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Benedictines Lead Quest for Peace

walkBenedictine Sisters, Erie, PA

This has been a long, angry, unsettling summer. It opened with a disgruntled gunman opening fire at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans, nearly killing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Then came the president’s nerve-jangling verbal one-upmanship with a nuclear-armed North Korean dictator.

A few weeks ago, white supremacists marched through the streets of an historic Virginia college town bearing flaming torches and chanting evil slogans heard in the Third Reich and at Klan rallies. A woman protesting the hate died after police said one of the marchers deliberately plowed his car into her, ISIS-style.

The need and suffering on display as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey seem to have doused the nation’s fevered divisions, at least for the moment. Disasters tend to bring out the humanity in us. But it should not have to come to that.

There is another eye to be found in the storm closer to home. It began at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 345 E. Ninth St. in Erie.

That is where Benedictines for Peace of Erie hosted its first Silent Walk for Peace. They invited those from all backgrounds to walk slowly and silently together in “response to the escalating tensions and divisiveness present in our country and our world.”

Simple quiet can promote peace within, the sisters say, and extinguish fear, divisions and hatred.

The Benedictines led residents on a quiet 30-minute walk through the neighborhood that hosts many of their good works: the Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Saint Benedict Education Center and the Inner City Neighborhood Art House, among them.

“Benedictines for Peace begins this initiative in its own neighborhood as a reminder that peace and justice does ‘begin with me,’” said Sister Anne McCarthy, coordinator of Benedictines for Peace. “It is another way of making visible the corporate commitment of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie to be a healing presence and prophetic witness for peace by working for sustainability and justice, especially for women and children.”

This is only the first of the peace walks, which the group intends to hold monthly. The walks are modeled on similar events that began in Florida in 2006. They are also of a spiritual piece with the Take Back the Site vigils the Benedictines, Sisters of Saint Joseph and Sisters of Mercy hold at the scene of every homicide in Erie, more than 100 of them since 1999. They join with mourners to honor those who lost their lives to violence and reclaim the site for peace.There is a deep and dreadful human impulse to respond to fear, division and hatred with violence.The Benedictines’ approach seems infinitely preferable.

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Speaking Out For the Earth

letterwritingAt the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, ID, this year’s Earth Day activity took the form of advocacy.  The Sisters gathered on Wednesday evening, April 19, to speak out for the earth by writing post cards that will be sent to our Senators and Representative concerning legislative decisions that directly impact the wellbeing of our planet.  Issues such as funding for renewal energy projects, opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, preventing any drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and protecting climate change regulations were addressed.  As Pope Francis points out in LAUDATO SI’, we must hear both “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth” if we are to experience true peace in our world.

Nuclear Weapons Ban Statement

cropped-paxchristi_logoPax Christi International has issued a statement on Nuclear Weapons Ban negotiations.  Many members of Benedictines For Peace were part of a broad global support network that has been calling for this ban.  You are invited to be actively engaged in this effort by reading the statement, praying for successful U.N. negotiations and sharing this information.

Statement (PDF): NuclearBansNegotiations

Learn more about Pax Christi at their website:

Nonviolence: World Day of Peace Message

maxresdefault“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the time of salvation!” (2Cor.6:2) This phrase from scripture vividly describes for us an instinctive feeling we have about the beginning of a new year. What better time to pull out those values we claim to profess, dust them off and renew our commitment to them. Maybe this is why for the past 50 years the Pope has chosen January 1 to proclaim a message of peace to the world, challenging all Christians to take seriously the Gospel call to nonviolence.

In his 2017 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis does not mince words. He states that “to be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. ”In the sermon on the mount (Matthew5) the Gospel clearly describes what it means to be a peacemaker. In this plan of action there is no room for violence of any kind whether that be angry words with  a family member or military retaliation toward another country. In Pope Frances’ words: “When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become one of the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking”.

We are challenged by Our Holy Father to “…dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds and to becoming nonviolent people and to build nonviolent communities that care for our common home.” Consider reading the World Day of Peace message. It makes a powerful prayer for 2017.

In our community mission statement we have listed creative peacemaking as one of our core values. This reflects the cornerstone of our monastery building which is embalmed with the Latin word PAX-peace. We are active members of National Benedictines For Peace which works to coordinate peacemaking activities. In so many ways we are daily reminded of the exhortation given to us by St. Benedict in his rule of life: “Let peace be your quest and aim”.

by Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth, Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho

Caring for Refugees


The Benedictine Sisters of Florida are working with Catholic Charities to welcome 147 refugees. The goal is to guide them toward becoming self-sufficient and contributing members of their new country. We’re doing this by putting together HOPE Kits: Kitchen Kit, Bathroom Kit, Personal Grooming Kit, even a Baby Kit.

