposium at St. Leo University in St. Leo, FL.  The Symposium gathered Sisters in Initial Formation and their formators from around the country.  T4 is a program that utilizes technology to enhance the formation of new Sisters and to provide an opportunity for regular connections between Sisters in different monasteries.  Sisters Michelle Renee and Minona Anne both participate in formation groups.  Sister Magdalena serves on the Content Committee for the program.  (Above, left to right, Sisters Michelle Renee, Magdalena, Mary, and Minona Anne)







Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing




Sister Michelle spent three weeks in July at Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, ND, where she attended the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat, a program for those preparing to make Perpetual Monastic Profession.   Sister MIchelle is depicted at far left in this picture of the 2017 BSWR participants.














Also in July, Sister Therese attended the biennial meeting of the Monastic Worship Forum, held at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas.   The theme was Celebrating the Liturgical Year and the featured presenter was Fr. Michael Joncas.








In late June, Sisters Tonette, Priscilla, Marian, Karen Ann, Elisabeth, and Sara Aiden attended a workshop/presentation by Michael Casey, OCSO, entitled Monasticsim in the 21st Century: A View From the Trenches.  The presentation was held at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN.









In June, Sisters Tonette, Lynn Marie, Karen Ann, Therese, and Elisabeth attended the Federation of St. Scholastica Pre-Chapter held at St. Leo University at St. Leo, FL.  The gathering was comprised of Prioresses and Delegates from all the member monasteries of the Federation.  With the goal of setting the agenda for next year's quadrennial Chapter, the delegates worked with the Pre-Chapter theme of Facing Forward with Hope.  The main presenter was Sister Edith Bogue, O.S.B, of Saint Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, MN.  Representing Sacred Heart Monaster was Sister Tonette, Prioress, and Sisters Karen Ann and Elisabeth, Delegates. Sister Lynn Marie chaired the meeting in her role as Federation President.  Sister Therese assisted with many technical aspects of the meeting.   (Above, left to right, Sisters Karen Ann, Elisabeth, Tonette, Lynn Marie, and Therese)






July 2017



Sister Priscilla elected President of Oblate Directors organization

July 19, 2017


Sister Priscilla Cohen, Oblate Director for Sacred Heart Monastery, is currently attending the biennial meeting of the North American Association of Benedictine Oblate Directors (NAABOD). The meeting is being held at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, MN.  During the conference, Sister Priscilla was elected to a four-year term as President of the organization.


Sister Priscilla has been active in the organization for quite a number of years, and since 2011 has served as Executive Secretary/Treasurer on the Administrative Team of NAABOD.  The organization, which traces its roots back to 1948, exists to provide ongoing formation for Oblate Directors and Associate Directors, and to provide a forum for discussion and discernment of questions related to Oblate programs.


In the photo above, Sister Priscilla (right) is installed as President of NAABOD.


Congratulations, Sister Priscilla!





Summer Issue of Benedictine Update available for on-line reading

July 19, 2017


Our community has been busy and active over the past few months.  You can read about it in the summer issue of Benedictine Update, published and mailed in June, and available here for on-line reading.



A few highlights from the issue:


  • The inspiration that we recieve from the Benedictine Medal
  • Our graced moment of listening
  • Sister Virginia's Jubilee
  • Our 'old/new' tabernacle lamp
  • Sister Therese's appointment as Archivist, and Sr. Mary Ruth's retirement from the position
  • The latest on our Scholastics' course of study for Initial Monastic Formation
  • And many news briefs and other reports of our activities over the past few months


Enjoy the read!









February 2017




+ Sister Bertha True, O.S.B., 1928-2017

February 1, 2017


The monastic community is mourning the death of Sister Bertha True, O.S.B., who died on January 30, 2017.  Reception of the Body followed by Vespers will be Thursday, February 2, at 4:45 P.M. The Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday, February 3, at 3:00 P.M. 


Even as we mourn, we celebrate with great fondness the memory of Sister Bertha's life.  A copy of Sister Bertha's obituary can be read here