Community News





april 2016





Four from Cullman attend Benedictine Sisters 55 and Under gathering

April 29, 2016


Last weekend, Sisters Tonette Sperando, Lynn Marie McKenzie, Therese Haydel, and Michelle St. Marie traveled to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN, to attend a gathering of Benedictine Sisters from around North America who are age 55 and under. The gathering, held approximately every two years, allows younger Sisters the opportunity to spend time together in shared learning, holy conversation, and getting to know other Sisters who are journeying on this monastic path. 


Sister Lynn Marie attended in her role as President of the Federation of St. Scholastica and was one of the speakers for the conference.  Sister Tonette was one of three Prioresses among the group.  Sister Therese designed the logo for the meeting, having previously created logos for this and other Benedictine conferences.  For Sister Michelle, this was her first 55 and Under conference and she enjoyed meeting many new Benedictine friends.


Above from left: Sisters Therese, Tonette, Michelle, and Lynn Marie




An Eastertide of beauty and grace

April 19, 2016


The springtime days of April have been exquisite in their color and beauty, adding to the joy of Eastertide.


We have posted on the Monastery Moments photo page some pictures from the monastery during Lent, the Triduum, and Eastertide, sharing with you scenes from the simplicty of Lent to the beauty of these joyous days of the Easter season.





March 2016



Recalling the Passion of the Lord; celebrating St. Joseph

March 23, 2016


This past Sunday, the Sisters and assembly gathered on the first floor of Ottilia Hall to celebrate with the Church the sacred liturgy of Palm Sunday.  After the blessing of palm branches by Fr. John O'Donnell, O.S.B., principal celebrant for the Eucharistic Liturgy, our procession took us out the front door of Ottilia Hall.  Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, processing with the Book of the Gospels, led the way along with thurifer Sister Minona Anne D'Souza.  The gathered assembly processed along the front drive, through the lower chapel doors, and up the chapel steps.  Traditional antiphons and Psalms were chanted along the way up until entrance into the chapel where we picked up the strains of the festive organ in singing "All Glory, Laud, and Honor."   In addition to the Eucharistic Celebration, the Sisters celebrated Solemn Lauds and Vespers of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. 


Below are a few pictures from the blessing of the palms in Ottilia Hall prior to the procession. 































On the day before Palm Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph.  Here at the monastery we celebrated not only with solemn liturgies but also with some informality as a group of Sisters gathered to view a film on the Holy Family. 


In Birmingham, Sister Minona Anne D'Souza attended a St. Joseph Altar celebration along with some of the parishoners at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, where she serves as a Pastoral Minister to the Sick and Homebound.  Sponsored by the Italian American Heritage Society of Birmingham, the Birmingham event is part of a tradition honoring the memory of the role that prayers to St. Joseph played in alleviating a famine in 15th century Italy. In this photo, Sister Minona Ann, standing alongside Msgr. Paul Rohling, proclaims one of the readings for the Blessing of the St. Joseph Altar.







St. Patrick's Day at Benedictine Manor

March 18, 2016


The residents and staff of Benedictine Manor celebrated St. Patrick's Day in high style yesterday with a mid-afternoon High Tea. They invited the Sisters to come celebrate with them, and many made their way over to the Manor to join in the festivities.  Sister Veronica Ryan, Director of Benedictine Manor, prepared Irish coffee and tea along with a selection of delicious tea-time fare. A good and festive time was had by all!


Meanwhile back at the monastery, the Sisters enjoyed traditional Irish fare at meal time.  A special treat was the Irish soda bread made by Sister Eileen Gallagher and traditional Irish trifle made by Sister Cecilia Mac Dermott, both of whom are of Irish heritage.


Above and below are several pictures from the High Tea.



























































Visitation - A monastic tradition of listening

March 14, 2016


One of the earliest and most vital of monastic traditions is the practice of a Visitation of a monastery by other monastics. The Constitution of the Federation of St. Scholastica, the Federation to which our community belongs, specifies that an Ordinary Canonical Visitation occur in each monastery every six years.  The regularly-scheduled Ordinary Canonical Visitation at Sacred Heart Monastery began with Vespers on Thursday evening, March 10, and concluded on Sunday afternoon, March 13.  The Visitators were Sister Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., of St. Scholasica Monastery in Chicago and First Councilor of the Federation of St. Scholastica (pictured at right), and Sister Glenna Smith, O.S.B., of St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow, VA, and former President of the Federation of St. Scholastica. 


The purpose is to provide a formal and structured process that allows a community to assess the authenticity of their lived expression of the Rule of St. Benedict in the context of the Benedictine tradition.  Visitation is rooted in the monastic virtue of listening - the Visitators listening to the community, and the community in turn listening to the observations and insights of the Visitators.


