Backstory: The Sisters of St. Benedict

By ALEXANDRA SONDEEN
Herald Staff Writer

My family has never been particularly religious. I attended a small community church throughout my childhood and some of the best camp memories I have are of American Baptist Girls retreats at Alma College in Michigan, but it always felt pretty casual.

Once I entered high school and got a job, often working weekends, attending church started to fall off my list of things to do. I still went when I could, but certainly not as regularly as before. Then came college and jobs as a server where weekend shifts meant the most income to pay my school bills and suddenly, attending church was rare.

Since moving to Jasper a little more than three years ago, I’ve attended one church service here and a few more back home in Michigan when I’ve been able to make it. My husband isn’t the churchgoing type and there are so many things to get done on the weekends these days as my weekday schedule is often permeated with evening meetings, interviews and other work for The Herald. I find myself much more inclined to sleep in a bit, clean the house and run errands than to spend the morning sitting in church.

While working on the Saturday feature about the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, I realized that I have become a little envious of people with a strong faith. The sisters have dedicated their entire lives to God, spending each morning at Mass and praying constantly throughout the day. And here I am not able to muster up enough motivation to attend a Sunday church service or even to pray every day.

I’m not sure what I envy more — the sisters’ relationship with God or the fact that they can be so dedicated to one thing. Their conviction seemingly never wavers, and the sisters who have been in the community 70-plus years are just as committed, if not more so, than they were when they entered the religious life. It’s absolutely astonishing to me.

There are days, like the first warm sunny day of spring, where I think I feel God more than others.
I’m usually outside when that happens and I typically find myself turning my face to soak up the sunshine and marveling at all God has created. Then there are certain places I get the same feeling of God’s presence, most often in places I know have a deep-rooted history.

Even before this story came about, I had always felt moved when visiting Monastery Immaculate Conception. The monastery itself with its massive size, architectural beauty and awe-inspiring church has endured through the years as a haven for the sisters and their faith. That history would be enough, but it is the Sisters of St. Benedict themselves who, in their dedication to their faith, have given the monastery so much more meaning and presence.

After talking with the sisters, I always leave with that envious feeling. I know I’m young (soon to be 26) and that I’ve got time to figure things out, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to figure out what I really believe and to grow in that faith sooner rather than later. I’ve frequently toyed with the idea of trying to find a church I like, but with how many churches Dubois County has, the task seems overwhelming.

Since I’ve been working with the sisters for this story, each time I’ve visited them I’ve felt a little more unsettled than before, a little more of a calling to get this uncertainty in my life nailed down into something more permanent. I honestly haven’t cracked a Bible in ages — though there are two dusty ones on my bookshelf.

I suppose a good place to begin is with prayer and trying to listen to whatever message God seems to be wanting to tell me. If I can start making that happen, I have a feeling that the rest will sort of fall into place, even if it’s one baby step at a time.

I have the Sisters of St. Benedict to thank for that small realization since they unknowingly said something I needed to hear. In explaining their devotion, they paraphrased one of St. Augustine’s confessions to God by saying, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

I could not pin down what I had been feeling until then. I’ve definitely been restless and finding my faith seems more and more every day like it will be the answer.

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.




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