A Personal Connection

Holy Wisdom MonasteryUncategorized 2 Comments

Submitted by Janet Neurauter, mission advancement

Whether it is the people or the land, many people feel a personal connection to Holy Wisdom Monastery. For Susan Santner, her personal connection goes back to her childhood.

“I remember coming here for picnics at my grandparent’s farm in the 1950s. There was a small white farmhouse, a huge garden and a barn nearby. We had chicken dinners on Sundays, and I played with my brothers and cousins in the yard. We had such a good time,” Susan remarked.

It was Susan’s maternal grandparents, Stella and Thomas Kennedy and her great aunt and uncle, Rose and Grover Kennedy, who owned the land which is now part of the monastery grounds. “The husbands were dentists in Madison. Stella and Thomas lived on Sherman Avenue and rented the land out to farmers for many years.”

Not all the Kennedy property was sold to the Benedictine sisters in 1953. “They kept the farmhouse, garden, and some land for their own use for a while. My grandmother Stella would share her crop of strawberries, sweet corn and beans with the sisters.” That land is now known as Bishops Bay.

Susan recalls the riding academy that the sisters began in 1961. “My four brothers and I came out here to ride horses where our mother, Caryl Benish, had ridden as a child. Once my brother Bob and his friends were horseback riding, when bad storm blew in. They decided to take shelter with the horses in what is now known as Wisdom Barn. After what turned out to be a tornado blew over, they saw that the water trough had been blown 100 feet away. Bob felt that the Wisdom Barn saved his life.”

After high school, Susan went to college in Michigan where she met her husband, Bill Santner. They lived there for 18 years before moving back to Wisconsin. Susan earned her master’s degree in library science and worked in several libraries including Sun Prairie, Oregon, WI and one of the UW-Madison’s libraries. They moved to Middleton in the spring of 2023. A friend brought them to Sunday Assembly. “It was like coming home,” Susan said.

“I feel an emotional and spiritual tie to the land. My grandparents would be thrilled with what happened here. They certainly saw the bigger picture and an opportunity to have the land preserved and protected. The sisters and their vision have done such a service for the people of this area.”

Bill and Susan joined Sunday Assembly this spring. “We appreciate the friendly atmosphere, the rotation of homilists and lectors and that different views are welcome. I am so grateful for what this special place has become. I’m glad to be home.”

Comments 2

  1. What a beautiful story! I love that the barn was there as a shelter for those children.
    My sisters and I manage our family farm in Iowa and are trying to keep it out of corporate use. Your story is encouraging, to know that your grandparents wanted to preserve the land and it happened!

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Susan,
    What a wonderful experience to have such sustaining roots in the land where now the earth is holding the foundations of Holy Wisdom Monastery in her welcoming embrace. Though I am now living almost a thousand miles away, I shall never feel very far from Holy Wisdom, where in the seventies my heart, mind, and spirit were so richly inspired by the wisdom of the Benedictine Sisters. May you and those dear to your heart smile proudly as you can now continue your life’s journey as members of the Worshiping Community at Holy Wisdom. Many, many blessings.

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