Vol. 40, No. 2
ST. SCHOLASTICA MONASTERY, Fort Smith, AR
Sister Alice’s Profession Completes a Journey
She Began in 8th Grade
Sister Alice O’Brien, who made her perpetual profession at a Mass concelebrated by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, Father David McKillin, and
Father John Schmitz, transferred to St. Scholastica Monastery on March 17, 2008, but her monastic journey began many years earlier.
Although she entered Our Lady of Peace Monastery, Columbia, Mo. in 2000, she said she first considered religious life in 8th grade at
St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Amarillo, Tex. “I believe in some way God had implanted that seed at that time,” Sister Alice said. “However
my journey continued as I finished high school, met my husband, got married, and became the mother of 6 children. When my marriage
broke up and I was single for some years, I felt that call from God once more and began to discern a vocation to religious life.”
Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld, Sister Alice’s biological sister, who was prioress at Our Lady of Peace Monastery in 2000, was very helpful
and supportive in her discernment and formation. In 2010, when our Lady of Peace Monastery dissolved, Sister Rose Maria, along with
Sisters Barbara Bock, Rose Ashour and Jane Fladung, joined Sister Alice in St. Scholastica.
A registered nurse who is pursuing a Theology Degree through Little Rock School of Theology, Sister Alice has worn many hats since
joining St. Scholastica—working in the infirmary, in spiritual direction, and in vocation ministry. She describes the other sisters in com-
munity as “awesome, grace-filled women” and hopes that her unique journey to monastic life and the gifts God has given her will be a
benefit to the community.
In his homily, Bishop Taylor commended Sister Alice and the community. “And isn’t it true that you Benedictine women offer a similar prophetic
witness in our world today?” he said. “In a world given over to the pursuit of possessions, your poverty gives witness to the one path to true
riches that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy. In a world given over to the pursuit of pleasure, your chastity gives witness to the
one relationship in which true fulfillment can be found. In a world given over to the pursuit of power, your obedience gives witness to the all-
powerful God, whose servant you are. In a world given over to the pursuit of prestige, your conversion of life gives witness to the one place in
which true honor can be found.”
Following the homily, Sister Alice read her profession document, sang “Suscipe” in Latin and English, and was covered with a pall—evok-
ing death, burial, and resurrection into new life. A lighted Paschal candle was held at her head while the Litany of the Saints was chanted.
Sister Maria DeAngeli blessed the community ring, gave it to Sister Alice, and presented her to the community.
Following Mass, the community and numerous friends and family members—children, grandchildren, in-laws, and friends from her years
in Our Lady of Peace Monastery—celebrated with Sister Alice. All six of Sister Alice’s children, her eight grandchildren, and her one
great-grandchild came from Indiana, Michigan, Texas, and Arizona to celebrate with her.
“God has rewarded me with so many blessings and graces in my life that it is difficult to pinpoint one particular thing. I believe that God’s
call to this Benedictine monastic life is a gracious call and God has given me the graces I need to follow it,” Sister Alice said.
Sister Alice makes her monastic promises. Sister Alice sings “Suscipe” (“Sustain Me, O Lord”) during her profession.
Sister Maria presents Sister Alice with her community ring. Sister Alice celebrates with her large family--six children, eight
grandchildren, and one great-grandson after her celebratory luncheon.
A Message From the Prioress
The word HOPE is used so often in our speech that we lose its real meaning. Expressions
most often used with hope are; I hope all is well, I hope I can, my hope is… hopefully I will… and many
others I am sure. Hope is a powerful Gift . St. John Climacus calls hope “the power behind love.”
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul says, “In hope, we already have salvation; in hope, not
visibly present, or we should not be hoping.” We don’t hope for what is in front of us, for what
we can see or what we already possess. What we hope for is what we cannot see, so we wait
in patient confidence.
