by Elizabeth Hyde
Since starting my work at the Leaven four summers ago, it has been on my personal “Leaven bucket list” to spend some time with the Benedictine Sisters at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. At the beginning of this summer, when I again picked up my intern work for the Leaven, I told this to managing editor Anita McSorley and she was quick to make it happen.
Before I knew it, I was headed to Atchison to spend part of a week with the Sisters and to cover all of the wonderful and educational things going on at the monastery.
While my adventure got off to a rocky start (I consider myself extremely directionally challenged, and the iPhone GoogleMaps app isn’t very useful in rural Kansas), as soon as I stepped foot onto the property, I was welcomed with the gentle and calming nature of monastic life. From my first few minutes meeting with Sister Judith Sutera, I knew I would have a fantastic time there.
I started with spending time with a group of students from the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) and the University of Missouri – Columbia (MU). Both groups are studying monasticism in medieval times and were staying at the monastery as part of their summer course work.
This was just one example of the many educational partnership programs that the Benedictine Sisters are trying to promote. I also spent time with a group of Nazarene seminarians from the Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.
Sister Judith Sutera, who works with public relations at the Mount, said these educational partnership programs are extremely important because they give students the opportunity to observe monastic life and to test out preconceived notions about the Sisters.
One student from the medieval studies group, Michaela Wiehe, expressed that she had always expected that all of the Sisters would be very quiet and reserved. She was especially surprised by how welcoming and talkative some of her interactions at the Mount were.
While I never found a shortage of interviews and stories to occupy my time, the most surprising thing to me about my short experience of living in monastic community was how relaxing it is to observe their regular Liturgy of the Hours. Each morning during the week, the Benedictine Sisters begin their day with early morning prayer at 6:30 a.m.
Trust me when I say I am not a morning person, but I was so surprised how calming it can be to begin the day in this way.
From sharing meals with me to showing me around the property, I could not have felt more welcomed and at home at Mount St. Scholastica.
Be sure to watch upcoming issues of The Leaven and on our website for the stories my visit to the monastery yields!