Sister Anna Rose Ruhland
Born on January 10, 1941, in Garrison, N.D., Sister Anna Rose Ruhland was third in a family of seven children–three girls and four boys (one boy died at the age of one and a half). The family lived on a dairy and small grains farm west of Garrison. During her youth, Anna Rose was active in school and 4-H activities.
Anna Rose entered Sacred Heart Convent in Minot, N.D., on November 15, 1959. She made her first profession on July 17, 1961.
Sister Anna Rose graduated from White Shield School and after entering the convent; she attended The College of St. Catherine’s, St. Paul, Minnesota where she obtained her degree in Foods and Nutrition. She completed her Dietetic Internship from St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota. In 1976 she obtained her master’s degree in Food and Nutrition from North Dakota State University, Fargo. Sister Anna Rose has worked as a dietitian at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Bismarck and St. Luke’s Hospital in Crosby. She also did nutrition consultation to hospitals and nursing homes throughout the western part of North Dakota. After obtaining her master’s degree, she worked for three years at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck. Beginning in 1980, Sister Anna Rose worked as a Tribal Nutritionist for the Three Affiliated Tribes at the Ft. Berthold Reservation. In 1991, she became a Public Health Nutritionist for the Diabetes Program at the Indian Health Service in New Town, N.D.
In 1997, after thirty-one years of nutrition work, Sister Anna Rose made a career change to doing parish ministry work. In the fall of 1998 she started Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the Mayo Hospitals in Rochester, MN. After completing her CPE, October 1999, she began working as a Chaplin and Manager of the Pastoral Care Department at St. Vincent’s Care Center, Bismarck, ND.
Sister Carol Axtmann
I was born April 8, 1937 at Rugby, North Dakota. I am the fourth of ten children. My first thirteen years of life were spent in the small town of Orrin. Because there was no high school in Orrin my siblings and I, with the exception of two, attended private boarding schools to receive a secondary education. My oldest and youngest brother graduated from Rugby Public High. My three sisters and I graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Minot, North Dakota, operated by the Benedictine Sisters who I joined, during the second semester of my senior year.
After graduation in 1955, I entered the novitiate of Sacred Heart Convent and made my profession a year later. I then attended Minot State Teachers’ College for a year to prepare for a teaching career. I taught second grade at Little Flower School four years and grades 1-4 in Fallon for one year before going to Bogota, Colombia where I would live fourteen inconsecutive years teaching various grades from kindergarten to senior high.
My Bachelor of Arts degree was earned by taking summer classes and a semester here and there. In 1970 I graduated from Mount Saint Scholastica in Duluth with majors in math and psychology. In 1976 after having spent nine years in Bogota, I attended Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon where I earned a Master’s Degree in theology. From there I went to Minot where I taught at Bishop Ryan High for a year after which I lived at the monastery in Richardton while writing my thesis. During that time I also taught Scripture to those in early formation.
I spent the summer of 1980 in Umoji, Nigeria, Africa assisting a cloistered Benedictine community in its initial stages. From there I went back to Bishop Ryan High to teach three years before once again returning to Bogota for five years. I returned from Colombia in July of 1988 after having spend my last year there as dean of studies. During the following school term I took a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in Minot and did some substitute teaching at Bishop Ryan High.
I then worked in our Monastery business office as assistant treasurer for two years. I then spent from mid August 1991 to February 1, 1992 at the Franciscan Wholistic Center in St. Paul. I was called home from there to assist as chaplain at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Bismarck where I remained until February 1, 1993 when I began working as a chaplain at the Benedictine Living Center in Garrison.
While working in Garrison I continued clinical pastoral studies in Minot and became certified in 1995. My nine years of chaplaincy in Garrison were interrupted with the call to come to the monastery to serve as sub prioress on June 1, 2001. I ministered in this position until June 1, 2005. I enjoyed a sabbatical at the School of Theology in the Minister to Minster (MTM) program from August 15th to December 11th, 2005. In an effort to meet a need at Madonna Towers and Madonna Meadows in Rochester, Minnesota I accepted the position of Pastoral Care Director January 23, 2006.