Hope these days for us here at St. Scholastica’s, as we continue our work toward the future
with the Realm Group and Essential Designs, Inc. is not always having the solutions or do-
ing things correctly, but continuing to walk in faith TOGETHER, and we doing so with GOOD ZEAL toward what
is ahead for us as community. Brother Michael, a monk from Weston Priory wrote, “Our deepest source of hope
cannot be found in individualism and fragmentation, but in recognizing how blessed we are in our embodiment. We
embody the giftedness of God and are called to be gift to each other.”
It is in recognition of the giftedness of others that we express our gratitude to our oblates, benefactors,
alumnae, lay employees, and volunteers for their generous donations and help that give us continued hope. Their
generosity keeps our hope alive in knowing that the firm foundation of the Benedictine monastic tradition laid down
by our foremothers will continue. We live in HOPE.
Our hope was enlivened by our Postulant Sandra Nelson when she was accepted into Initial Formation at
evening praise on June the twenty-third, and by Sister Alice Grace O’Brien when she made her Perpetual Profes-
sion on June the twenty-fourth, the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Our hearts were filled with grateful joy and thanks-
giving on July the ninth when we celebrated the jubilees of eight of our sisters.
In hope and love we ask God’s blessings on all of you, that your vacations may be enjoyable and safe.
IN LOVING MEMORY
Sister Xavier Perona, 90, of St. Scholastica entered into eternal life on Thursday, February 10, 2011.
Frank and Carolina Perona welcomed Josephine Catherine into their family Jan. 13, 1921. She entered St.
Scholastica Convent in 1936, and on her investing day, she received the name of Sister Xavier. Sister Xavier
began her training for nursing in 1940 at St. Joseph Hospital in Boonville, Mo. and worked as a nurse in Der-
mott, Morrilton and Clarksville in Arkansas and Boonville in Missouri. After 18 years as a nurse at the Veterans
Hospital in Fayetteville, she returned to serve as the monastery’s infirmary director. She touched the lives of
many people in her ministry to the sick.
Sister Xavier was preceded in death by her parents; one sister, Angelina Bersi; and two brothers, John and Louis
Vespers for the dead was on February 14. The funeral Mass was on February 15 with burial at St. Scholastica Cemetery.
Sister Xavier is survived by one brother, Frank Perona of Orange, Calif.; nieces and nephews; and her religious community.
Oblate Laurine Ruleau entered into eternal life on June 21, 2011 at St. Scholastica Monastery where she resided for
the past six years. She was born on November 16, 1926 in Martin, S.D. Laurine, a member of the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe,
had a Masters Degree in Special Education from Arizona University--Flagstaff, and worked as a special education teacher with
the Navajo Indian School in Window Rock, Ariz. for many years. Laurine made her oblation December 15, 1985. During her
retirement years in the monastery she worked as a receptionist. She is survived by three siblings–Nancy, Ives and Donald.
Her cremains were brought to St. Scholastica Monastery June 27. The funeral Mass was on June 28, followed by interment
in St. Scholastica cemetery.
Vol. 40, No. 2
HORIZONS is published three times a year by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, P.O. Box 3489, Fort Smith, AR 72913. Phone: 479-783-4147.
E-mail:[email protected] Website: www.stscho.org FAX: 479-782-4352. Anyone is welcome to be on the mailing list at no charge.
Maryanne Meyerriecks.........Managing Editor
Sister Elise Forst, OSB.........Editorial Advisor
Please remember us when revising or making
your will. Our legal name is St. Scholastica
Monastery, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
From the Development Office By Sister Elise Forst, OSB
Your generous response to our appeal letter last fall is enabling us to meet the
needs for which we requested help. Sister Rachel is excited that some of the programs
in the Spiritual Director Formation program will be offered in Northwest Arkansas this
coming fall to answer the call she is hearing from many in that area. Your gifts help us
further the training of our Sisters as spiritual directors to provide the support needed to
expand the program. We are pleased that this program is doing so well.
