One of the many blessings of summer is riding my bike through and around campus after Evening Prayer. I go on the many paths through the campus: to its outer edge on the road abutting a farmer’s field, past the prairie section, to the main college entrance and eventually around to the grotto walk and into the monastic cemetery. The new statue of Bernadette in the grotto looks more at home each time I ride by. I enjoy seeing the colorful rows of flowers on Mother Benedicta Riepp’s grave that Sister Ephrem Hollermann, our former prioress, tends each summer.
Something new in the cemetery this year is a bench placed near Benedicta’s grave. Sometimes I get off my bike and spend a few minutes there. July is the month Benedicta and two Sisters arrived in New York from Eichstätt, Bavaria. In fact, it was on July 4 in 1852. I wonder what these German immigrants just “off the boat” made of the celebrating that was most likely occurring? Did they have any notion of the significance of the holiday? The blessing of the hard-won freedoms?
Benedicta had a strong spirit like that of early American pioneers and she used it well. She came to bring the life and work of Benedictine women to America. It’s almost as if she knew she had only 10 short years in America before sickness would claim her life. She worked tirelessly to assure that American Benedictine women would be free to shape their lives and to govern themselves as was their history. Benedicta did accomplish this, but not without difficulties and setbacks. We here at Saint Benedict’s in 2010 continue to benefit from her unwavering purpose.
I take so much for granted. I’m glad the bench is there. It invites me to stop, reflect and be grateful.