Sad. Was this inevitable?

The fruits of Vatican II continue to enrich our lives.

From Clerical Whispers:

Oldest Benedictine convent in United States to close members of the oldest Benedictine convent in the United States have decided to close their convent, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, now has 17 sisters; the youngest is 58. The sisters will move to other convents. The website of the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County notes: The first Benedictine convent in the United States was established in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, in 1852.

The founding nuns, Mother Benedicta Riepp and her two companions, originated from St. Walburga Abbey in Eichstatt, Bavaria.

They came at the invitation of Father Boniface Wimmer, OSB, to bring Benedictinism for women to America and also teach the children of the German immigrants.

In succeeding years their mission expanded to include hospital care and other works.

The community formed more branches over the years, so that today over fifty Benedictine monasteries in America and beyond can trace their roots to St. Marys.

Side note: Bonifatius Wimmer was a monk of Metten, where my mentor Augustine Card. Mayer, OSB, had been Abbot.  Wimmer eventually would also found also Latrobe.  This fellow was a great example for the NEW Evangelization.

One of his quotes:

“Forward, always forward, everywhere forward! We must not be held back by debts, bad years or by difficulties of the times. Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.”

Reason #8 for Summorum Pontificum!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tim Ferguson says:

    I fantasize about groups of young people showing up at the doors of these convents, monasteries, and other religious houses that are on the verge of death because of declining numbers (and skewed ideologies) and moving in to take over. Religious life seems to ebb and flow in the life of the Church, but I pray God raises up a new generation of St. Bernards, St. Lawrences Brindisi, Lacordaires and Wimmers to revitalize religious life.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    The laity is to blame for the lack of vocations, as holy families beget nuns and priests. I am reminded of three families I know, one in my ancestry, where all but one of many children became monks and nuns.

    This crisis is also owing to the lost charisms of so many orders. Way back in grad school, I was living with five nuns, all from different orders. One hot summer day, we had a long conversation on why they were not being approached by the single grad women students to ask about vocations.

    I responded thus, “Look at you. You go to the gym, you all have expense accounts and cars, you wear the newest Nike’s, you eat out more than once a week. You have the latest haircuts. You go on vacations. You live and act like yuppies. You are not signs of contradiction in the world and live higher than most of us lay grad students.”

    They all became angry-Dominican, Mercy, Franciscan and so on. They stomped away. One came back to me two hours later.

    “You are right, ” she said, a Sisinawa Dominican. We talked about how the nuns had lost their first Love, Jesus.

    No radical call to the Gospel, no first Love kept in Bridal relationship, not living by the rules, leads to no vocations. Compromise with the world-the Benedictines across the river here have a beauty parlor in the convent-no new vocations as they have departed from the spirit of the Rule of Benedict.

    But, the parents of this present and other generation are to blame as well for not creating a domestic Church for vocations to flourish. That is a parent’s duty.

  3. catholictrad says:

    Yes. Unfortunately, this was inevitable given the “spirit” of Vatican II.

    The Benedictines in Alabama wear no habit and do not live in common. Other than lack of makeup you couldn’t pick them out of a crowd (or a short line up).

    What is it about their current living of the Rule of St. Benedict would call a young person into their order? Most are joining the habited Dominican order instead. They are growing so fast it is difficult to house them all.

  4. Gaetano says:

    Sad to hear, but far from a surprise. Religious life needed renewal in the 1960’s, but the “reforms” were misguided – with devastating consequences.

    That having been said, there are may sings of life. The Benedictine Nuns of St. Walburga in Colorado have a wonderful, vibrant community ( The same can be said for the nuns at St. Scholastica’s Priory in Petersham, MA (

    Give people the chance to live the radical nature of monasticism. Provide them a liminal place where they can experience God’s Revelation. Give them the chance to life the more than 1,500 year of Rule of St. Benedict. Let them meditate on the Psalms during the Opus Dei, practice Lectio Divina and give them the balanced life of Ora et Labora.

    Celibate social workers don’t provide that environment.