Thus far, the work on facilities planning is in the “looking-at-options” stage. Hopefully, we’ll make
some choices later this summer and begin communicating our decisions to you. The consultants from
Realm have been helpful in expanding our horizons to look at possibilities we never considered before.
We are asking the intercession of our pioneer Sisters throughout our history to guide us in our deci-
sions. Their lived faith and trust inspire us to move forward.
Your gifts helped us replace some of the major components of the geothermal heating and cool-
ing system at the House of Prayer in New Blaine. At the present, the system seems to be working well.
Sisters Louise, Andrea, and Ethel Marie, who serve as the core group at the House of Prayer, are grate-
ful that the air conditioning is working these hot summer days.
We also depend on you, our friends, for help in continuing to care for our dear elders in the in-
firmary. They are such a blessing to us. The infirmary is full now, with two Sisters there temporarily
recuperating from knee surgery. Without your help, we would not be able to give them the help and care
they need at this time in their lives.
We wish all of you a blessed summer, with some opportunities for relaxation and visiting with
friends and family. We ask your continued prayers for us as we move into the future.
- Desktop computers (minimum specifications: 2.8 GHZ, 2GB
DDR2/DDR3, 80 GB hard drive, CD/DVD burner)
- If you wish to donate a used computer and are unsure if it
meets these requirements, please donate it anyway. The
donated computer will probably be newer than ours or we can
use it for parts.
- Laptop computers (minimum specifications: same as
desktop computers plus 14” screen, wireless capability,
CD/DVD drive instead of burner)
- Flat screen monitors: 20” minimum (better for those
- Volunteers for occasional work in the gift shop or
Six employees received service awards at the
annual Employee Recognition Dinner March 17.
Standing are Gene Blackwell (25 years), Bill Carroll
(20 years), and Ed Elkins (25 years.) Seated are
Mary Ellen Dunlap and Carmen Torres (5 years.)
David Prejean (25 years) is not pictured.
If you know any people who may enjoy seeing
Horizons, please send their names and
addresses to Sister Elise Forst, P.O. Box 3489,
Fort Smith, AR 72913 or e-mail [email protected]
Eight Benedictine Sisters Celebrate
465 Years of Living in Community
July 9, 2011
Sister Columba Moseley, OSB
Sister Hermana Siebenmorgen, OSB
Sister Christine Eckart, OSB
Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld, OSB
Sister Cabrini Schmitz, OSB
Sister Gabriel Brandt, OSB
Sister Jeremy Molett, OSB (not pictured)
Sister Frances Anne Braddock, OSB
Sister Hermana Siebenmorgen, OSB, who is celebrating 75 years of religious life, was born on September 6, 1917 in
Scranton, Ark. She entered St. Scholastica Monastery and made temporary vows on June 24, 1936. She earned a Bachelors
Degree in History from Mount St. Scholastica College and studied Library Science at the University of Arkansas--Little Rock.
She taught elementary grades at Holy Redeemer School, Clarksville; St. Boniface School, Fort Smith; St. Mary’s School, Lake
Village; and St. Edward School, Little Rock, where she also served as principal. In her retirement Sister Hermana can often be
found in chapel praying the Rosary and spending time in adoration.
Sister Columba Moseley, OSB, also celebrating her 75th jubilee, was born on January 5, 1919 in Shreveport, La. She
entered St. Gertrude’s Monastery, Covington, La. and made her first profession on January 12, 1936. She received her Bachelors
and Masters Degrees in Education from Mount St. Scholastica College and Loyola University of the South, respectively. She
taught high school Math in Louisiana and spent five years teaching Math at Westark Community College, Fort Smith. She trans-
ferred to St. Scholastica Monastery in 1971 when St. Gertrude’s Monastery was amalgamated with St. Scholastica. She loved her
volunteer work at Community Clearinghouse in Fort Smith. In her retirement, Sister Columba is best known for her ability to be
joyful in any and all situations. Her gentle smile and kindness endear her to all who know her.
