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American Benedictine Academy conference: Blending old with the new

American Benedictine Academy conference: Blending old with the new - (14-08-2014)

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Preparing for future spiritual opportunities while staying true to the roots of monasticism was an integral part of the American Benedictine Academy’s convention held in July at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri.

Several members of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from nearby Clyde attended the gathering, which focused on “Benedictine Monasticism: The Past Receiving The Future.”

Featured speakers included Sister Ephrem Hollermann, OSB of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota., who spoke on “Reflections on the Conversation;” Alden Bass, co-founder of the Lotus House in St. Louis, whose presentation was “American New Monastics and the Benedictine Tradition” and Sister Julia Upton, RSM of St. John’s University in Queens, New York, whose topic was “Profile of Benedictine Oblates: Glorifying God By Their Lives.”

The main lecture was given by Father Joel Rippinger, OSB of Marmion Abbey in Aurora, Illinois. Father Joel, who teaches honor courses in history and theology at Marmion Academy, spoke on “Transmitting a Common Core of Benedictine Monasticism: A Survival Kit for the Future.” 

“Father Rippinger said the formation programs for new monks and nuns these days need to meet the requirements that were basic to such programs in years past,” attendee Sister Audrey Jones, OSB said. “He said it is about blending the old with the new into a rich gift for all who follow the Way of the Gospel and of St. Benedict.”

Other points Sister Audrey shared about Fr. Joel’s presentation included: 

Scripture: The centrality of God’s Word in our daily life, the difference between spiritual reading and lectio divina and the need to find time for this daily. Monastic formation demands emphasis on this exercise throughout the formation program and into the rest of our lives.

Accountability: Ongoing monitoring of newcomers as they move into community life, keeping the novitiate training effective daily.

Spiritual Formation: Newcomers arrive with a variety of spirituality in their backgrounds, ranging from very little knowledge of to degrees in theology. The task of the formation director requires listening and adaptation to each postulant and novice.

Stability: There is a need to foster a close relationship to the human community and geographic place with its natural environment and the responsibility of stewardship placed on the monastic.

Hospitality: Practice this monastic characteristic with an openness to all while still preserving the core of religious life. This requires moderation and adaptation; that elasticity that is the core of monastic life.

Technology: When emphasizing the need to retain those aspects of monastic life that are basic to the Benedictine Rule, we must also be aware of and open to the advancements in our technological society. We have faster and more effective ways of communicating and of teaching, and St. Benedict would have us use them.

During the convention, about 30 participants traveled the short distance to the Benedictine Sisters’ monastery in Clyde for tours and refreshments.

The American Benedictine Academy is a non-profit organization that aims to “cultivate, support and transmit the Benedictine heritage within contemporary culture” by sponsoring research and collaboration among its members. It is open to members of religious communities, oblates, scholars and others interested in Benedictine study.