US women Benedictines launch Taize-style ecumenical community

Members of a Benedictine community, which has been accepting Protestant members for several years, have been dispensed of their vows in order to create a fully ecumenical Christian community similar to Taize in France.

Catholic News Agency reports the St Benedict Center, a Benedictine ecumenical community in Madison for the past 40 years, has chosen to end its ties to the Catholic Church in order to live out more comfortably its ecumenical character.

The prioress, Sr Mary David Walgenbach, told the Wisconsin State Journal that there are several reasons for the change, one of which is that the order started accepting Protestant members several years ago.

The 67-year-old sister said the Sisters of St Benedict petitioned the Vatican for dispensation from their vows as a Catholic religious order and that the request was granted. The order will now be called the Benedictine Women of Madison.

"We didn't want our non-Catholic sisters to have second-class status," she told the newspaper. Rev Lynn Smith, a Presbyterian clergywoman, took her final vows to become a member of the order in 2004.

The prioress said the centre, with members from several Christian denominations, will now function as an ecumenical community under its new name, Holy Wisdom Monastery. All members will retain their individual religious affiliations.

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison wished the women well, but is cautious about the future of the monastery. "Such experimental endeavours can bear great fruit for the Church, such as the monastery at Taize," he wrote last month in a letter to his priests. "But there are very few other success stories worldwide, and thus our prayers and good wishes are all the more important."

The bishop approved the changes, but he requested that the monastery no longer have Catholic Mass celebrated at the centre and that the Eucharist no longer be reserved in the chapel.

Benedictine center abandons Catholic identity (Catholic News Agency 4/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Benedictine Women of Madison
Taize website
Brother Roger Schutz (Wikipedia)
Benedictines Practice Hospitality For Creation (Earthkeeping News, October 2004)

6 Jul 2006