Sister Christine Eckart, OSB, celebrating her 70th Jubilee, was born May 22, 1922 in Subiaco, Ark. She entered the
monastery and made her first profession on June 24, 1941. She taught elementary school and music at St. Boniface School,
Bigelow; Sacred Heart School, Charleston; Sacred Heart School,Hartman; and St. Joseph’s School, Center Ridge from 1941-
1948. She graduated from St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing, Boonville, Mo. and St. Cloud, Minn. in 1956 and earned
her Nurse Practitioner Degree at University of Arkansas Medical Center in 1976. She worked in nursing from 1953-1972, and
was director of St. Scholastica Infirmary from 1972-1981. She worked in Pastoral Care from 1983-1993, and served as house
coordinator and procurator in the monastery until 2008. Sister Christine plays the organ and autoharp at liturgies, serves as an
interior decorator, and is currently narrating a documentary on the chapel stained glass windows. “As I celebrate 70 years of
monastic life,” Sister Christine said, “I am grateful to God for the grace and the ability to respond to the call of the Spirit, as my
life unfolds. I thank God for my full and varied life. The older I get, the more I realize that life is a wonderful gift to be lived and
shared to the fullest.”
Sister Rose Maria Birkenfeld, OSB, who is celebrating her 60th jubilee, was born on September 13, 1931 in Amarillo,
Tex. She graduated from St. Mary’s Academy, Amarillo, Tex., entering St. Scholastica Monastery following her graduation,
and making her first profession on June 24, 1951. She performed domestic work at St. Joseph Orphanage, Crawford County
Hospital, and Holy Rosary School until 1968, when she became one of the founding members of Our Lady of Peace Monastery,
Columbia, Mo. While in Columbia, she earned degrees in Elementary Education and Religious Studies and received her Mas-
ters Degree in Theology from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Tex. She worked as a Director of Religious Education and in
Pastoral Ministry in Pilot Grove, Clear Creek, Vienna, Argyle, and Marshall, Mo. Her last assignment was at St. Boniface Church,
Koeltztown, Mo. in pastoral ministry for several parishes. She also served as procurator, subprioress and prioress of Our Lady
of Peace Monastery. She returned to St. Scholastica in 2010 after Our Lady of Peace Monastery was dissolved. Visitors to the
monastery might recognize her friendly face from visits to the Gift Shop, where she is a sales clerk.
Sister Cabrini Schmitz, OSB, St. Scholastica prioress from 2001-2009, was born on March 6, 1932 in Scranton,
Ark. In her senior year at St. Scholastica Academy, she entered the monastery and made her first profession on June 24,
1951. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Tex. and a Master’s Degree in
Admi ni st rsat i on f rom Marquet t e Uni versi t y, Mi l waukee, Wi s.
She t aught i n el ement ary
school s f rom 1951-60, and at
hi gh school
St . Schol ast i ca
St. Anne’s High School from 1961-73. After taking Clincal Pastoral Education, she worked for St. Edward’s Hospital in pastoral
care, then as an administrative assistant. She served as director of the retreat center from 1990-2001. “I’m so grateful to God
for giving me the gift of a monastic heart,” Sister Cabrini said. “The events of these past 60 years have greatly enriched my life.
I’ve been stretched by various assignments given me and I developed talents in leadership that I didn’t know I had. I’m thank-
ful also for these 60 years of traveling the monastic journey with companions who value communal and private prayer, silence,
obedience to a Rule and a superior, sharing work, and enjoying leisure activities. I’m also grateful to my extended family, our
Oblates, loyal alumnae, and our boards and volunteers who continue to be a great support in this monastic way of life.”