Each Visitation is preceded by a period of self-study in which information and data on various aspects of the community's life is gathered and shared with Visitators. During the Visitation, the Visitators meet with groups of Sisters to learn more about the community's life and practices and hear how the the Sisters express their Benedictine charism in their community life, prayer, and ministry.  Individual Sisters also have the opportunity to meet with Visitators. The Visitation concludes with an official report of the Visitators to the community.


In addition to the formal meetings throughout the days of Visitation, the Sisters enjoyed the time to simply be together and enjoy one another's company.   Below are several photographs from the weekend.





The Self-Study Committee was comprised of (left to right) Sister Marie Leonard, Sister Priscilla Cohen, Chair, and Sister Therese Haydel.  These Sisters led the self-study process and the preparation for the Visitation.











Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress (at right), with Visitators Sister Susan Quaintance (far left) and Sister Glenna Smith.
















Sisters Madeline and Marie enjoy visiting in the Sisters' dining room during the weekend.

















Others enjoyed a quiet check of the news before dinner on Sunday.


















Sister Tonette thanked the Visitators at the conclusion of their report to the community.















Each was presented with a gift of gratitude.



















At the conclusion of the Visitation, with the work of the weekend behind them, the Sisters enjoyed a simple, Sunday-afternoon social in one of the Retreat Center meeting rooms.

































































Branching out into springtime

March 11, 2016


Only eleven days into March, the Sisters have already branched out into several activities beyond their usual routines of ministry and prayer.  They have also been enjoying the milder weather, as shown in this photo of Sister Veronica Ryan and Sister Mary McGehee visiting on the porch of the Retreat Center dining room.


Below are brief descriptions of some of the ways in which Sisters have 'branched out' into these early weeks of springtime.








During the first week in March, Sister Tonette Sperando, Sister Mary McGehee, and Sister Marie Leonard attended a conference at Beeson School of Divinity in Birmingham entitled Black + White in America.  Bishop Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham served as Co-Chair of the event, which was described as  "reflection/conversation on race relations in the United States among its black and white citizens."


While Sisters Tonette, Mary, and Marie were in attendance, several Sisters back at the monastery tuned into the live-streamed podcast of the event.  News coverage of the conference can be found here and here

Above, Sisters Mary and Marie visit with another conference participant.







This past weekend, Sister Tonette and Sister Michelle St. Marie participated in the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home.  Sponsored by several parishes in the Birmingham area, the home is being built in honor of Pope Francis. The two Sisters joined members of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in their efforts on Saturday.  At left, Sister Michelle takes a hammer to the task, and below, Sister Tonette works alongside another volunteer.
























Earlier this week, Sister Elisabeth Meadows traveled to St. Scholastica Monastery in Ft. Smith, AR, for a two-day meeting of the Leadership Team of the Association of Benedictine Retreat Centers (ABRC).  The group gathered in Little Rock to plan the organization's 2017 biennial conference.  Sister Elisabeth, who serves as Director of the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, was elected to the ABRC Leadership Team during their 2015 conference.  At right, Sr. Elisabeth in front of St. Scholastica Monastery, and with the Leadership Team below.

















February 2016


Manifesting mercy

February 27, 2016


Sister Michelle (left) and Sister Priscilla (seond from left) visit at the event with Rhonda Buzbee, Director of Mission and Philanthropy Services at St. Vincent's, and William Davis, Vice President of Ascension Health and CEO of St. Vincent's Health System. 

Four Benedictine Sisters sought to be Christ's "visible face in the world" today, taking to heart this phrase from Pope Francis as they volunteered for Project Homeless Connect in Birmingham. 


Sisters Priscilla Cohen and Madeline Contorno were part of a large contingent from St. Vincent's Health System who volunteered for the day-long event.  Both Sisters are on staff at St. Vincent's, Sister Priscilla as a Registered Nurse and Sister Madeline as Director of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care.  Joining Sisters Priscilla and Madeline in the day of service were Sisters Michelle St. Marie and Minona Anne D'Souza. 


Project Homeless Connect is an annual event in which over 60 agencies, assisted by over 1000 volunteers, collaborate to provide homeless individuals and families a full day of access to a wide range of services under a single roof.  Sister Priscilla served as a 'Smiling Client Guide,' helping guests navigate the services that they needed. Sister Michelle spent her day washing the feet of homeless guests, a work of mercy that she specifically requested to do.  Sisters Madeline and Minona Anne also worked directly with those seeking assistance. 


Here at the monastery today, the Sisters received the gift of mercy from Isabella Wright, a youth from Birmingham who volunteered for a service project at the monastery in preparation for her upcoming Confirmation.  Isabella spent much of the day working with Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress.  Together they collected stone from the foundation of an old storage hut that has recently been torn down on monastery property, transferring the stone to another site on our grounds to be eventually used in landscaping around the monastery.  The Sisters enjoyed having Isabella and her mother join them for lunch, and are extremely grateful for her hard work, generous spirit, and merciful heart.