  5. Boniface says:

    Sad news indeed. But don’t blame V2, Father: it’s not the fruit of the Council, but the fruit of the implementation of a false “Council,” the one that Pope Benedict XVI called “the Council of the Media.”

  6. SpesUnica says:

    Came to share what Gaetano already did. I have been on retreat to St. Walburga out west, back when I was a novice, and I had a wonderful and prayerful time. The nuns are real farmers! Not that it surprised me, but it was so awesome to see and experience in person. They are such hard workers, I don’t know if I could have kept up with them. Luckily we were there to pray!

    I love the EF Mass, attend it occasionally, but sometimes I feel like it needs to be said again, there are OF orders and communities getting vocations, too! Most of the vocations, in terms of sheer numbers, I dare say. It isn’t about OF vs. EF, its about fidelity to the Holy Father, the Church’s Tradition and teachings, and love of the founder’s charism.

  7. lmgilbert says:

    Worth noting, too, Father, is that Boniface Wimmer went on to found something like 25 monasteries in the the U.S.

    As for who is to blame for the fall off in vocations. . . . My daughter is a contemplative nun and I once sent her a letter to the editor of mine that had been published in the Catholic Sentinel here in Portland. In it I mentioned her order where all seven offices are sung in Latin every day, and the Mass is usually in Latin. I mentioned a small local Tridentine Rite parish, St. Birgittta’s. that has produced something like four vocations to to the convent and at least one to the priesthood. So naturally I suggested that the solution to the vocations crisis is more traditional parishes with the liturgy in Latin.

    She wrote back and said the nuns in the novitiate ( roughly 12) had discussed my letter at recreation and disagreed with me. For them the common denominator was parents who had a) either thrown out the TV or severely restricted it and b) had read bible stories and lives of the saints to their children. That was how they accounted for their own vocations.

    So it seems there is not really a vocations crisis so much as a parenting crisis ( and keep in mind that how we define the crisis determines how we respond to it), but even that is not quite spot-on.

    Really, there is a leadership crisis. I have never heard a full-on attack against television in the Catholic home from the pulpit, yet it has been killing us for the past sixty years. The priest gets twenty minutes max in the pulpit to advocate Christ and his values, and the TV gets three hours an evening to contradict those values in color and with all the audio-visual technique in the world. And no one says anything.

    And we blame Msgr Bugnini, Vatican II, President Obama, secularization, etc., etc., etc.

    Really, when it comes down to it, the problem is the addiction of fathers to televised sports, and the sympathy of priests and pastors to that addiction. Everyone wants to fit in. So when Bishop X is sent to his new diocese he makes a point of putting on the baseball cap of the local team. No one is going to ask the men of his parish to throw out the TV, to create a culture of vocation in their homes. And if you take a walk by the rectory Monday evening, you will see the same light flickering behind the curtains as in every other house on the block.

    “L’autres c’est enfer.”

  8. jacobi says:


    This sort of thing is inevitable. The Hierarchy continue in denial.

    My own diocese is now in crisis due to almost zero recruitment and an ageing priesthood. But as for strong analysis, leadership, action etc., – zero!

    On the other hand, perhaps this is the solution. The Traditional Orders and the remaining priests in Continuity will be the future. But as the Pope Emeritus hinted, it might be a small Church, for a while.

  9. Robbie says:

    Yet another sad tale. I wonder if the bishops of the 1960’s would have been so gung ho about the Council had they known how things were going to turn out? I suspect many of them would have told us to ignore the results and focus on their “good intentions”.

  10. CatholicByChoice says:

    Boniface Wimmer also founded Saint Leo Abbey in Saint Leo Florida, about 30 minutes north of Tampa. I think the founding was in 1889. The first monks were sent to teach the children of German immigrants. Saint Leo Abbey is still active and is doing well, I think they have 22 or 23 monks. The monks support themselves by running a retreat center. They are a contemplative community.

  11. torch621 says:

    Sorry to disagree, but I think banality on the TV is only part of the problem. Parents aren’t monitoring what their kids are watching. Most TVs can be made to block offensive programming or channels but no one is using them, imperfect as they are. Same with computers and the Internet.

