Community News








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. 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)







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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






december 2016


Celebrating Christmas...

December 27, 2016


The Sisters are enjoying a wonderful celebration of Christmastide, beginning with First Vespers of Christmas on Saturday evening and continuing into these days of the Octave of Christmas.  The chapel and monastery have been resplendent with the beauty of the season. The liturgical celebrations have been marked by both solemnity and festivity as the remembrance of our Savior's birth leads us both to pause with awe and to rejoice in celebration. Below are images from our celebration of this holy season.






Nearly every nook and cranny of the monastery has been decorated for Christmas, from grand displays in public parlors to tiny corners of festive cheer.
































Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, addressed our employees at our annual Employee Chrismas Luncheon, thanking them for their immeasurable contribution to our lives and ministries.





Below, Sisters and employees linger in conversation following the luncheon. 



































Sister Michelle helps decorate around the altar on the afternoon of Christmas Eve while Sister Lynn Marie and Sister Therese rehearse their cantor parts and Sister Elisabeth practiced her flute. 
































Meanwhile in the kitchen, Sister Bernadette oversaw preparations for Christmas dinner festivities.  Here she checks her signup list of the Sisters who volunteered for the many aspects of meal preparation and clean-up. 





































Following a festive Mass of Christmas Day, the community enjoyed a celebratory meal.  In these photos, Sister Benita (above) preps the serving line, Sister Janet Marie (right) prepares the gravy, Sisters Regina and Mary Adrian (below) set out condiments and side dishes, and Sister Eileen readies the pies for serving. 













































Gifts from our name-drawn gift-swap lined the dining room Christmas tree.  Sisters enjoyed visiting together prior to the meal. 




























And more Christmas scenes from around the monastery...





Sisters Mary Adrian, Minona Anne, Marie, and Madeline enjoy a moment with Santa and with each other on 2nd Ottilia.

















The dining room Christmas tree awaits the gift exchange.  Sister Sara Aiden is also "aglow" with anticipation for this traditional Christmas afternoon community gathering.













































































































The joy experienced by the community in celebrating together the birth of our Lord was centered in the Eucharistic liturgies of Christmas and in the Divine Office, liturgical celebrations that set the tone for our Christmas joy - a joy that flowed throughout the day and that ever animates our monastic life.   






november 2016


Giving thanks...

November 24, 2016


The Sisters are enjoying a quiet afternoon today following a festive Eucharistic Liturgy this morning and a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.  Several guests joined us for the liturgy and dinner.


The celebration began with a Vigil last evening in the monastery chapel, with Sr. Tonette Sperando, Prioress, offering a reflection for the gathered community. In her reflection, Sr. Tonette gave thanks for God's providence and guidance in the life of our community, and spoke of our call to respond in faith to God's fidelity.  You may read her reflection here.



Below are a few pictures from preparation of today's Thanksgiving dinner. 





















































october 2016




Sisters receive visit from dear friends, are presented with copy of special book

October 15, 2016



Yesterday, the Sisters were blessed by the visit of Benny and Anne LaRussa, long-time friends of the monastic community.  The LaRussa's presented to the community a copy of a newly-published book authored by Anne entitled The Knitter


In the photographs at right and below, the LaRussa's present the book to Sister Mary Ruth Coffman, Mrs. LaRussa and Sister Mary Ruth discuss the book, and Mr. LaRussa explains to Sr. Karen Ann a few details about the cover of the work.


































Sisters attend Intercultural Ministry workshop at Cathedral

October 15, 2016


This past week, five Benedictine Sisters attended a dioesan-sponsored workshop at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham entitled Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers.  The workshop was led by Mar Munoz-Visoso, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity of the USCCB. 


During the course of the day, the Sisters enjoyed not only the program content but also the opportunity to visit with Priests,

Deacons, Religious, and other ecclesial ministers from around the diocese.


Two of the five attendees, Sisters Margaret Mary and Minona Anne, are also participating in a related six-week course sponsored by the USCCB and the University of Notre Dame.  Entitled The Intercultural Church: Theological Foundations and Pastoral Practices, they are part of a cohort of ecclesial ministers from around the Diocese of Birmingham who are participating in the on-line course, of which the day-long workshop in Birmingham was a part. 


Left to right, Sisters Sara Aiden Burress, Margaret Mary Liang, Minona Anne D'Souza, Elisabeth Meadows, and Marie Leonard.