Sisters Tonette and Lynn Marie attend meeting of Benedictine Prioresses

February 23, 2016


Earlier this month, Sisters Tonette Sperando and Lynn Marie McKenzie traveled to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN, to attend the annual meeting of the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses (CBP).  Sister Tonette attended in her role as Prioress of the Sacred Heart community, while Sister Lynn Marie attended as President of the Federation of Saint Scholastica. 


The annual meeting of the CBP allows the Prioresses to discuss common efforts and shared concerns of the monastic communities represented by their Prioresses.  This year's meeting also featured talks by Abbot Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey and Sister Karen Jospeh of Monastery Immaculate Conception, both of whom spoke on the Paschal Mystery in monastic life.




Jubilee Year of Mercy is focus of Retreat Center Lenten Retreat

February 20, 2016



With enthusiasm and joy, Fr. Doug Vu, a priest of the Diocese of Birmingham, has been sharing with retreatants this weekend themes related to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  He has led participants through scriptural sources on mercy as well as some of the writings of Pope Francis related to the Jubilee Year. The group even had the opportunity to travel to and walk through the Holy Door at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, one of the two designated Holy Doors in our diocese.


The monastic community has also been blessed by the presence of Fr. Vu as he is serving as celebrant for the Masses at the monastery on Saturday and Sunday.  Additionally, a few of the Sisters have been able to attend some of the excellent retreat conferences.







A full heart for Empty Bowls

February 19, 2016


Dear to the heart of Sister Mary Adrian McLean, an accomplished potter, is the work that she does each year for Empty Bowls of Cullman County, an annual fundraiser for our local food bank.  The event features a chili dinner dinner served in hand-made bowls crafted by local potters.  Sister Mary Adrain is one of several potters that each year contribute bowls to the event.  This year's fundraiser, held earlier this week and attended by Sister Mary Adrian and Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, featured 1000 bowls thrown by the group of potters. Sister typically spends several months gradually making a supply of unique, hand-thrown bowls to donate to this important local charity event. This year, Sister Mary Adrian contributed over one hundred bowls to the effort. She considers it a labor of love to contribute to the cause of fighting hunger in our county.


Always seeking to grow in her craft, Sister Mary Adrian recently attended the Alabama Clay Conference. This annual event allows Sister Mary Adrian to stay up-to-date on pottery techniques, gather new ideas, and meet fellow potters. 





Hope Horses, therapeutic horseback riding program located on monastery property, expresses appreciation to the Sisters

February 15, 2016


The Board of Directors of Hope Horses sponsored a catered luncheon today for the Sisters in order to express their appreciation to the monastic community.  Several years ago, when the Sisters learned of Hope's need for appropriate land to house the program, the Sisters offered use of a portion of their property to provide a long-term home for this important outreach to the Cullman community.  At their new Convent Road home, a barn has been built, pasture land prepared, volunteers and staff recruited and trained, and the program has been up and running for well over a year now, providing equine therapy to mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged individuals. 


Today's luncheon, held in the Retreat Center dining room, featured an informative presentation by Hope's Executive Director, Kelsey Rice. Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper, Board Chairman, also spoke, expressing his gratitude to the Sisters for their on-going support of Hope Horses.  He presented to the community a framed photograph of the new barn.


Currently, Sister Therese Haydel serves on Hope's Board of Directors.  Past Board members include Sister Lynn McKenzie and Sister Tonette Sperando.  The community is extremely gratified that this portion of their property is being used in such a worthy and beneficial manner and is grateful to be able to support the program.



In the photo above, Kelsey Rice and other Hope Horses staff and Board members presented information about the program to the Sisters and answered their many questions.  Below, Police Chief and Board Chair Kenny Culpepper presents a photograph of the barn to Sister Tonette, Prioress (below right); Chief Culpepper visits with Board member Sister Therese Haydel (below left); and the Sisters and Hope Horses Board members enjoy a light-hearted moment during the presentation. 







Marked with ashes and steeped in monastic tradition, community enters the season of Lent

February 11, 2016


St. Benedict devotes an entire chapter of his Rule to the observance of Lent, advocating some specific Lenten practices to be followed by monastics.  Among them are the practice of receiving a book from the monastic library to be read during Lent, the daily setting aside of extra time for prayer and spiritual reading, and submission to the monastic superior the Lenten discipline one intends to undertake.  


These traditions hold strong sway in our community.  Each Ash Wednesday, the community gathers in the evening, marked with the ashes received earlier in the day, to receive an exhortation from the Prioress.  Each Sister also receives a blessing for the Lenten reading she will be undertaking.  This year we will all be reading the same text, assigned to us by our Prioress, Sr. Tonette: the Pope's recent encyclical, Laudato Si'


In the photos below, Sr. Tonette offers her Ash Wednesday exhortation to the gathered community, and offers a blessing to Sr. Lynn Marie as she presents to her her Lenten reading.  You are invited to read the text of Sr. Tonette's exhortation here.








Benedictine Update available for viewing on-line

February 6, 2016


The current issue of Benedictine Update can be viewed at this link.  Featured stories include a message from our Prioress on page one, stories about four of our mission Sisters on pages four and five, and updates on our sponsored ministries on page three. 


Are you on our mailing list?  If you are not and would like to be, just let us know at development [at] or click the box above to recieve our e-news.







January 2016




Sisters enjoy a Sunday afternoon concert in monastery chapel

January 31, 2016


The Sisters were blessed by the gift of music from the Sine Nomine Recorder Consort who performed for them this afternoon in Sacred Heart Chapel. The Consort is led by Steve Calvert, former organist at St. Paul's Cathedral in Birminham and friend and former colleague of many of the Benedictine Sisters. Mr. Calvert and his fellow musicians presented an hour-long concert of early music (14th - 17th centuries) for the Sisters.  Several monks of St. Bernard Abbey joined the Sisters for the concert. 




Above right, Mr. Calvert offers introductory remarks.   At the conclusion of the concert, Mr. Calvert spoke at length about the impact of the Benedictine Sisters in the diocese, highlighting the work of several Sisters in areas such as pastoral care and adult catechesis.


At right, the Consort performs. 


Below, Sisters and musicians visit after the concert.  Some of the instruments used were unique and many Sisters enjoyed viewing them at close range.












Sharing table fellowship with our Sisters in Christ

January 17, 2016



The community recently had the wonderful opportunity to share dinner with nearly twenty Sisters from the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit.  The Sisters represented Guadalupana mission sites in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisana, and California. It was an enriching evening of sharing and hearing about the important work that the Guadalupana Sisters do in the U.S. and elsewhere. 












Sister Tonette Sperando, OSB, Prioress, with Sister Frances Aldama, MGSpS, Vicar Provincial of the Missionary Guadalupanas. 




+ Sister Margaret Mary Fisher, 1923-2016

January 12, 2016


Sister Margaret Mary Fisher, OSB, died early in the morning on January 8 at the age of 92. Funeral services were held on Monday, January 11, in Sacred Heart Chapel.  We will miss our dear Sister Margaret Mary's kind and generous presence among us. 


A copy of her obituary can be read here






december 2015




A joyous Christmastide...

December 31, 2015


The community enjoyed a wonderful and meditative Advent season, followed by a joyous Christmas celebration.  We share with you here some photographs from our various community gatherings and preparations for the season.






Sister Tonette (right) and Sister Karen Ann decorate the tree in the Community Room on the third floor of Ottilia Hall.


















Sister Marian places an ornament on the tree in the Sisters' dining room.














Sister Magdalena plays Christmas carols as Sisters decorate the dining room tree and Sister Mary Adrian (facing camera) arranges a crib set on the piano.














One last ornament is placed on the brightly-lit tree.




















The Sisters welcomed many visitors throughout the holiday season. An annual highlight for the monastic community is the visit by the generous parishoners of St. Michael's in St. Florian, AL, and St. Joseph's in Florence, AL. In this photo, Sister Virginia greets a guest from these two parishes.

















Sister Karen Ann (left) and Sister Mary Grace (below) enjoy visiting with guests.



































Our creative maintainence employees kept the spirit bright outside their shop with a "tree" ornamented with tools of the trade.



























A favorite event of the season is the annual holiday luncheon with our employees, during which each employee is recognized for their contributions to our life and ministry.










Christmas baking included Sister Jane's preparation of pecan pies...


















...later to be sliced in a busy Christmas Day kitchen by (left to right) Sisters Tonette, Michelle Renee, and Sara Aiden....






















...and served by Sister Sara Aiden.


















Sister Regina oversaw the kitchen activities for Christmas dinner, which followed our festive Mass of Christmas Day. 
















Sister Lynn Marie stirred the gravy.




















Sister Priscilla prepared a beautiful table.















Sister Mary readied the hors d'ouevres...



















...while Sister Bernadette (left) and Sister Mary Adrian lit the candles.









As activities unfolded in the kitchen, the torrential rains of Christmas Day poured outside, flooding numerous area roadways.

































Many hands were involved in cleanup, including Sister Elisabeth...






...and Sister Minona Anne.






























In the afternoon, having previously drawn names for a very simple gift exchange, the Sisters gathered around the dining room Christmas tree to open gifts. 

















































The photography happened outside of chapel, but inside the chapel is where the main celebrations of Christmas unfolded with the solemn liturgies of the season. With the angels, we rejoice that "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."









A new vista, and alight with enthusiasm

December 31, 2015


Travels this fall have taken Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie to both Germany and France. In Germany she spent several days at the Abbey of St. Scholastica in Dinklage where she visited with a canon law colleague and the other Sisters of the Dinklage community. She then journeyed on to France for the annual Conference of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB) where she represented the U.S. and Canada as a delegate from this region, one of nineteen international regions of the CIB.