Golden Jubilarian Sister Gabriel Brandt, OSB was born on December 13, 1928 in Edwardsville, Ill. After enjoying a
career in the business world, Sister Gabriel entered the monastery in 1958 and made her first profession on June 24, 1961. She
studied at Creighton University, Fontbonne College, and University of Dallas. She taught in several parish elementary schools
and taught business subjects at St. Scholastica Academy. In 1980 she studied to become a licensed practical nurse, and worked
at St. Edward’s Hospital from 1981-89. She has served as monastery treasurer and twice as procurator. She now is an infirmary
liaison.“I am deeply grateful for all these years that have brought me to this ‘golden event,’” Sister Gabriel said. “Only with the help
of God’s love and grace was I able to meet the many challenges the past years have brought.”
Sister Jeremy Molett, OSB is also celebrating her 50th jubilee. Born in Centerville, Iowa on August 26, 1931, Sister
Jeremy made her first profession at St. Scholastica Monastery on June 24, 1961. She spent most of her career as an elementary
teacher and principal in Fort Smith public schools.
Sister Frances Anne Braddock, OSB, who is celebrating her Silver Jubilee, made her first profession on August 16,
1986 at the age of 67. She entered the community that her sisters, Sisters DeChantal and Roberta Hyland, had belonged to
from their teenage years, and after her husband, Charles Braddock, had died. The mother of six and former World War II nurse
worked in parish work, kitchen work, and in the bakery after making her profession. In her years of retirement, Sister Frances
Anne made hundreds of rosaries for the missons.
POSTULANT SANDRA TAKES THE NAME
SISTER SANDRA MARIE AS SHE ENTERS THE NOVITIATE
Postulant Sandra Nelson was welcomed into the novitiate during Evening Praise on June 23, the vigil
of St. John the Baptist. She chose the name Sister Sandra Marie and chose to wear a white veil, which she
designed and sewed with the help of Sister Corinne Lange, during the two years she will spend as a novice.
With Sister Dolores Vincent Bauer, her formation director, Sister Sandra will study and internalize the Rule of
Benedict within St. Scholastica’s monastic community.
Before entering St. Scholastica, Sister Sandra, 46, enjoyed several diverse careers, having served as
an electrician’s mate in the Navy and having worked as a big-rig truck driver. Most recently she was a live-in
caregiver for a senior citizen. During her four-year period of discernment, a Daughter of Charity suggested that
Sister Sandra’s charism resembled that of the Benedictines. Through Vision Guide’s vocationmatch.com, she
was led to discern at St. Scholastica Monastery. She made her first of several visits in 2009 and entered the
monastery in September, 2010.
In discussing her mid-life vocation, Sister Sandra said, “For women (or men) who are uncertain of the
path in which to take or have come to a crossroad in their ‘mid-life’, I believe, is an opportunity to ask yourself if
religious life might be something to seriously consider as being a call from God. If it is God’s will and one per-
severes, no matter the obstacle...God will clear the path for your direction. ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do
not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right
hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)
“The most rewarding part (of being in community) is the continuous searching for God with them in com-
munity and knowing this is where God wants me to be and that it is my home...before eternity in heaven. I have
40 years of life experience, love and abundant faith. God will provide the rest,” Sister Sandra said.
On the first Sunday of each month at noon, Sisters
and friends gather at the northeast corner of Creekmore
Park for a half-hour silent peace vigil. All are welcome.
This fall, the Subiaco student sponsored by Just-
peace for the last two years begins his senior year. Your
contributions for this student continue to be appreciated.
During the past year, some sisters have been
learning Spanish with Haymeé Giuliani, an oblate and Trin-
ity Junior High School Spanish teacher. They sometimes
practice their Spanish at dinner and attend Hispanic Mass-
es and other parish events in Fort Smith. At the end of the
school year, they cooked a festive Spanish meal. The group
is depicted in the photo to the right.
THREE YOUNG WOMEN ATTEND
SUMMER DISCERNMENT RETREAT
Maria Quezada, Fort Smith, Ark.; Judith Curtsinger, Fayetteville,
Ark.; and Maria Elena Fisk, Euless, Tex. visited the monastery for a sum-
mer discernment retreat, “Consider Your Call”, from June 23-27.