Refugees are in the US legally, having fled their home countries because of persecution or fear of persecution due to race, ethnicity, religion or political belief.  The Life Ministry Diocese of St. Petersburg invites anyone who is interested to participate in this venture to welcome the stranger.

Earth Day Prayer

making a planThe BENEDICTINE SISTERS OF FLORIDA held a special evening prayer on Earth Day, April 22, outside on their dining room porch with the beauty of the sky, their “back yard” with trees and flowers and a nearby hay field all speaking of the presence of God and the gift of nature. A light rain added a special touch.

Sections from Laudato Si and the Scriptures were read, followed by quiet time and then a discussion about how caring for the earth is an expression of faith.  At the end the Sisters took the Pledge of Commitment to answer God’s call to care for creation.

Earlier in the day a lunch was served to 20 volunteers who help with our aquaponics garden where vegetables are grown without soil. The water from large tanks of tilapia is circulated into troughs of floating seedlings providing the community with all sorts of greens, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli.

Annual Good Friday Peace Pilgrimage

GoodFridayChrist is crucified today whenever and wherever hatred, violence and injustice prevail. Each year the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Benedictines for Peace members and others walk a contemporary Way of the Cross through Erie, ending at Mount St. Benedict Monastery—a 7 ½ mile pilgrimage.  We stop along the way for contemporary stations at sites that symbolize the oppression being felt by people today.

Offering of Letters

Each year the Sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho, participate in the Offering of Letters sponsored by Bread For the World.

These letters are written as one of our Lenten practices and are offered during the Eucharistic service on Holy Thursday evening.  The theme of this year’s letters was Survive and Thrive in which we asked our legislators to increase the amount budgeted to aid international maternal and child nutrition programs.

Writing these letters helps us deepen our awareness of and concern for people around the globe who suffer from lack of sufficient, nutritious food.  Knowing that our letters are added to the thousands of letters written by members of other Christian groups gives us confidence that the message will have an impact on congressional decisions.

Stand Against Racism

peaceAs they have done in previous years, the Chicago Benedictine Sisters will participate in the Stand Against Racism sponsored by the YWCA on Friday, April 29.  They join a number of organizations to stand along Ridge Avenue in Evanston which stretches from the north to the south city limits.  Oblates of the community are invited to participate as well as the general public. A teacher from a suburban Catholic School brings a group of students to join the vigil. The Sisters make their presence visible by holding a large Benedictines For Peace sign.

Ash Wednesday Interfaith Prayer Service

Ash_Wednesday_pictureJacinta Fernandes OSB, a member of Emmanuel Monastery in Lutherville, MD, is the director of St Joseph Social Service Center in Elizabeth, NJ. In addition to its mission to the poor and homeless of the area, St Joseph’s also connects with First Friends, an organization that works with immigrant detainees in jails and detention centers. St Joseph’s is one of the sponsoring agencies at First Friends’ annual Ash Wednesday prayer vigil outside of the Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses 300 immigrants. These are people who came to America to escape violence and death threats in their own countries. Their only “crime” is they do not have proper documentation. They come expecting to find safety and a warm welcome in the “land of the free” that is home to so many immigrants. Imagine their shock when they are arrested and incarcerated in an old warehouse, without windows, and treated as criminals. They are given prison uniforms and if they are fortunate enough to get visitors, they must converse by phone behind plexiglass. First Friends recruits visitors from local churches and organizations for those who have no family here. Some wait as long as 2 or 3 years for their asylum hearings.

This year’s Ash Wednesday vigil was an interfaith service with prayers and readings from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. It was a call to people of faith to dedicate themselves to acts of mercy, compassion and solidarity with all those forced to leave their homelands. Music was provided by the New York Catholic Worker band. Ashes were distributed to those who wanted them. A link is added to a chain each year symbolizing the number of Ash Wednesdays that we have gathered to protest the detention of asylum seekers. This was the 20th year so the chain now consists of 20 links.

Following the prayer service, everyone was invited to St Joseph’s for a soup supper and teach-in, at which a former detainee described his demoralizing experience in the Detention Center. All present pledged to continue working for an end to the Elizabeth Detention Center and all the detention centers throughout the United States.