I have many interests: music, reading, crocheting, knitting, embroidering, biking, puzzles, hiking, keeping in touch with Sacred Heart Academy Alumnae, playing scrabble and cards. I enjoy cooking when I’m completely free of every other task. I have learned to enjoy doing every type of work I know how to do, from washing dishes to scrubbing floors, to teaching or ministering as a chaplain. I’ve come to the conclusion: it is attitude that makes a task disagreeable or enjoyable.
After ministering almost six years at Madonna Towers in Rochester, MN I was asked to manage our Subiaco Manor Retirement complex in Dickinson, ND. I began that ministry September 1st 2011. My life has been filled with blessings and challenges. In retrospect, I view the challenges as blessings, for they have deepened my faith and helped me realize God’s tremendous love. They have helped me experience the love and concern of community and family members.
Sister Dolores Heidt
Coming from a German from Russian background work ethic has been a great influence on my life. I was born on a farm south of New England, North Dakota, on May 27, 1934 and baptized four days later on May 31st. I am the twelfth of fourteen children; eleven sons and three daughters.
My parents Albinus and Eugeinia (Greff) Heidt had a farm in Hettinger County. Even though there were fourteen of us, work was not lacking for any of us. We had no electricity or water in the house and of course no telephone. My job was carrying water for drinking, washing clothes and bathing.
Our activities revolved around home, school and church. We were all born at home with the help of a mid-wife. We attended our first eight grades in a one room school one quarter of a mile from home. We very seldom missed school because of the weather.
In September of 1950 I entered the convent and attended High School at Sacred Heart Academy in Minot, North Dakota. At that time it was not unusual to enter the convent at a young age – I was only 16 years old. With four other young women I felt right at home. My vocation was greatly influenced by my mother and Father Bolton. During this time there was High School to complete and going through the steps to become a professed Sister.
My early profession was being a primary teacher. I taught for twenty five years; teaching first and /or second grade at Garrison, North Dakota, and Little Flower and St. Leo’s schools both in Minot, North Dakota. During the summer I was off to school to complete college, a Bachelor of Arts at Minot State College, Minot, North Dakota, and College of Great Falls, Great Falls, Montana.
After receiving my Masters in Religious Education from the University of Seattle, Washington, I ministered in parish ministry at Corpus Christi, Bismarck, North Dakota, and St. Mary’s, Lemmon, South Dakota. I was the hospital chaplain at Trinity Medical Center in Minot, North Dakota, for approximately twenty five years. I found this time rewarding and challenging. Ministering to the sick and dying seemed to be good preparation for retirement and life eternal.
I retired to Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, North Dakota, where I appreciate the time to rest, to do small jobs around the Monastery and especially time to read and pray.
Sister Janeane Klein
Sister Janeane was born on June 28, 1932 in Zeeland, ND to Anton and Elisabeth Klein. She was the second youngest of seven children. She attended country grade school and Zeeland High School.
In January 1951, she entered Sacred Heart Convent in Minot, ND. She later attended Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD in 1952 to acquire a degree as a Medical Technologist. She interned in 1954 at St. Alexius in Bismarck, ND in their Medical Technology School. She was a medical technologist and x-ray tech for many years at St. Luke’s Hospital in Crosby, ND.
On June 5, 1977 Sister Janeane celebrated her Silver Jubilee. In 1984, she began working at St. Vincent’s Care Center in Bismarck, ND as a nurse aide and receptionist until 1992. Sister Janeane celebrated her Golden Jubilee on August 15th, 2002.
Presently she resides at Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, ND.
Sister Janeane says religious life offers a peace such as the world could not give. This has been important to her in her years in the Monastery.
Sister Jill West
Sister Jill West is the fifth child and first girl born to Terry and Donna West. She was born March 10, 1960 in Plentywood, Montana. The family lived in Outlook, MT where she grew up with her four older brothers and two younger sisters. Sister Jill was active in her favorite sports of basketball, track, and softball in high school. She was very active in her church, St. Boniface. She graduated from Outlook High School in 1978.
Sister Jill attended college at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT for two years and then transferred to the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work. She then worked a year before entering Sacred Heart Monastery in 1983.
