Sister Victorine Fenton was born in Valparaiso, IN, on March 20, 1920, one of three children of Richard Edmund Fenton and Harriet (Hargreaves) Fenton. At her baptism, she was given the name Virginia Harriet Fenton. She attended Catholic schools in California, Arizona and Texas, and Saint Philip's School in Bemidji where she came in contact with the Sisters of Saint Benedict of Crookston whom she grew to love. Virginia graduated from Mount Saint Benedict Academy as valedictorian of her senior class.
She entered Mount Saint Benedict Monastery on January 1, 1938. She received the Benedictine garb and a new name, Sister Victorine. Upon the completion of her novitiate, Sister Victorine made first monastic profession in 1939 and final profession on July 11, 1942. Sister Victorine was asked what influences led her to Mount Saint Benedict Monastery, and she answered: the sisters who taught at Saint Philip's school, the Holy Spirit and her father.
At various time in her life, Sister Victorine was involved in education from grade school children to adults.
Sister Victorine's passion was music. She attained bachelor's and master's degrees summa cum laude in music from the University of North Dakota. She went on to earn a PhD in musicology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.
Her studies, however, were cut short when, in 1967, the monastic community elected her to lead them as prioress. She put aside her love for intellectual pursuits to respond to the call of leadership by the sisters. Sister Victorine took seriously Vatican Council II's, mandate for men and women religious to go back to the spirit of their founders. It was a period of trying to discern how the spirit of Saint Benedict, who lived 1500 years ago, could be translated into an authentic religious witness for the future. Sister Victorine also helped the monastic community face the diminishment of the community from 290 members to 240 which led to closing of schools, some of the hospitals, and the two-year Corbett College, located on the Mount campus. Amidst all this, Sister Victorine led the monastic community through the intricacies of moving from Latin to English in the Liturgy of the Hours, the community prayer prayed by the sisters three times a day. Before the end of her term, she began choosing the psalms, antiphons and hymns to be used in a new English version of the Liturgy of the Hours.
After 10 years as prioress, Sister Victorine worked in earnest to complete the six volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours.. These volumes were used by sisters and other Benedictine communities for almost 20 years, Finally, after these volumes were completed, she was able to return to the University of Iowa to finish her doctoral degree in music. In preparation to writing her dissertation she traversed the country by bus and visited 97 Benedictine communities to gather data for her dissertation on "The English Monastic Liturgy of the Hours in North America." Sister Victorine is respected for her contributions to Benedictine common prayer to this day, more than 30 years later. Once she finished her dissertation, she returned to Mount Saint Benedict and prepared several lectures on various aspects of music and composers in addition to teaching piano. In her later years, she continued to teach music to a limited number of students.
Page 2 of 2 - Though Sister Victorine's first love was music, she appreciated many other art disciplines including painting, art history and literature. She also presented several lectures to various groups, particularly on topics of contemporary renditions of the Liturgy of the Hours and on Saint Hildegard of Bingen (12th century, Benedictine abbess and visionary).
Through it all, Sister Victorine lived the Benedictine motto of "That in all things God may be glorified."
Sister Victorine was preceded in death by her parents and siblings. She is survived by many nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Saint Benedict.
Reception of Sister Victorine's body will be at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 5, 2013 with visitation from 5:30 until the 7:00 p.m. prayer service. Sister Victorine's funeral will be at 11:00 a.m. August 6, 2013 with Msgr. Roger Grundhaus presiding. All services will be in Sacred Heart Chapel, Mount Saint Benedict Monastery, 620 Summit Ave. Crookston, MN.