During the retreat, they had the opportunity to attend Sister Sandra
Nelson’s rite of entrance into the novitiate and Sister Alice O’Brien’s per-
petual monastic profession. Along with discerners at Subiaco Abbey, they
visited Subiaco and Hesychia House of Prayer and participated in a variety
of spiritual and recreational activities as they learned about monastic life.
On Saturday morning, Sister Kimberly Prohaska, vocation director,
cooked up a batch of her famous Belgian waffles for the young women at
Pictured at the front door of the monastery after Sunday Mass are (L
to R) Maria Quezada, Judith Curtsinger, and Maria Elena Fisk
Anna Days was unable to attend the retreat but came to visit the
monastery July 1-8.
St. Scholastica Monastery Oblates had a busy spring. They raised $385 through the Fair Trade Gift Table at
the monastery bake sale, and donated $175 to St. Jude Thaddeus Church, Waldron, and $210 to Kizito Babies Home,
Mbale, Uganda. In March the group visited the Jones Center in Springdale, Ark. and enjoyed a tour with Oblate Kathryn
Birkhead. On April 30, Sister Magdalen and several oblates went to John Brown University to see the St. John’s Bible
print exhibit. During their meetings at the monastery, they enjoyed a vocation presentation by Sister Alice O’Brien, a slide
show of Africa presented by Sister Hilary Decker, and a talk by Fr. David McKillin, the monastery chaplain.
Several oblate members attended the ecumenical luncheon series at Immaculate Conception Church and
other area churches during Lent.
At the May 17th Sunday Mass, Katherine Barnhart-Thrift, Pam Coates, Sheryl Hampton, Janie McCreary and
Rynette McGee enrolled in the oblate program; Christy Worsham, Nora Bryant, and Eileen Scott made their oblations.
Following the ritual, current oblates renewed their oblation. After Mass, sisters, oblates, and their guests enjoyed a deli-
On April 28-May 3, Sisters Elise
Forst, Dolores Vincent Bauer, and
Kimberly Prohaska attended the Ameri-
can Benedictine Formation Conference
in Schuyler, Nebraska.
On April 13-14, Maintenance
Supervisor Ed Elkins taught sisters and
staff how to use the fire extinguishers lo-
cated throughout the building.
On June 26-30, Sister Macrina
Wiederkehr attended the Monastic Insti-
tute at St. John’s University, Collegeville,
The Little Rock Catholic Study
Bible, available in hardcover and paper-
back editions, features “prayer starters”
by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr through-
out the text.
Sisters Maria DeAngeli, Steph-
anie Schroeder, and Pat Bolling will
represent the monastery at the trien-
nial Federation of St. Gertrude Chapter
meeting at Monastery Immaculate Con-
ception, Ferdinand, Indiana from June
Joyful Gifts, the sisters’ poetry
anthology, took first place in the Arkan-
sas Press Women contest and received
an Honorable Mention in the National
Federation of Press Women contest.
Horizons received a first place award in
Arkansas and a third place award at the
RETREAT IN DAILY LIFE
will be offered in three locations in
Monday evenings at
St. Scholastica Retreat Center
Tuesdays 10:30 a.m.-noon at
St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
Tuesdays 2:00-3:30 p.m. at
St. Paul Episcopal Church, Fayetteville
To register, contact
Sister Rachel Dietz at (479) 783-4147
U.S. Postage Paid
Fort Smith, AR
Permit: No. 429
St. Scholastica Monastery
1301 South Albert Pike
P.O. Box 3489
Fort Smith, AR 72913-3489
RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED
Visit St. Scholastica Monastery Fort Smith
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On April 14, 2011, Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce presented Sister
Pierre Vorster with its Frontier Achievement Award in recognition of her
contributions to the historical development of Fort Smith. In the photo,
Claude Legris, Executive Director of Fort Smith Convention and Visitors
Bureau and Al Whitson, past President of the Fort Smith Historical Society,
present Sister Pierre with a plaque.