Mount sisters eager to celebrate and share their new facilities with the community

    “We’d like to think that we’ve been a part of this community since 1919, and we’d like to celebrate that and express how grateful we are for being a part of Crookston all these years.”    

    Those were the words of Sister Denise Schonhardt at the Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Crookston earlier this week, in advance of an open house scheduled for Sunday, April 24 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. to celebrate the recent completion of new facilities at the Mount. Schonhardt and Sister Shawn Carruth, prioress of the monastery, led a preview tour of their new spaces, while talking about their history in the Crookston community.

     It’s St. Benedict’s rule that “all guests are to be received as Christ,” and while that may sound a little heavy-duty for some who are considering attending Sunday’s event, Schonhardt said it simply comes down to receiving and treating others well.

    “It’s very important to us, our sense of hope that the people who come here feel they are important to us, whether we really know them or not,” she explained. “That’s the foundation of Benedictine life…seeing Christ in another.”

    Eventually, the construction and renovation project at the monastery will result in the demolition of Marian Hall, which Schonhardt and Carruth explained simply no longer fits the needs of a smaller, aging monastery population. That four-story facility had 100 rooms when it was designed and built a boarding school for young women long ago; the new building is all on the same level and comfortably houses the approximately 35 sisters, who each have their own bathroom in their room.

    Many efforts were made to find a new use for Marian Hall, the sisters stressed, but even attempts to give it away didn’t bear fruit. No development projects took root, either, likely, Schonhardt said, because too many interior updates and other renovations would have been necessary, even though the building itself is structurally sound. To keep Marian Hall standing indefinitely would have triggered maintenance headaches, as well as costly insurance premiums, the sisters said.

    “For sentimental reasons, you hate to see it go as you think about our stewardship,” Carruth said. “But maybe the best stewardship is to take it down, while celebrating new beginnings.”

    The new facilities include multiple spaces for guests as well as for the sisters, whether they’re reading scripture, praying, discussing pertinent issues of the day, making crafts, or eating. There’s also a gift shop.

    The silence that permeates the sisters’ spaces in the new facility that aren’t available for the public to stroll through are critical to the monastic way of life, Carruth explained.

    “It’s so important to our way of life, to have that quiet space for prayer,” she said.

    And the library is something that Carruth said a monastery absolutely must have. If St. Benedict’s rules were followed to the letter, “We’d spend more time reading (scripture) than working,” she said.

    “We can live the life here that we’ve been called to live,” Schonhardt added. “We’re not shut off from the public and we’re not keeping the public out, but it’s a place that has boundaries so we can fulfill our calling.”

    But the sisters want to be no less a part of the community than they’ve been for the better part of a century, whether it’s hosting non-religious groups in their public/guest spaces, or, in the immediate future, celebrating all things new with their open house on Sunday.

    “We’re so happy to welcome people here,” Schonhardt said. “We’ve had relationships with so many people in the community for many, many years…so many friends in Crookston. We want to celebrate that at our open house, and beyond.”