Community News




January 2019




January 30, 2019


A Nun's Life Ministry was at the monastery today to film a live-stream podcast as part of their Motherhouse Road Trip podcast series. We enjoyed visiting with Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM, and Sister Julie Myers, OSF, who are comprise the team that was on site today. For the podcast, Sr. Maxine interviewed Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie and Sister Madeline Contorno on topics related to their monastic vocation. Several students from St. Bernard Abbey attended the live podcast. An audio version of the podcast will soon be available on A Nun's Life Ministry's website.









January 15, 2019



The Benedictine Sisters of Cullman have been selected by A Nun’s Life Ministry to participate in their live-streamed podcast series, Motherhouse Road Trip.  In this series, A Nun’s Life Ministry brings a field studio to religious communities around the country to allow their nationwide audience of viewers to meet and interact with Sisters during live podcasts. Sister Madeline Contorno and Sister Lynn McKenzie from the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman will be joining the podcast host, Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM, to talk about topics such as discernment, prayer, spirituality, and more. A live chat room during the podcast, moderated by one of the Benedictine Sisters, will allow on-line viewers or listeners to interact with each other and the Sisters. 


A Nun’s Life Ministry is a pioneer in combining technology, social media, and vocations outreach in highly interactive and pastoral ways, encouraging people to understand their life as a vocation.  The Benedictine Sisters are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with A Nun’s Life Ministry.  The live-streamed podcast (audio and video) will air at 1:30 pm CST at All are welcome to watch live on-line, or listen later to an archived audio of the podcast.





January 12, 2019


January has gotten off to a busy start after a wonderful Christmas celebration.  Below are several news updates from the monastic community.




A slideshow of some pictures from our Christmas season, complete with our Schola singing in the background, can be viewed on YouTube at this link.










Sister Lynn Marie is currently in Germany at the Abtai Dinklage, a women's Benedictine abbey in the town of Dinklage.  She is attending a Council meeting of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum. Sister Lynn Marie serves as moderator of the Council which consists of women monastic leaders from Spain, Germany, Tanzania, and Belgium.  She is pictured here with Abbot Gregory Polan, Abbot Primate of the worldwide Benedictine Order, who attended a portion of the meeting.


Here is a link to some local German coverage of the event (in German):









Our bi-annual newsletter, Benedictine Update, was published in December and sent to our friends and family.  A pdf version can be read by clicking on the image at right.  Enjoy! 



















december 2018






Our good friends from St. Florian paid us a visit on December 13th. It was wonderful to catch up with long-time friends from this north Alabama community where the Sisters have long time connections.






























































On December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Benedictine Sisters hosted women Religious of the diocese for a Day of Reflection.  Msgr. Michael Sexton, priest of the Diocese of Birmingham, led the program which focused on Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on holiness. It was wonderful to be with our neighboring Sisters from other orders to share in Eucharist, learning, dinner, and visiting together. 







































































As Advent gets underway, the usual business of the monastery continues, but with an extra emphasis on silence, special table prayers at meals, and seasonal liturgies. Here, the Peace and Justice Committee meets in the monastery conference room as part of the ongoing rounds of work, prayer, and ministry of the community.











Sister Veronica Ryan recently served as a chaperone for a group of St. Bernard Preparatory School students on a trip to Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, KY, as part of an Exchange Program between the two Benedictine schools. She is pictured here on the back row nearest the statue.












On November 11, Gary Drinkard, a former Board member of the anti-death penalty organization Project Hope, spoke to the Sisters about the organization, the death penalty, and about his time on death row. Sister Mary McGehee, who keeps the community informed on Project Hope activities, arranged for Gary and his family to join the Sisters for Sunday dinner and for Gary's presentation that followed dinner.  The Sisters were most impressed with Gary, his presentation, and his anti-death penalty work and advocacy. 













Several Sisters recently had a morning of training in making videos for social media. Sisters Priscilla, Karen Ann, Therese, Elisabeth, and Michelle Renee learned to assemble and operate a light kit and to use the community's video camera.  The community has been making increased efforts on various social media platforms in order to better communicate our charism in the public 'spaces' where people now gather.

















































During the first weekend of November, the Sisters gathered for their fall community meetings.  Several pictures from the meetings are below.































































































October 2018


October happenings

October 31, 2018



Yesterday evening, eight Sisters attended "Bimingham Stands With Pittsburgh: A Prayer Gathering for Shalom" at Temple Beth-El in Birmingham.  They were among a large crowd that gathered in memory and grief over the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and in support of peace.  The Sisters encountered Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant friends among those gathered. 



































Sr. Lynn Marie McKenzie was featured in her hometown newspaper earlier this week in relation to her election to serve as Moderator of the Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum. The article can be read at this link.









In mid-October, the Retreat Center hosted a gathering of Sisters of various Orders and Congregations for a Leadership Conference of Women Religious Regional meeting. On the final evening, the group of visiting Sisters joined the monastic community for dinner. 


At right, Sr. Leona, Chair of Region 5, addresses the group, and below, Sr. Tonette welcomes them to Sacred Heart.






























































































In early October, the community welcomed our Oblates for their annual retreat.  The reatreat was led by Sr. Betty Drewes, OSB, of Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, IN.  More photos of the retreat can be viewed on our Oblate Photo Gallery page












september 2018




A few news updates - from at home and away

September 29, 2018


Recent news from the monastery...


Sister Treva Heinberg, Sub-Prioress, and Sister Priscilla Cohen, Secretary, recently traveled to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, IN, to attend the annual Benedictine Sub-Prioress and House Coordinator  conference.  The theme of the meeting was Understanding One Another in the Lord's Service.  Featured topics included intergeneration living, working with those who are experiencing the early stages of dementia, and coping with the challenges of community living. 


At right, Sister Treva (l) and Sister Priscilla enjoy a recreational outing in the Indianapolis area.  Below, they pose with the group.


























The community was blessed to have a Guadalupana Sister reside with them for several weeks.  This Thursday, she said her goodbyes.  Before departure, she offered thanks to the community for their hospitality and Sister Tonette bid her a fond farewell.   We will miss her smiling presence among us.




























Several Sisters, along with a couple of community guests, attended the recent Fall Fun Show at Hope Horses, the therapeutic horsebacking riding program situated on land owned by the Sisters.  At right in this picture, Sister Therese, who is on the Board of Hope Horses, holds the bridle as sisters and community guests enjoy visiting with CanCan, one of the therapy horses.


Below, some of the Fun Show action, and Sister Sherrie greeting Prince, who had his mane braided for the occasion.
































Two Sisters recently presented programs in the Retreat Center.  Sister Therese presented a one-day retreat/workshop entitled Letting Go and Letting God: The Wisdom of Twelve-Step Spirituality.  This well-attended program received excellent reviews and numerous requests that it be presented again.  Sister Elisabeth also presented a recent weekend program on St. Edith Stein for the Ladies Sodality of Holy Infant of Prague Catholic Church.  She will be presenting a one-day version of the retreat on October 20 in the Retreat Center. A description with registration form can be found here



Below are Sister Elisabeth presenting and with the Holy Infant group, and Sister Therese presenting her program. 










































Several community members attended the annual Clergy and Religious Appreciation Dinner sponsored by the Knights of Columbus of the State of Alabama. The event was held at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Birmingham.   The Sisters were grateful for the opportunity to visit with clergy and religous friends from around the diocese. 




Pictured above at the dinner are (l-r) Sisters Karen Ann, Bernadette, Sherrie, Marie, and Veronica.  Below are (l-r) Sisters Karen Ann, Michelle, and Bernadette.







+ 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.