St. Benedict's Monastery on the Red


Sr. Virginia Evard, OSB

ginny2I grew up the second youngest in a family with four sisters and three brothers. My mother died  when I was twelve and all of us girls worked for my father in the Evard Jewelry store after school hours when we were in high school. We thought we were a great help to him running errands and doing secretarial work. Only later did I realize that this was his way of taking care of us.

Sometimes on errand trips, I would make visits in downtown churches just as my mother used to do with my younger sister, Tish, and I when we were little. I also loved the opportunity, when it presented itself, to walk home alone from the bus in the evening in, what I now realize, was a contemplative walk. One evening coming home and gazing at the stars, I felt a call to dedicate my life to God. I remember fully realizing that this would mean I would never have children of my own or a partner for life and that this was a loss. But, I also felt wooed by God, and I could never doubt it. I was sixteen years old and I said, “Yes”. I even wrote a poem about it. My older sisters all got their diamond engagement rings at my father’s store. In my poem, I saw my diamond in the night sky made by the Creator.

At first, I thought I would become a Franciscan sister as they taught me in high school. But when I saw a picture of the founding group of sisters of Queen of Peace Monastery in the newsletter of St. Ann’s Mission in Belcourt, North Dakota, I began to write to the novice mistress there. My father used to give regularly to this mission, but he had not anticipated giving away his daughter, at least not so young. He wanted me to wait until I graduated from high school, which I did. Of course, then he thought I should take two years of college first, but this I would not do.

My dad came with me by train to North Dakota to check it out. Driving up the hill to the convent, the prioress and novice mistress in the front seat and my dad and I in the back, I suddenly remembered the cigarettes in my purse. My dad, who had disapproved of my smoking, chuckled as I slid them over to him. Then I took the pennies out of my loafers and gave them up, too. Our little impromptu ritual was complete.

Eighteen years later I would be making another trip from North Dakota to Winnipeg, Manitoba in the process of transfer to St. Benedict’s Monastery. As precious as the community in Belcourt had been to me and as fully committed and involved as I had been, I needed a larger  community in order to thrive. I have found here a true home for my spirit and a loving community.