After completing her novitiate at the Monastery, Sister Jill worked in Minot, ND as a school social worker for Souris Valley Special Services. Later, she moved to Dickinson where she worked as a therapist for Badlands Human Service Center. Eventually, Sister Jill found her way back to the Monastery where she worked as the Vocation Director until she decided to pursue her graduate degree in social work.
Sister Jill completed her Masters at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1994, where she specialized in medical social work with emphasizes in geriatric care. Since then Sister Jill has worked as a medical social worker and is currently employed with Sanford Health as a hospice social worker. Sister Jill loves her work and finds fulfillment and grace ministering to those who are dying.
Sister Jill has also worked for her community as a Vocation and Volunteer Director, Assistant Liturgy Director and Sub-prioress. She has served on the board and council as well as other various boards for the community. Sister Jill was elected to the Federation Council and served from 2009-2014. She enjoyed her time on the Federation Council as it allowed her the opportunity to visit and work with the many communities in the federation.
Sister Jill made final profession of vows June 15, 1991. She enjoys spending time with her community, family, and friends. Her interests are reading, listening and playing music, exercising, fishing and camping. Anyone who knows Sister Jill is aware that she is a huge football fan and loves her Minnesota Vikings.
Sister Kathleen Kuntz
Sister Kathleen was born November 26, 1929, at Fallon, North Dakota to Frank and Eva (Gerhardt) Kuntz. She is the ninth of fourteen children. With her six brothers and seven sisters, she was raised on a farm near Fallon. Her family was deeply religious and so Sister Kathleen’s spiritual journey began at a tender age. She attended Saints Peter and Paul School in Fallon where she had Benedictine Sisters as her teachers.
In 1946, Sister Kathleen entered Sacred Heart Convent at Minot, and made her monastic profession on July 21, 1948. Over the next several years she alternated between going to school and teaching. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State and a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago.
Sister Kathleen ministered as a teacher and principal at Saint Nicholas in Garrison, Saint Leo’s in Minot, and Colegio Hermanas Benedictinas in Bogotá, Colombia. Later she did parish ministry for eight years at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and served as pastoral care director at Saint Vincent’s Care Center in Bismarck for four years.
She has also served the monastic community in several capacities. In addition to serving on several boards and committees she was formation director 1958-62 and 1973-80 and is presently serving on the formation team. She held the position of subprioress 1973-80 and 2005-09. She currently serves in the area of hospitality to guests and in decorating the dining room.
As hobbies, Sister Kathleen enjoys knitting, beading, and the weaving of pouches from llama wool. She appreciates nature, with the beauty of sunrises and sunsets helping her experience the peace and presence of God on the prairie.
Sister Lucille Heidt
Sister Lucille (Viola) was born to Albinus and Eugenia (Greff) Heidt on August 23, 1935, thirteenth of fourteen children. She was born on the family farm near DeSart, North Dakota (south of New England). Sister Lucille attended grade school one-fourth mile from their home.
On November 27, 1951 Viola entered Sacred Heart Convent in Minot, ND. She professed final vows August 24, 1956. Religious life for Sister Lucille has been very flexible and full. She has worked as a cook, laundress and in maintenance at the Monastery and served at Garrison, Crosby, St. Vincent’s in Bismarck, North Dakota and also at Fallon and Malta, MT. Sister Lucille served on the board of monastic Core Committee, St. Vincent’s Board and the Subiaco Manor Board of Directors, and currently serves on several boards outside of the monastic community
Sister Lucille was the last remnant of the Sisters’ original mission, having lived and worked on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation from 1989 to June 2016 serving in Pastoral Ministry. She was a true Benedictine missionary presence there, conducting and/or assisting in funerals, wakes, catechism, pastoral ministry and counseling. She often spent each July cooking, supervising, chaperoning, and catechizing at the Mandaree Mission Christian Camp .
Sister Lucille currently resides at the monastery in Richardton.
Sister Laura Hecker
Sister Laura was born April 15, 1935, on the family farm originally homesteaded by her paternal-grand parents and located twenty-two miles northwest of Dickinson, North Dakota. Her mother, Veronica Lantz, and her father, Mike Hecker, had six children: four girls (one of whom died in infancy) and two boys. One of her brothers still lives on the original homestead.
