2014—the year of communities

Car McGinley Benedictine Bridge, Care for the Earth, Homepage, Hospitality, Monastic Life, Oblates, Retreats, Sunday Assembly Leave a Comment

Community at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Members from the various communities at Holy Wisdom Monastery come together to celebrate Sister Joanne Kollasch’s 60 years of monastic profession. Sister Joanne sums up community living, “in community you receive so much more than you give.”
(Photo by Kent Sweitzer)


As I reflect on the year 2014, I’m amazed at all that has emerged at Holy Wisdom Monastery in one short year. What rises to the top for me is the sense of community. Community living takes many forms here, from the monastic community to the Sunday Assembly worshipping community, to the oblate community, to the volunteer community, the retreat community, the coworker community and all other forms of community. I feel that together we can, and do, accomplish so much more than we would individually. Here’s what I remember about the year.

The visioning sessions drew people from the various communities with a multitude of ideas. From these sessions a revised mission statement emerged with a focus on Holy Wisdom Monastery as a community of communities. We took this further by consolidating our two electronic newsletters, with the new Benedictine Bridge featuring articles written by different community members on a variety of topics to give readers a better sense of what kinds of community exist here.

A renewed interest in the monastic community through the Benedictine Sojourner program brought six women who lived, prayed and worked in community. Thank you Vicki, Trish, Brenda, Sarah, Rosy and Karyn for all you gave to Holy Wisdom Monastery. Rosy Kandathil entered the novitiate and continued her discernment process. Sister Joanne Kollasch celebrated 60 years of monastic profession with over 220 friends and family in an event that focused on community living and the land. Sister Lynne Smith returned to school at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for a nine month program in Religious Formation.

The Oblates of Holy Wisdom Monastery celebrated 15 years as a community and welcomed 13 new oblates into the community. The oblates are an intentional community of women and men who find a practical spirituality in the Rule of Benedict. Oblates embark on a spiritual journey with believers of diverse backgrounds and faith practices. Drawing inspiration from the Rule of Benedict, oblates lead ordinary lives where they live and work, seeking to balance prayer, work and leisure. They meet regularly to share their lives and grow through Benedictine spirituality. New candidates spend a year developing their own rule before becoming an oblate.

Sunday Assembly continues to be a growing community within the larger community of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Around 200 people, from seniors to babes in arms, gather each Sunday for worship. This is a diverse group of people with an array of religious traditions, political, educational and economic backgrounds, family situations, sexual orientation and gender identity. Members and guests embrace prayers, texts and lyrics that are inclusive, expansive and challenging, while staying grounded in Benedictine spirituality and honoring the monastic tradition.

This community is an evolving, progressive, ecumenical group of Christian people of faith. An atmosphere of welcome, friendliness and hospitality extends from the moment people arrive, through the Sign of Peace, and after worship when all are invited to share coffee and fellowship in the dining room. In 2014 we welcomed five little ones baptized into our community of faith. With their proud parents, family and friends, members of Sunday Assembly affirmed again their commitment to be an example of God’s presence in the lives of our children. We also said good bye to four members of the community who died this past year. Sunday Assembly members came together to surround family members with prayer and support to ease their grief.

A new support group, the Friends of Wisdom Prairie, started and over 400 people joined this community. The group came together for workdays, prairie tours, dinner lectures, an outing to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, an annual meeting and a kickoff celebration. Nearly 100 people planted 20 acres of prairie at the Wisdom Prairie Planting Day in November.

Madison philanthropist Pleasant Rowland came forward as the anonymous donor who donated $1million dollars to the Wisdom Prairie Project. Additional generous donations poured in from individuals and organizations to bring us within $45,000 of the campaign goal of $1.9 million. We celebrated the project at the Wisdom Prairie Ground Blessing in October and Pleasant addressed the sense of community around the project. “Please know that though my gift may have been the largest and may have been the first, it is matched equally by those who care in different ways,” she told the crowd. “I am blessed to be able to do that kind of stewardship, but all of you who care for the prairie, who have contributed, who will plant it and who will restore it are partners in this, and equal in your gifts.”

Holy Wisdom Monastery became MGE’s largest solar customer by installing additional solar panels which should generate 60% of the energy needs. Being good stewards of our resources is a Benedictine value that the communities uphold.

Our retreat community grew in 2014. Individuals and groups came to Holy Wisdom Monastery to enjoy the sacred space. We hosted 2,772 overnights in the retreat and guest house and 351 overnights in the hermitages. We served 11,348 meals. 120 groups with a total of 6,380 participants held meetings in 2014 and we provided space for 20 weddings and 5 memorial services.

Volunteers contributed nearly 6,000 hours of labor in the first three quarters of 2014 and helped support all the community activity at the monastery.

The Spiritual Deepening Council offered numerous programs on Benedictine spirituality for community members and the public. Holy Wisdom Monastery worked in collaboration with the Christine Center to bring sacred activist Andrew Harvey for a weekend event. Sister Simone Campbell returned to Madison to address the Madison Civics Club and delivered a homily and presentation to the Sunday Assembly community.

Sister Joanne sums up what community is all about, “in community you receive so much more than you give.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *