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.
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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.
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.
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 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."
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 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...
...as 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.
August 24, 2015
Among the highlights of the issue:
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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.
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. Following a lengthy Prayer of Consecration recited by Sister Tonette, the pall was removed and Sister Sara Aiden was invited to rise to new life in Christ.
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 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...
...as 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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).