She was named Franziska Rosa after her two grandmothers. The name ‘Laura’ was given to her when she made her religious profession. Her family was of German heritage; therefore; Sister Laura spoke very little English until she started school. She attended a country school two miles from her home. She attended Model High in Dickinson, N.D. for one year and later finished high school by passing the State High School Achievement Test.
Sister Laura credits her mother and father with being the most influential people in her life. Her mother taught her cooking, sewing, crocheting, knitting, and embroidery, as well as a love of growing plants. Her father passed on to all his children his love of music always having musical instruments in the house and encouraging his children to learn to play them. Due to his influence Sister Laura plays both the piano and the banjo by ear.
Sister Laura worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Dickinson until February of 1965, then as a clinical instructor there until September 1966. During her nurse’s training there were two Sisters she had as instructors who also influenced her decision to finally enter religious life.
Sister Laura entered Sacred Heart Priory at Minot, N.D., in September of 1966, at the age of 31. She was searching for something more. After she lived in Minot a year, the Sisters moved to Richardton, N.D. where she professed her final vows in 1971.
Six years after entering the convent Sister Laura graduated from the Portland Oregon Medical Technology Program. She then went on to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she became a Certified Chaplain in 1980. In addition Sister Laura earned a Certificate of Ministry from St. Louis University in 1983 and obtained a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Studies at Aquinas Institute, St. Louis in 1984.
Sister Laura began her ministry as a Medical Record Technician first in Crosby, N.D. and later in Richardton. She has worked as Chaplain at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Bismarck, N.D. After Sister Laura obtained her Masters in Pastoral Studies she returned to St. Joseph’s Hospital where she worked as chaplain and Director of Spiritual Care services for 25 years. She retired from St. Joseph’s Hospital on January 30, 2004.
In July of 2005, Sister Laura attended a program for Spiritual Direction at Mercy Center, Colorado Springs, CO. She presently is coordinating the health care at Sacred Heart Monastery and giving some Spiritual Direction. In June 2011 she was also appointed to the position of Sub-Prioress at Sacred Heart Monastery.
Sister Marie Hunkler
I was born February 8, 1947, on our farm/ranch 14 miles from Napoleon, North Dakota. My parents were Deacon Howard and Hertha (Mathews) Hunkler. I’m the fourth child in a family of ten (three sisters and six brothers): Madeline Gross, Angela, Joseph, Cyril, Frank, John, Cec Reetz, Bernard, and Fr. Jerome.
My parents, who were both converts to the Catholic faith, lovingly passed on to me the gift of faith and were a great example to me of a virtuous life. They instilled in me a love of the land, a good work ethic, taught me a sense of responsibility, how to live life simply, and how to share with those who have less than I do, and countless other life lessons that I strive to live out today.
I entered Sacred Heart Convent in Minot, as an Aspirant in 1961, when I began high school as a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy. I made First Vows in 1966 and Perpetual Vows in 1973. This Sacred Heart Monastery Community has truly been my family for many years. My educational background consists of an A.B. Degree in Theology from St. Louis University in 1975, an M.A. Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Seattle University in 1982, and Certification as a Chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains in 1987, with a renewal of certification every five years.
I have been involved in many ministries over the years including education, parish ministry, pastoral care ministry, and leadership in community. I taught at St. Nicholas in Garrison, ND and at St. Leo’s and Bishop Ryan in Minot, ND. I did parish ministry at Foxholm, Berthold, Our Lady of Grace and St. Leo’s in Minot and at Queen of Peace in Dickinson, ND. I have done pastoral care at St Vincent’s Care Center, Bismarck, ND; Lutheran General, Park Ridge, IL; St. Luke’s Midland Regional Medical Center, Aberdeen, SD; St. Benedict’s Health Center, Dickinson, ND, and am currently serving at the Benedictine Living Community,Wahpeton, ND. I was elected ninth Prioress of Sacred Heart Monastery on April 21, 2001, and was installed and served as Prioress from June 3, 2001 until June 3, 2005.
My prayer life, communal and private, is the most important part of my monastic life, and feeds my being daily.
