History of St. Benedict’s Monastery
And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. As we advance in the religions life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. – Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict
A Living Tradition
Benedict of Norcia, Italy (480-547) wrote what he called ‘A Little Rule for Beginners’ in which there was to be ‘nothing harsh,nothing burdensome’ (RB Prologue). His Rule, intended originally for monastic communities of men and women, is equally applicable to anyone who is ‘truly seeking God’ (RB 58) and who wants to make Christ the centre of their lives. Benedict based his teaching on the Scriptures and the monastic tradition he had inherited from the past. Yet he adapted it to the needs of people in his own day. He invited his followers to live ‘with the Gospel as their guide’ with a listening heart, open to the call of the Spirit.
From Rome to North America
In 1912 four Benedictine sisters from Duluth , Minnesota established a monastic community in Winnipeg with Mother Veronica Zymanska as Prioress. The expressed mission of the community was “education and the practice of Christian charity”. At that time, the sisters taught at Holy Ghost School on Selkirk Avenue and opened an orphanage to care for 75 children.
The Last Visit of
Saints Benedict and Scholastica
a 23.5″ high clay sculpture,
created by Helen E. Norman,
can be found in the entryway
to St. Benedict’s Monastery
In 1915 the orphanage was transferred from Winnipeg to the village of Arborg , seventy miles north of Winnipeg .
In 1923 the building at Arborg was enlarged and the monastery was re-located there, leaving the convent in Winnipeg as a mission where the sisters continued to teach.
In 1961 a new Priory and girls’ academy were erected on the outskirts of Winnipeg and the community once again transferred its ‘headquarters’. The old convent in Arborg was renovated to become St. Benedict’s Manor for care of the elderly.
In 1970 in response to the call of Vatican II, the community undertook a self-study and renewal. One of the results was the decision to close St. Benedict’s Academy and to reopen that same year as St. Benedict’s Educational Centre where we offered hospitality to church and educational groups conducting their in-services. This continues as St. Benedict’s Retreat and Conference Centre which has become also a place for women and men to find renewal and personal spiritual growth.
We are a community of 19 monastic women. We are 102 years young!
We have responded to various calls of the Church and the world by
-Building rural hospitals,
-Staffing parochial, private and public schools,
-Administering personal care homes,
-Establishing an academy for girls,
-Providing pastoral care is parishes and personal care homes,
-Providing religious instruction in parishes, schools and through correspondence,
-Serving as homemakers,
-Ministering as retreat directors and spiritual guides and
-Providing leadership in prayer, spirituality and liturgy.
We are happy to continue serving communities in and around Winnipeg through spiritual formation, education and health care, at St. Benedict’s Retreat and Conference Centre and St. Benedict’s Place for independent living, at St. Joseph’s Residence, and through teaching the students of Bishop Grandin High School in Calgary.