Community News







september 2018




+ Sister Mary Ruth Coffman, 1929-2018

September 23, 2018


The monastic community announces the passing of Sister Mary Ruth Coffman, OSB, last evening, September 22, at the age of 88. This dear soul, joyful monastic, brilliant teacher, and faithful friend died peacefully at the monastery surrounded by her Sisters who were quietly reciting and chanting the psalms and prayers that she so dearly loved.


Arrangements are as follows:


Tuesday, September 25, Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel

4:45 PM - Reception of the Body

5:00 PM - Vespers of the Dead, with Visitation to follow


Wednesday, September 26, Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel

3:00 PM - Mass of Christian Burial, with interment in the monastic cemetary to follow


Sister Mary Ruth's obituary may be read at this link.


May she rest in peace.









Sister Thérèse attends archivist conference

September 17, 2018


Sister Thérèse Haydel, Archivist for the monastic community, recently attended the Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious Triennial Conference in Louisville, KY. The conference featured sessions on such topics as records management policies and procedures, recording and preserving oral histories, and digitalization of archival materials. 


Sister Thérèse appreciated not only the conference presentations but also the opportunity to meet and learn from archivists of many different religious Congregations, including several Benedictine archivists. Sister (at left, above) is pictured here with archivists from Benedictine communities in Ferdinand, IN, and Erie, PA. 





Sister Lynn Marie is elected Moderator of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum

September 14, 2018


On the final day of the quadrennial symposium of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (C.I.B.), the assembled delegates from all parts of the world elected our Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie to a four-year term as Moderator of the C.I.B., an international representative body of Benedictine women throughout the world. 


The role of the Moderator is to coordinate all of the activity of the C.I.B. The Moderator presides over Conference and Administraive Council meetings and directs the work of the C.I.B.  She also serves as the liaison between the C.I.B. Conference and the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.


The primary purpose of the C.I.B. is to promote mutual support and exchange of ideas and experience among Benedictine women on an international level and to foster the development of women's monasticism.  The C.I.B.also serves to support the relationship between women's communities and the Benedictine Confederation and to advise the Abbot Primate on issues as they relate to Benedictine women.


Our monastic community is proud of Sister Lynn Marie on having been elected to this international leadership role!





At right, Sister Lynn with three of the five members of the C.I.B. Administrative Council - Mother Therese Marie Dupagne (Belgium), Mother Caritas Swai (Tanzania), and Mother Franziska Luka (Germany, Assistant Moderator).











At left, Sister Lynn Marie confers with Abbot Guillermo, Abbot President of the Subiaco-Cassinese Congregation, this week at the C.I.B. symposium in Rome.




(C.I.B. photo credits: Pontificio Aetenio e Collegio Sant' Anselmo)



Sister Lynn Marie attends international Benedictine conference in Rome;

meets Pope Francis

September 8, 2018


Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie is currently in Rome attending the quadrennial symposium of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB).  CIB is an international organization of Benedictine women affiliated with the Benedictine Confederation, the international governing body of the Order of St. Benedict.  The purpose of CIB is to promote and sustain sisterly bonds among women's monastic communities around the globe who follow the rule of St. Benedict. The symposium brings together leaders and elected delegates from various regions of the world. Sister Lynn Marie is attending in her role as President of the Federation of St. Scholastica.


The theme of the eight-day symposium is Suscipiant Omnes Tamquam Christus, or Let All Be Welcomed as Christ.  In addition to the conference sessions, participants have had the opportunity to travel to historic Benedictine sites and other sites of religious significance.  Most notable was a special Audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.  The Holy Father addressed the group and greeted each participant individually.  Above is a photo of Sister Lynn as she is received by Pope Francis.  The Pope's remarks to the group can be found at this link.



Below are several pictures from the symposium (photo credit: Pontificio Aetenio e Collegio Sant' Anselmo).





Opening Mass




















Sister Lynn at the Opening Mass (2nd from right on 3rd row), with Benedictine Sisters from around the world.















Sister Lynn presents the banner for the USA/Canada region at the Symposium's opening liturgy along with Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner, Prioress of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indiana.













The opening liturgy featured cultural expressions from throughout the Benedictine world.


















In another Cullman connection, our Sister Mary Adrian McLean created a clay medallian for each participant that featured the conference logo. 




August 2018





Retreat Center in the news

August 31, 2018



The Retreat Center has been mentioned in two recent news stories about retreats that have been held here. Links to both stories are below.  The Sisters are grateful to be able to be an oasis of peace and hope for so many people, and for so many different types of groups who come seeking the Benedictine hospitality that they find here.





Summer Benedictine Update is published

August 17, 2018


The summer issue of Benedictine Update was placed in the mail earlier this week to our friends, family, and supporters. If you are not among our contacts to receive your own copy, you may read a pdf version by clicking here


If you are not on our mailing list and would like to be, let us know! We can be reached at (256) 615-6072 or







Sisters Tonette and Lynn Marie attend leadership assembly

August 12, 2018


Sister Tonette Sperando and Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie have been in St. Louis, MO, for the past week, gathered with several hundred leaders of women's religious communities from around the country for the 2018 Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  The theme of this year's assembly, Being the Presence of Love: The Power of Communion, was designed to help attendees learn, reflect upon, and discuss the power of communion and its relevance for contemporary religious life in the midst of diversity and global challenges.  The sessions were oriented toward such questions as how, as leaders, to foster communion, to engage contemplatively, and to be the presence of Christ's love in the context of the many challenges of the present day.


Among the various theologians, Religious, and other presenters, our Sisters were grateful for the presence of a Benedictine as one of the keynote speakers, Fr. Simón Pedro Arnold, OSB, of Peru.  Our Sisters also had an opportunity one evening to share dinner with the other Benedictines present at the assembly.




July 2018



Sister Minona Anne attends Formation workshop and retreat

July 30, 2018


Sister Minona Anne D'Souza recently spent three weeks at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, ID, where she attended the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (BSWR). 


BSWR is a program for Benedictine Sisters who have made first monastic profession and are discerning the possibility of making perpetual monastic profession.  The program consists of a workshop featuring presentations on a variety of monastic topics, along with personal reflection, the sharing of one's experience, and time for rest and leisure.  The two-week workshop is followed by four-day directed retreat. This year's theme was Prefer Nothing Whatever to Christ: Good Zeal on the Journey.


A total of seven participants from monasteries around the country participated, led by two monastic formators and several different presenters.


At right, Sister Minona Anne is pictured in the chapel at the Monastery of St. Gertrude.






Community holds annual summer meetings

July 26, 2018



The monastic commumnity has been holding their annual summer meetings this week. This time together allows the Sisters to hear reports on various aspects of their life and ministry, to discuss topics of common interest, and to make decisions regarding future plans and goals.


The meetings concluded this afternoon with a Commissioning Service during which each Sister received a commission and blessing from the prioress for her upcoming year of ministry.


At right, Sister Tonette, Prioress, address the community. Below are additional pictures from the week of meetings.






















































































































































































































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. 


Sr. Karen Ann reports of the experience: "It is very interesting and a multicultural experience in and of itself. There are religious and priests here from Trinidad, New Zealand, Samoa, and the Phillippines among others."  Upon her return, Sister Karen Ann will be sharing the knowledge gained with other Vocation Team members and with the community.








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.