Forward in Faith

Q: How did the Sisters arrive at their decision to build a new monastery?

A: During the past several years the Sisters have prayerfully examined various options for the best use of their aging facilities in the face of a declining and aging membership. Their decision to build a smaller, more efficient monastery was affirmed by architects, engineers and advisors who determined that the size, escalating operational costs, age and layout of the current monastery does not meet the needs of the Sisters now and would not for the foreseeable future.

The Sisters are also negotiating the sale of 9.5 acres to Reliance Health Care, Inc. for the construction of a certified nursing home with a wing dedicated for Sisters who need fulltime nursing care. The new monastery will be located near the new nursing home so the Sisters have easy access to the infirm Sisters.

Q: Why conduct a Capital Campaign?

A: Each religious community institutes sound business and financial policies to support itself and its ministries. Though the Sisters are good stewards of their resources, they must have financial assistance to build a smaller, more efficient monastery that is appropriate for their community life and current health and safety needs. Based on the positive results of a feasibility study in 2015, the Sisters decided that a capital campaign is the most effective way to raise the necessary funds.

Q: What will the Capital Campaign accomplish?

A: Charitable gifts will provide funding to build a 30,000-square-foot facility with kitchen and dining facilities, chapel, laundry, offices, storage and rooms with private baths for 28 residents. The design incorporates assisted living qualities for future contingencies.

Q: What are the current demographics of the Benedictine community and projections for the future?

A: There are 41 Sisters in the monastic community. Their media age is 81. There are 33 Sisters who are over 70 years of age and 8 under 70. Two Sisters are in temporary monastic vows. In planning for the future, the Sisters are guided by actuarial studies which they update annually.

The current membership of the Benedictine Sisters and the number of new members reflect the cultural and paradigm shifts in today's church and society. After 1500 years of monastic life, women remain attracted to monasticism but not in the same numbers as during the 1920's through the 1960's. Recent studies of religious life show that the number of religious women in the U.S. today equals that at the time of the Sisters' original settlement in Shoal Creek.

Today more and more lay people seek affiliation as Benedictine Oblates, who strive to live the values of the Benedictine Rule within the context of their family and work lives, meeting and praying with the Sisters regularly.

Q: Where are the Sisters serving the Church today?

A: The Sisters' community life is centered in prayer and, particularly, the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Catholic Church. The Sisters' Benedictine charism emphasizes hospitality, simplicity and reverence for one another and all of creation. From these spiritual centers, the Sisters respond to the needs of God's people through their varied ministries.

The Sisters operate a retreat center at the monastery and rent classroom space to Trinity Junior High School on the monastery grounds. They also staff a House of Prayer with four hermitages for retreatants in Shoal Creek, Arkansas. In addition they have established a spiritual director formation program and sponsor a scholarship program so that girls can attend a Benedictine K-12 school in Guatemala.

Sisters are also involved in counseling, pastoral care, Hispanic ministry and volunteer work in area service projects. One Sister in formation currently teaches Spanish at Christ the King School in Fort Smith, and the other will soon be working as a nurse practitioner.

Q: How do the Sisters support themselves?

A: The Sisters support themselves through their public ministries, disbursements from money set aside for the retirement needs of their Sisters, and private donations. In the 1970's, they established a Continuing Care Fund to provide for the needs of their elderly Sisters.

Q: Do the Sisters receive financial support from the Diocese of Little Rock?

A: St. Scholastica Monastery is an independent religious community. As such, it is not financially supported by the Roman Catholic Church or the Diocese of Little Rock.

Q: What are the operating expenses for the current monastery?

A: In the last fiscal year the Sisters' housing costs were $380,430 or about 12% of their annual budget. With a 65% reduction in square footage for living space and a newer, energy-efficient building, it is reasonably expected that housing expenses, particularly utilities and repairs, will decrease significantly.

Q: What will happen to the current monastery once the Sisters move into the new monastery?

A: The Sisters have established a Blue Ribbon Committee of local citizens to explore options for use of the current monastery and grounds. Currently the Sisters have no definite plan for the existing monastery building, but they will continue to explore options as they occur.

Q: Are campaign gifts tax deductible as charitable contributions?

A: St. Scholastica Monastery is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. All gifts are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. A charitable gift receipt will be issued for every donation that meets IRS standards.

Q: Why did the Sisters not renovate the monastery and continue to live there instead of building a new monastery?

A: The Sisters considered renovating the monastery, but after consultation with architects, engineers, and their advisors it was clear that the size, escalating operational costs, age and layout of the building would not meet the needs of the Sisters now and for the foreseeable future. The new monastery will be located near the new nursing home for easy access to their infirm Sisters.

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