The meetings were based at the Abbey of Notre-Dame in Jouarre, but the group also visited eight other monasteries around the country. In November, Sister Lynn Marie spoke at length with one of the Sisters about her travels. She lit up with enthusiasm when asked how meeting Benedictines Sisters from around the world had impacted her own sense of vocation.   A transcript of the conversation can be read here.





NOvember 2015



Giving thanks, and entering Advent...

November 29, 2015


A wonderful and relaxed weekend of giving thanks was capped by a solemn entry into the season of Advent.  On Thursday, following a Mass of Thanksgiving, the community enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  A quiet Friday and Saturday found Sisters engaged in a variety of recreation activities around the monastery.  On Saturday evening, with 1st Vespers of the 1st Sunday of Advent, we took the simple yet solemn step into Advent, awaiting the coming of our Lord.


Below are several pictures from this special weekend.









The festive weekend began on Wednesday evening with a Vigil and Agape service in the Dining Room.
















Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, addressed the community during the Vigil.  Her remarks can be read by clicking here.



















On Thursday, following the Mass of Thanksgiving, the kitchen was bustling with activity under the direction of Sister Kathleen Gallas, who planned the meal and accomplished much of the preparation.

















Sister Mary Adrian prepared the butter plates...













...while Sister Benita readied the bevereges...
















...and Sister Tonette set out the pies...














...along with Sister Sherrie...













 Sister Eileen prepared the whipped cream...

















...and Oblate William washed the first of many dishes.

























The hors d'oeuvres table....


































...and bounteous fare...














...and a beautiful table.












Some Sisters enjoyed the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television...











...while others relaxed with the newspaper.














In Birmingham, our mission Sisters gathered at one of the mission houses to share a Thanksgiving meal.












On Friday, another day of rest, recreation, and time together as Sisters, including some kite flying.































Sisters enjoyed some time for hobbies, such as Sister Tonette who is refinishing some of our old library chairs to be used in the infirmary, and Sister Elisabeth who received a lesson on the pottery wheel from from Sister Mary Adrian. Unseen in the picture at left is Sister Mary, who was at the stove in the back corner recycling old candle wax into new candles. 





























On Saturday, chapel preparations for Advent began as Sisters lingered after Mass to collect last year's misselettes and distribute the new ones.  The Advent candles were unwrapped and the wreath was readied. 
























And now, the season of Advent is here.


Veni, Emmanuel. 




August 2015




Benedictine Update, Summer 2015 edition, is published

August 24, 2015


The Summer 2015 edition of Benedictine Update has been published and placed in the mail to our friends. We welcome you to peruse a pdf copy on-line by clicking on the image at right. 


Among the highlights of the issue:


  • The election & installation of Sister Tonette Sperando as Prioress - page 1
  • The successful completion of our Capital Campaign - pages 1 & 5
  • New minisry assignments - pages 2 & 6
  • Sister Minona Anne's 1st Monastic Profession - page 2
  • And much more!


If you would like to be on our mailing list please email your name and contact information to development [at]  To sign up for our e-news, please click the purple box at the upper left of this page.  We would love to keep in touch with you!






Celebrating with our Diocese and with our Sisters in Religious Life

August 21, 2015


Six Benedictine Sisters, led by Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, traveled south this week to celebrate the beginning of the ministry of the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit in the small Greene County town of Eutaw, Alabama.  The Missionary Guadalupanas are continuing the ministry begun in Eutaw 43 years ago by the Consolata Sisters. 


The Guadalupanas have been ministering in our Diocese for several years, and we have enjoyed getting to know these dedicated Sisters.  It was wonderful to share this special day with them and to be with Bishop Robert Baker and other priests of the diocese during the celebratory Mass and Open House. 


Pictures from the event, including a picture of Bishop Baker with all the Sisters in attendance - Guadalupana, Benedictine, and others - can be found on the diocesan Facebook page.





Sister Sara Aiden makes Perpetual Monastic Profession

August 2, 2015


A seven-year journey through Initial Monastic Formation came to a beautiful and meaningful conclusion on Saturday, August 1, as Sister Sara Aiden Burress made her Perpetual Monastic Profession during a special Mass in Sacred Heart Chapel.  By her Perpetual Profession, also known as "Final Vows," Sister Sara Aiden made a lifetime commitment to living the Rule of St. Benedict within this monastic community.

Sister Sara Aiden's monastic journey actually began much earlier than seven years ago. For a number of years she visited regularly as a retreatant, and in 1999 became an Oblate of Sacred Heart Monastery. Sister Sara Aiden also spent a year serving as a volunteer with the monastic community.  In 2008, Sister entered the community as a Postulant, beginning the seven-year journey that culminated in her perpetual commitment to the Benedictine way of life with the Sacred Heart community.


