Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sisters Buried in the Monks’ Cemetery?

Submitted by Sister Lois Wedl

This past week, two of our Benedictine Women Service Corps volunteers, Ashley Zartner and Daisy Nevarez, showed the Sisters wonderful slides of the some of the highlights of their nine months spent with the Benedictine Sisters in Humacao, Puerto Rico, as part of the first year of the volunteer program run by the monastery. Among the slides were pictures of the graves of the first three Puerto Rican Sisters to die, Sisters Justina Diaz, Carmen del Valle (Inmaculada) and Lydia Rosa Ortiz (Providencia). As we watched, I wondered if anyone questioned why the Sisters were buried in the monks' cemetery at Monasterio San Antonio Abad in Humacao. Here's the answer!

 During the time I was Regional Superior in Puerto Rico (1964-1974), the question of a burial place for the Sisters arose. We knew that we didn't have enough room on our property for a cemetery, so I asked Father Eric Buermann, Prior of Monasterio San Antonio Abad at the time, if we Sisters could purchase a plot of land on their extensive property for a cemetery. Fr. Eric assured me he'd talk to the monks to see if that could be arranged. A few days later, he told me that he had talked to his community about our request and the answer was "No, they didn't want to sell any land to the Sisters for a cemetery."

After a brief pause, he smiled and shared that the monks unanimously decided that they wanted the Sisters to be buried side by side with them in their cemetery. They said that it was only right that since the Sisters and the monks worked side by side during their lifetime, they should lie side by side after they died. So that's why the graves of our dear Sisters are located among those of the monks.

This gesture is just one of the many examples of how the monks and Sisters in Humacao have worked together in harmony since the Sisters' arrival in Puerto Rico in 1948. For those who don't know the early history of our communities, the monks arrived from St. John's Abbey in 1947 and asked our community to send Sisters to work with them in their missionary endeavors. The monks welcomed three Sisters on August 1, 1948, and did everything they could to help them adjust to a new world. Sisters Adeline Terhaar, superior and teacher, Jeanette Roesch, teacher, and Agnes Herwers, housekeeper and sometimes teacher, were the first to arrive.

--Sister Lois Wedl

photo: three graves of Benedictine Sisters in Puerto Rico cemetery, May 2011

To see video interviews with our Benedictine Women Service Corps volunteers, visit:

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