LDS Church leaders honor the Benedictine Sisters' legacy

Friday, May. 03, 2013
LDS Church leaders honor the Benedictine Sisters' legacy + Enlarge
The Sisters of Saint Benedict are honored by leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; something that did not seem possible when they arrived in Utah many years ago. IC photo/Christine Young

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a farewell luncheon to the Sisters of Saint Benedict in Ogden at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building April 25.

Last year, after much discernment and prayer, the sisters chose to merge with their founding monastery in Minnesota. The Benedictine Monastery in Ogden is for sale.

The first Benedictine sisters arrived in Ogden in 1946 to establish a hospital. Over the years, 134 sisters served in Ogden.

The number of sisters has steadily declined over the past years and those who remain are past retirement age but continue to be active: Sisters Stephanie Mongeon and Mary Zenzen are employed at Ogden Regional Medical Center, and Sister Luke Hoschette volunteers regularly for the hospital. Sister Danile Knight serves on the Board of Directors and manages the monastery’s daily activities. Sisters Danile, Luke, Stephanie and Mary work directly with St. Benedict’s Foundation board. Sister Jean Gibson is available for what is needed at the monastery. All of the sisters participate in the monastic community life.

In hosting the luncheon, Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the First Quorum of the Seventy recalled a recent personal experience with a loved one in the hospital. "When I entered the hospital room one of the sisters was there consoling the family and said she was heading to the chapel to pray until all the family had arrived," he said. "And that is the spirit these sisters have brought with them to our community."

This tribute to the sisters on the part of the LDS Church leadership "is so gracious and kind and we are very grateful," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City. "The sisters are very dear to us. In the Catholic Church and in religious communities, those who take religious vows and live the consecrated life are, in a very real way, the leadership of our church because of their unique commitment to Jesus Christ. The ministry and service the sisters have performed and who they are in Utah really is extraordinary and will be remembered. We certainly do thank you sisters for all that you do."

Elder Lynn L. Summerhays, an Area Seventy who worked closely with the sisters, said the neonatal unit that was built at the hospital would not have been complete without representing the sisters’ ministry.

"So a four-foot high etched sculpture of the Madonna and child was placed at the entrance as a symbol representing their commitment to women and children," he said. "These are remarkably faithful women and sisters devoting their lives to Christ.

"They are also very competent women: a registered dietician, a pharmacist, one has a doctor in physics, another has a master’s degree in theology and another has a degree in health care administration and was the administrator of the hospital. If you look at these sisters, you’ll see the image of God, whom they serve, living in their countenance, radiating a love of their ministry they vowed their lives to love and serve," said Summerhays.

The sisters are "a walking symbol of what we all hope to be," said Arnold. "Your impression on this community will not go away, it will live on and on."

Benedictine Sister Danile Knight, monastery spokesperson, said, "I cannot go away without saying thank you from us. I’ve been in Utah 48 years … and then it was the Mormons and the Catholics. So if anyone told me that on this day we would be here with all of you now, our Mormon brothers and sisters, having this beautiful luncheon together and expressing gratitude, it would have seemed impossible. All of us have very close relationships with many of the Mormons we have worked with, and we will never forget them. So we want to thank you for all that you mean to us and know that we are taking you all back with us in our hearts."

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