Sister Sara Aiden currently serves as Director of Pastoral Care at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Birmingham, a position she has held since 2012.


Below are several photographs from the Profession Mass.






The profession ring, a sign of Sister Sara Aiden's commitment, rests on the altar before the Mass begins. 



















The Entrance Procession, led by cross-bearer Sister Michelle Renee St. Marie.
















Sister Sara Aiden (in the foreground) bows as she approaches the altar.  At right is Sister Mary McGehee, who served as Sister Sara's formation director during her years as a Scholastic. Immediately following in the procession is Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, and then the Book of the Gospels, carried by Sister Karen Ann Lortscher.














The opening hymn is sung. In front of Sister Sara Aiden is her profession candle and her handwritten profession document.














Rev. Marcus Voss, OSB, monk of St. Bernard Abbey and Presider during the Eucharistic Liturgy, incenses the altar, giving special attention to the profession ring as he passes the thurible over the altar. 

















Sister Karen Ann Lortscher proclaims the first reading.


















Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie, cantor, leads the Responsorial Psalm.



















Sister Madeline Contorno proclaims the second reading.





















Rev. Robert Sullivan, Homilist, processes with the Book of the Gospels.  Fr. Sullivan is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Birmingham, the parish in which Sister Sara Aiden serves as Director of Pastoral Care.
















The Rite of Monastic Profession followed the homily.  To begin the Rite, Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, called Sister Sara Aiden forth from her place in the monastic choir with the question "Sister Sara Aiden, what do you seek?". 













Sister Mary McGehee, Scholastic Director, lights a taper from the Paschal Candle with which she will light Sister Sara Aiden's profession candle.  This candle is a sign of Sister Sara Aiden's renewal of her baptismal commitment to Jesus Christ.







Sister Tonette instructs Sister Sara Aiden and poses to her a series of questions by which she affirms her desire and commitment to seek God though the monastic way of life. Sister Tonette's final question is to the community, who affirm their willingness to support Sister Sara Aiden in her search for God.  Standing as official witnesses are Sister Magdalena Craig, Director of Initial Formation (far left), and Sister Mary McGehee.  Sister Sara Aiden holds her lighted candle as she listens and responds.







Sister Sara Aiden reads aloud her handwritten profession document...


















...and then signs it on the altar.




















Sister Tonette signs the document as Prioress, and Sisters Magdalena and Mary sign as official witnesses.















Sister Sara Aiden sings the

Sucipe, the traditional monastic chant that is thrice repeated by the monastic at the time of perpetual profession.  This ancient text is an expression of self-giving and trust.
















Sister Sara Aiden prostrates and is covered by a funeral pall representing her death to self and her rising to new life in Christ.  While Sister Sara Aiden was beneath the pall, the community chanted the Litany of the Saints, calling upon all the saints in heaven to help Sister Sara Aiden give her life totally to Christ through the complete giving of self of monastic profession. Following a lengthy Prayer of Consecration prayed by Sister Tonette, the pall was removed and Sister Sara Aiden was invited to rise to life as a perpetually-professed member of the monastic community. 
















Sister Tonette prayed over the ring before placing it on Sister Sara Aiden's finger as a sign of her perpetual profession.





















The perpetually professed members of the monastic community process to offer Sister Sara Aiden the sign of peace.


















Following the Rite of Monastic Profession and the Prayer of the Faithful, the Eucheristic gifts were presented by Oblates of Sacred Heart Monastery, William Busic and Julie McMillan.














Family and friends of Sister Sara Aiden were present for the occasion.
















Both the solemnity and the joy of the Eucharistic celebration was expressed in the music.



































Following Mass, the community offered Sister Sara Aiden our traditional greeting in the 2nd Ottilia hallway.  The community then gathered with guests for a festive and celebratory luncheon. 


July 2015



Sisters gather for annual July meetings

July 31, 2015


This past week, the monastic community gathered for their annual summer meetings.  These gatherings allow the Sisters an opportunity to hear updates on various aspects of their common life and to discuss topics pertinent to life and growth in monastic community.  Below are a few photographs from this past week.






The week involved studied concentration...














 well as lighthearted moments....


















...and the opportunity to visit with one another.
















The Sisters listen attentively to a Powerpoint presentation.
















The meetings concluded with our annual commissioning service in which the Sisters are commissioned into their ministries for the year.  In this photo, Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, exhorts the community during the service.
















The Sisters lift their hands in blessing over Sister Tonette.  In the background, visible through the windows at left, is Mary Guest House, one of the community's many accomplishments of the past few years. 

















This bronze statue of Saint Scholastica held a central place during the meetings.  During the commissioning service, each Sister received a clay plaque, hand-crafted by Sister Mary Adrian McLean, based on this image. 


