ATCHISON — Hundreds of years of faithful religious life and service were celebrated by the Benedictine Sisters at Mount St. Scholastica here on July 12. This year’s golden jubilee celebration honored Sisters Irene Nowell, Mary Ann Dice, Mary Grosdidier, Mary Collins, and Sylvia Kenkel. Three classmates have since become members of the Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, Colo., which the Atchison community founded. Two of them — Sisters Evangeline Salazar and Mary Jane Vigil — were part of the Atchison celebration, but Sister Lucile Hartmann was unable to attend.
At the celebration, Sister Anne Shepard, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica, praised the women as she noted the many changes that have occurred in the past 50 years, both for the Benedictine community and for the individual Sisters. She mentioned the many ways in which they have served others, but noted, “Benedictines are not identified by unique works. Our success is determined by our fidelity to common prayer and communal life.”
The Sisters have, indeed, had unique lives and ministries, with many unexpected changes. Sister Irene has been a teacher throughout her religious life. Her ministry began in a grade school classroom and now is conducted in cyberspace with graduate theology students at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., while she remains in Atchison. She is a noted Scripture scholar who has written numerous books and articles on the Old Testament.
Another respected theologian and writer is Sister Mary Collins, whose teaching career led to becoming chair of the religion and religious studies program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. That phase of her life was abruptly halted by her election as prioress of Mount St. Scholastica for the period of 1999 to 2005.
Sister Mary Grosdidier spent more than 40 years as a teacher and principal in various elementary and high schools throughout the region. More recently, she has served as a welcoming receptionist at the monastery and is a familiar figure around the campus as she sweeps and weeds the grounds from her electric cart.
Sister Mary Ann has also spent most of these past 50 years in classrooms, as an elementary teacher in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Her current ministry is a significant change as she supervises the laundry services for the Mount and Dooley Center.
Sister Sylvia thought she, too, would have a life of teaching. After a few years, however, she began caring for the sick and, trained in practical nursing, began her service of nearly 40 years in Dooley Center.