Some of the aspects of life that I enjoy include: playing the organ; listening to classical and semi-classical music; walking outside and enjoying nature on the prairies and anywhere outside; savoring the quiet; remembering birthdays and namedays; caring for houseplants; reading; creating cards, being a blood donor, recycling, mentoring persons, enjoying children , especially my grand-nieces/nephews. Anyone who knows me knows I love to make lists!! I also love to help make someone’s day a little better.
Life continues to get better and better as I continue to seek God in a deeper manner in our Benedictine community one day at a time.
Sister Mary William Stadick
Sister Mary William was born March 13, 1931 in Underwood, ND. She attended Underwood Public Grade School. She completed her high school at Mount Saint Benedict, Crookston, MN. She attended various colleges: Minot State Teacher’s College, Mount Marty in Yankton, SD and graduated from the University of Mary in 1977.
At the age of 25, Sister Mary William was diagnosed as having Multiple Sclerosis. That did not keep her from her ambition to teach. Sister Mary William ministered in that capacity forty years. She taught at St. Peter and Paul’s School, Fallon, ND; St. Joseph’s, Red Lake Falls, MN; Saint Nicholas, Garrison; St. Leo’s, Minot and St. Mary’s, Malta, MT. Twenty of her teaching years were spent at St. Leo’s.
When Sister Mary William retired from teaching, she went into Pastoral Care. From 1988 to 1990, she ministered in the Good Samaritan Home in Malta, MT. During this time, she also visited the sick and shut-ins. From 1991 to 1995, she served in Pastoral Care at St. Benedict’s Health Care in Dickinson, ND. In 1995 Sister Mary William semi retired. She came home to Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton where she helped with hospitality and secretarial duties. Due to failing health she now resides at the St. Vincent’s Continuing Care Center in Bismarck, ND.
Sister Mary William was the recipient of the 1993 Bismarck Tribune Award, an honor given to “people who make a difference” in their community often without being in the spotlight. She has made a difference in the lives of many since her profession in 1948.
For relaxation, Sister Mary William enjoys reading, playing cards and the culinary arts.
Sister Michael Emond
Sister Michael was born September 30, 1939 to Harmil and Edna Emond. Due to her premature birth, 3 months early, her bed was in a shoebox in the warmer oven in the old cook stove. She was fed with an eyedropper. She was raised on the same ranch, which she was born, 40 miles south of Malta, Montana.
Sister Michael has 4 brothers and 4 sisters; there are two sets of twins in her family. A set of twin boys and 18 months later her mother had a set of twin girls. She and her siblings grew up helping with all the chores and learning to cook and bake. They went to a country school 1½ miles from home, walking both ways when the weather was good. Sister Michael went to 4 years of high school at Sacred Heart Academy, Minot, ND. She joined the Monastery in 1955.
Sister Michael worked at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home for 2 years as Director of Nursing and then went to St. Luke’s Hospital, Crosby, ND as Director of Nursing. While there she worked floor duty and anesthesia. She also served as Director of Nursing at the Nursing home in Malta, MT and did anesthesia at the hospital there.
In 1981 Sister Michael moved to Lemmon SD where she worked as a Physician Assistant for the clinic and Emergency Room call. In 1982 she moved to Hettinger, ND. She went with the same group of doctors from Lemmon, to work the night clinic and emergency room at West River Regional Hospital. She served in that community until 2007. At the end of April 2008, she started to work for Richardton Clinic as a Physician Assistant. Prior to and during her work history Sister Michael’s studies took her from becoming an RN in 1963, to an Anesthetist in 1972 and becoming a Physician Assistant in 1979.
When asked what drew her to the Monastery she says, “My love for Jesus and being able to share my love of Jesus and my life in medicine to all I come in contact with.” Sister Michael currently resides at the Monastery. She enjoys reading, making pickles and candy, walking, and doing any job that she is capable of doing.
Her advice to others is to “Pray for guidance – if you hear God calling you to the religious life, please respond and know that He will be with you every step of the way”.