National Benedictine meetings draw participants from

Sacred Heart

July 22, 2015


Summer is traditionally a season for Benedicine gatherings of many sorts and three Sisters from Cullman have recently traveled to attend such meetings. Sister Priscilla Cohen returned last week from Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas where she attended the biennial meeting of the North American Association of Benedictine Oblate Directors.  Sister Priscilla serves as Executive Secretary of the organization and is Oblate Director for Sacred Heart Monastery. 


Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie spent the past week at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, MN, where she attended the Chapter meeting of the Federation of St. Benedict.  Sr. Lynn Marie was present as an observer in her role as President of the Federation of St. Scholastica.


Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, Development Director for the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, is currently in Schuyler, NE, attending the Benedictine Development Symposium which is being held at the at St. Benedict Center in Schuyler.  In addition to hearing presentations from nationally-known speakers, she will be able to meet and learn with Development Directors from other Benedictine communities. 





Vocation Team members depart for Steubenville Atlanta Youth Conference

July 10, 2015


Sisters Karen Ann Lortscher and Michelle Renee St. Marie departed for Atlanta this morning where they will attend the Steubenville Atlanta Youth Conference.  The event, jointly sponsored by LifeTeen and Franciscan University of Steubenville, is expected to have well over over 2000 youth in attendance.


Vocation Team members as well as other Benedictine Sisters have represented the community at several previous Stubenville Atlanta gatherings and the conference is becoming a fixture on the Vocation Team's calendar.  During the event, Sisters Karen Ann and Michelle will attend conferences and liturgies.  However, based on their experience in previous years, the most important aspect of their presence at the conference will be the one-on-one conversations they will have with the many youth who stop by the Benedictine Sisters' booth.  Many youth ask for prayer, and over the past year numerous Benedictine Sisters have served as prayer partners for some of the attendees from last year's Steubenville Atlanta Conference. 




In the photo above, Sister Karen Ann (left), Director of Vocation Ministry, and Sister Michelle Renee prepare to load the car with materials for their display booth.  Below, Sister Michelle loads the large display board into the car and Sister Karen Ann secures it into place.





























Photographs from the monastery and quotes from the Rule of St. Benedict will help the Sisters describe life in monastic community.













For information about upcoming vocation events here at the monastery, please click the Wake up the World logo at right.










The Sisters celebrate a rainy but festive Independence Day

July 4, 2015



The rainy weather outside did not dampen spirits inside as the Sisters followed a special Independence Day Mass with a festive brunch prepared by Sister Kathleen, assisted by Sister Michelle and several other Sister helpers. 


Patriotic decor and special prayers for our country augmented the culinary feast.



































Sister Kathleen poses with some of her delicious creations. 








June 2015



Four Sisters celebrate 60th Jubilee

June 13, 2015


On Friday, June 12, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister Treva Heinberg, Sister Regina Barrett, Sister Margaret Frederick, and Sister Jane Bishop celebrated the 60th anniversary of their monastic profession during a Jubilee Mass in Sacred Heart Chapel.  The Mass also marked the conclusion of the Monastic Community's annual retreat.  Below are pictures from the Jubilee celebration.











The Sisters sing the Gloria at the beginning of Mass.   In the two front pews are the four Jubilarians with thier Jubilee candles, from left to right, Sisters Margaret Frederick, Regina Barrett, Treva Heinberg, and Jane Bishop.










At right, Sister Treva reads the first reading.




Below, the Jubilarians read their renewal of vows as Sister Tonette Sperando, Prioress, presides.






































Sister Jane, as did each Jubilarian, signs upon the altar the document renewing her monastic profession.
























Sisters Margaret and Regina present the gifts.



















Below, the happy Jubilarians. 











Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., installed as tenth Prioress of Sacred Heart Monastery

June 8, 2015


During a festive Eucharistic Celebration on Saturday, June 6, 2015, Sister Tonette Sperando was installed as the tenth Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama.  Sister Tonette succeeds Sister Janet Marie Flemming whose term of office concluded on June 6. 


Sisters, Oblates, clergy and religious, family and friends, were present for the joyous occasion. The liturgy and the luncheon that followed were marked by gladness and joy as the community looks eagerly toward living their sacred tradition in a future filled with hope and vitality.


Below are pictures from the day along with brief descriptions of the joyous event. 










Prior to the Installation Mass, Bishop Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham paid a visit to show his support and offer a blessing.  Here he prays with outgoing Prioress Sister Janet Marie (left) and incoming Prioress Sister Tonette.





















Bishop Baker presented Sister Tonette with several gifts.






















Family and friends await the beginning of Mass.




















The entrance procession, led by cross bearer Mr. Michael Sperando, brother of Sister Tonette.


















Sisters process into chapel.




















The opening hymn is sung.














































A full chapel  heightened the celebratory atmosphere. 

















The community was honored to have Bishop Emeritus David Foley present for the Eucharistic Celebration. 





















Family members and concelebrating clergy filled the front pews.

