  12. Palladio says:

    I suspect the story is particular. There will always be Benedictine Sisters,

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Really, there is a leadership crisis. I have never heard a full-on attack against television in the Catholic home from the pulpit, yet it has been killing us for the past sixty years.”

    I don’t know. Television up until the 1980’s (Norman Lear) had responsible censorship and respect for religion (who is going to denounce television when Bishop Sheen is on the air). The pressure of cable tv is what really has caused the most rapid disintegration of morals on tv. It occurred in several distinct waves:
    1. Up until 1965 there were individual sponsors for programs, much as the patronage system in music. Morality was high and religion was given respect.
    2. In 1965, deregulation occurred and tv networks were left to fend for themselves by wooing advertisers. To draw a crowd for the advertisers, they upped the quotient of, mostly sex (the era of Charlie’s Angels), but still kept the level of morality high outside of the sexual realm (which was disintegrating in society-at-large due to the wide spread use of the Pill – first mentioned on tv fiction in an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show). Morality was lower, but religion was still given respect (one need only think of MASH’s Father Mulchehy). This was the era that saw such tv specials as, In This House of Brede and the Waltons (which wasn’t supposed to fly, as CBS was cancelling their rural-based shows. such as Andy Griffith and Marbury,RFD, but went on to become legendary).
    3. In 1980, arch-Liberal Norman Lear began to dominate tv programing with, All In the Family type programming and cable tv, with its adult-oriented themes (ah, how people think paying for something makes it moral!) began to steal the audience from traditional broadcast tv. Morality was becoming more post-modern, but there were still pockets of morailty. often in the oddest places. Religion was becoming more personalized and truth was becoming relativized. There are very few authentically accurate portrayals of Catholic life, except in the oddest of places (such as a few very short-lived sitcoms).
    4. After 1990, broadcast tv became a free-for-all. One need only think of NYPD Blue with its naked behind shots and Tooty losing her virginity on The Facts of Life (a show which, a few years earlier, was very respectful of religion). Modern tv is a derivative of the 1990’s.

    It is possible to watch wholesome tv and it is possible to watch tv wholesomely, but one cannot escape the fact that their thoughts are not our thoughts and their morality is not our morality, anymore.

    Sad fact – a few Christmases ago I went to the Barnes and Noble bookstore near where I live, which has the largest DVD collection for sale I have ever seen and, as I stood in front of the walls of DVD, I suddenly, realized that I had seen almost all of them. What a miserable waste of time, I thought. What it did not do, watching all of those hours of drivel. was make me lose my faith. What it did do was unite me to a culture until it became obvious that I no longer could be united to it.

    The loss of vocations, these days, is, largely, a loss of seeing. We do not see heroism in the quiet, only the large. We do not see charity in the little, only the big. We do not see our neighbor as ourselves, only as competitors. We do not see the pain of the Cross as the love of the Cross. We strive to see the love of God instead of the God of love. It is not the vocation crisis in the religious life that is so noteworthy. It is the crisis in the vocation to the married life that is the real problem, or, rather, it is the crisis in vocations of any sort. The idea that one has a calling, a place in the scheme of things where on ought to be, terrifies so many people, who while so desperately, running, trying to find themselves, lose themselves because they cannot believe that most vocations are found by standing still. Of course, one has to have something to stand on and it is the leaders of the Church who must build the platforms from which to launch the saints.

    I am profoundly sad that so many people will never know how long they have been standing in front of the DVD counter instead of reading from the script God has placed in front of them.

    The Chicken

  14. Wiktor says:

    *cough* FFI have already tried Summorum Pontificum *cough*

  15. rosaryarmy says:

    I interviewed at this parish a few years ago. They told me that at one time, there were 160 sisters there; by the time I visited, there were 18, and only a few of them wore their habits. It was sad- they were basically waiting for this to happen.

  16. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    A trip to their website demonstrates that nearly all of the aging Benedictines in this monastery are habited. So we can’t just blame that.

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