Friday, May 6, 2016

Studium, A Scholar's Program

If you’re not a writer or haven’t spent time at the College of Saint Benedict in recent years, you might not know about Studium--nor Saint Benedict’s Monastery--which gave rise to both the College and Studium. I didn’t. But then I was living in Asia where for nine years I was working on the novel Perfume River Nights.

In December 2011, I hoped to visit my daughters in Central Minnesota and was looking for a place to live and write. A friend told me about Studium.

Studium, I learned, is a special program at the Saint Benedict’s Monastery for writers and artists. It provides office space for day and resident scholars. Originally established in 1992 as a creative setting for sisters after retirement to do research or write, it was expanded the next year to outside academics. Studium is noted for scholarship, spirituality and hospitality. Scholars have produced books, music, art and essays that are widely celebrated.

My book of poetry, A Journey Through A Warrior’s Soul, and an interview with Studium Director, Sister Ann Marie Biermaier, won me the approval of the Studium committee. I arrived at Studium directly from Thailand nervous and uncertain, but the warm welcome from Studium Assistant Director, Sister Theresa Schumacher, made me feel as if I’d come home.

I planned to stay six weeks. I ended up staying six months and then resettling in the St Cloud area. The warmth and hospitality of the Benedictine community played a part in my staying. My time at Studium became a time of reflection and change. Gains and losses. Transitions made easier by the supportive Studium community.

At Studium, I took my novel Perfume River Nights through the next phase. Sister Ann Marie and Sister Stefanie Weisgram became some of my first readers. At a monthly Studium meeting, I made a presentation on a soldier’s journey through war using my experiences as an infantryman in Vietnam in 1968—a soul-baring talk made possible by the supportive setting of Studium. At coffees, dinners and spring barbeques I heard stories of families and creative endeavors. Scholars cheered each other’s efforts and accomplishments. I made lifelong friends at Stadium. No matter where I live, I will always feel a part of the Saint Benedict’s community.

For me, Studium was more than a place to write. It was a place of transitions and connections.

Michael P. Maurer, Author of Perfume River Nights

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