Abbot Cletus Meagher served as Principal Celebrant.  Rev. Kevin Bazzel (right), pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Sister Tonette's home parish, served as concelebrant and homilist. 
















Sister Bernadette Sachs read the first reading from Isaiah 42.  In the foreground is a small table holding Sister Tonette's baptismal candle.  Its presence was important to her as a sign that her monastic committment is an extension of and flows from her baptismal commitment. Sharing the table is a statue of St. Scholastica, Patroness of Benedictine women throughout the world.





















Procession with the Book of the Gospels.



















Following the Liturgy of the Word, Sister Janet Marie called forth Sister Tonette from amongst the Monastic Community and bid the Community rise for the Rite of Installation.  The Rite was marked by a call and dialogue, first between the outgoing and incoming Prioresses, and then between Sister Tonette and the Community.















As signs of the transfer of authority, Sister Janet Marie presented to Sister Tonette a Bible, a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict, and a copy of Call to Life, the Constitution of the Federation of St. Scholastica.


















Sister Tonette receives the Rule of St. Benedict from Sister Janet Marie as the Monastic Community looks on.  Along with Sacred Scripture and the Constitution of the Federation of St. Scholastica, the Holy Rule will be Sister Tonette's guide as she leads the Community in following the monastic way of life. 














The Sisters lift their hands in prayer and blessing over their new Prioress as they recite:

"Sister Tonette, as we are instructed by the Rule of St. Benedict, we promise to love you sincerely, support you in your responsibilities, and obey you as we discern together what the Spirit is saying to our community.  May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you and enable you to lay down your life in service with Christ Jesus in his Paschal Mystery."







Following her Installation, Sister Tonette called forth her Monastic Leadership Team who will serve with her: Sister Treva Heinberg, Sub-Prioress; Sister Sherrie Brainard, Treasurer; and Sister Priscilla Cohen, Secretary.   Sister Tonette and the Monastic Community lifted their hands in blessing, reciting words of prayerful support for these Sisters as they assume their leadership roles.
















Sister Tonette presented a Benedictine cross and medal to each member of the Monastic Leadership Team.
























The Rite of Installation concluded with each Sister approaching Sister Tonette to extend the Sign of Peace.  The Oblates, too, came forward to offer a gesture of support. 






























The Rite of Installation was followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The gifts were presented by C.D. and Gina Lackey, sister and brother-in-law of Sister Tonette.


























Following the liturgy, Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie, President of the Federation of St. Scholastica, offered a reflection. (Link here to read her reflection.) 




























Sister Tonette also offered remarks at the conclusion of Mass. (Link here to read her remarks.) 





















After Mass: the traditional celebratory greeting by the Monastic Community in the 2nd Ottilia hallway as the Sisters welcome their new Prioress. 
















Sisters and guests capped the joyous event with a festive buffet in the Retreat Center and Sisters' dining rooms. 







































Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., the tenth Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama.




may 2015

Sister Janet Marie thanked for her 10 years of service as  Prioress and given a special blessing for her new ministry

May 31, 2015


The monastic community gathered in the monastery dining room for a special cookout supper honoring Sister Janet Marie Flemming for her ten years of service as prioress. Gifts of gratitude were given to Sister Janet Marie along with a basket of cards written by each Sister of the community. The evening concluded with  blessing ceremony for Sister Janet as she enters her new ministry at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Birmingham, AL.Sister Janet Marie receives gifts of gratitude













Community offers blessing


APRIL 2015


Community elects new Prioress

April 25, 2015


The Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama joyfully announce the election of Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B. as their new Prioress.  Her six-year term of office will begin on Saturday, June 6, 2015. 


Sister Tonette was elected following a period of discernment by the monastic community during which they sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to whom God was calling to lead the community at this particular time.  The discernment process was facilitated by Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup, O.S.B., Prioress of St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, KY.  Presiding over the election was Sister Susan Quaintence, O.S.B., First Councilor of the Federation of St. Scholastica, the Federation of Benedictine Sisters to which the Sacred Heart community belongs.

Please rejoice with us over the election of Sister Tonette as our new Prioress!









After the election...


From left to right: Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup, O.S.B., Election Facilitator; Sister Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., Election Presider; Sister Tonette Sperando, O.S.B., Prioress-Elect; and Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie, O.S.B., President of the Federation of St. Scholastica.












Sister Tonette with current Prioress Sister Janet Marie Flemming, O.S.B., whose term of office will come to a close on June 6, 2015.















The Election Committee coordinated the details of preparation for the discernment and election.


(left to right): Sister Priscilla Cohen, O.S.B.; Sister Bernadette Sachs, O.S.B. (Chair); and Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, O.S.B.











Posing with Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., the Election Presider, are Sister Priscilla Cohen, O.S.B., Secretary of the Election (second from right), and the Election Tellers, Sister Sherrie Brainard, O.S.B. (left), and Sister Therese Haydel, O.S.B. (right).