Community Living in the Benedictine Tradition
The story of the community in Chicago begins on August 23, 1861 when three young sisters from Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania journeyed to Chicago. The Erie community formed out of St. Joseph Monastery in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, where Benedictine Sisters from Bavaria had first settled in 1852.
A Commitment to Education
For many years, education was core to the work of the newly-arrived Sisters in Chicago. The founding mothers taught at St. Joseph School at Cass St. and Chicago Avenue near the center of early Chicago, but after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the order regrouped at Hill and Orleans Streets under the name SS Benedict and Scholastica Convent and Academy. The community incorporated as the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago in 1873.
St. Scholastica Academy in Chicago opened in 1907, where the Sisters taught girls from grades one through twelve until the 1940s, when it was limited to high school, operating that way until it closed in 2012. Today, the school building, auditorium, and athletic fields continue as a public charter school for neighborhood children.
The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago also taught in several Chicago parish schools, and mission schools in several locations in Colorado, including St. Scholastica Academy in Canon City which served as a day and boarding school for young women from 1890 until it closed in 2001.
Continuing the Tradition of Service
In the 1970s the community diversified its work and urged members to discern the needs of the times in making ministry decisions with the Prioress and Personnel Board. In the ensuing years, Sisters became involved in civil rights, community organizing, developing supportive housing, prison ministry, and more.
Dating from at least the 1940s, the monastery itself aided immigrants and refugees from Germany, Vietnam, El Salvador, and Ethiopia as well as African and Korean Sisters in Chicago to attend university. The activist sisters also partnered with other organizations that serve people on the move at a vulnerable time.
Since 1977, the monastery has been enrolling women and men as Oblates, who live out the Rule of Benedict in their day-to-day life as single or married people. They participate in ongoing formation, liturgical, social, and ministry life of the monastery as possible. While Oblates live throughout the country, most are concentrated in Chicago and in Pueblo Colorado. The monastery welcomes neighbors to participate in Sunday and Feast Day liturgies or through private retreats. For those interested, Sisters offer spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, massage therapy, and spirituality workshops at the monastery, while other Sisters serve as educators and in pastoral roles at local parishes.
Works of Art Bring Reverence and Serenity
St. Scholastica Chapel, built in 1924, is enhanced by Celestine Fischer, OSB’s stained glass windows illustrating the hours of the Divine Office. The chapel frescos were painted by Josef Steinhage in 1938 in the Beuronese style of Germany’s Maria Laach Abbey, and refurbished by Joseph Ramirez and Sean Culver in the 1990s as part of the chapel renovation. The chapel is the scene of daily prayer for the community.
St. Joseph Court is an infirmary built for the care of elderly sisters in 1980. The infirmary chapel is also a gathering place for daily community prayer.
The Labyrinth created in 1999 by Oblate Dan Raven on the northwest grounds of the campus, offers a peaceful setting for contemplation.