Sister Monica Thome
Sister Monica was born on June 5, 1918, in Good Luck Township, Williams County, North Dakota. She is the fifth of seven children born to her parents Peter and Gertrude (Simon) Thome. Until her eighth grade graduation in 1932, Sister Monica attended a country school two and a half miles from the farm. Her desire was to be a nun, and in 1934 she entered Sacred Heart Monastery in Garrison, North Dakota, where she received her high school education. On June 26, 1938, she was received as a novice in this order and a year later, made her first profession. In August 1939 Sister Monica was sent to Pierre, South Dakota for nurse’s training. She graduated as an R.N. in June 1942.
After making her perpetual profession on June 26, 1942 Sister Monica was sent to work as a nurse at Crosby, North Dakota. Her nursing career was also practiced at St. Vincent’s Care Center in Bismarck, North Dakota; in Tioga, North Dakota; in Malta, Montana; and in Hettinger, North Dakota.
In 1988 she began working at Marillac Manor in Bismarck. Being the room service Eucharistic Minister, Sister Monica had chapel responsibilities that involved getting ready for Mass, having supplies on hand and was in charge of washing church linens. She also checked on the residents if they had not come in for morning mass and coffee to make sure that they were not in any need. Among other many other “odd” jobs during the day she had a video exercise class Monday through Fridays and a scripture class once a week. Sister Monica retired from this position on July 31, 2005.
Having been out on mission since 1939 Sister Monica enjoyed being home at the Monastery. She helped out wherever she was needed, you could see her baking cookies in the kitchen or helping with the dishes; she was also in charge of sending out donor birthday cards for the Foundation Office.
Sr. Monica currently resides at St. Vincent’s Care Center in Bismarck.
Sister Patti Koehler
Sister Patti Koehler was born April 6, 1969 in Wolf Point, Montana (Fort Peck Sioux, Assiniboine Indian Reservation). She was the only child to survive of her six brothers and sisters that were born to Arnold and Joan Koehler. She helped in the family “Gambles Store” when needed and enjoyed the Girl Scouts. As a family they would go swimming, fishing and camping, things that she continues to enjoy doing to this day. Patti attended both grade school and high school in Wolf Point, but her family and she moved to Billings, MT, her senior year where in 1987 she graduated from Senior High, High School.
Sister Paula Larson
Sister Paula Larson was born in Scobey, Montana to Florence (Fouhy) and Lawrence Larson. She was raised on a farm near Peerless with her only brother, Patrick. He has blessed Sister Paula with three nephews and one niece.
Sister Paula entered the Benedictine Sisters in 1963. In 1973, she received a Bachelors degree in Theology and Nursing from Creighton University in Omaha; a Masters of Science in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin in Madison; and Masters in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in 1989.
Sister Paula worked all of her religious life in nursing, primarily psych-mental health nursing until June of 1989 when she became Prioress of her Benedictine Monastery. Sister Paula was elected for three terms as prioress and served in that capacity until June 2001. During her years as prioress the community successfully renovated the chapel, added a new spirituality addition to the Monastery, erected wind turbines, began raising llamas, created a development and advancement department through creation of a Foundation, conducted a successful capital campaign for the on-going support of the Sisters and their ministries, created a formal spirituality center as well as on-going formation programs for the Sisters, acquired Subiaco Manor, and in general upgraded the environment both internal and external to the Monastery for the purpose of furtherance of the monastic life into the twenty first century. In addition, Sister Paula has served the wider community by serving on numerous boards and commissions.
After a sabbatical program, Sister Paula assisted Queen of Peace Monastery, Belcourt, North Dakota with dissolution and sale of their Monastery. This was followed by working as Executive Director for St. Benedict’s Foundation, Ogden, Utah.
In August 2005, Sister Paula returned to Sacred Heart Monastery as Administrative Assistant to the Prioress for business and Executive Director of Sacred Heart Benedictine Foundation. In June of 2011 Sister Paula became the eleventh prioress of the Monastery.
Her special interests are woodworking, care of the llamas and other animals. Also, she loves to visit and meet new people and entertain new thoughts and concepts.
Sister Phoebe Schwartze
Sister Phoebe was born September 16, 1958, as Barbara, the first child and only daughter to Ferdinand and Joan (Boyer) Schwartze, in San Bernardino, CA. When she was five, her family moved to Freeman, SD, where Barbara attended school and graduated from Freeman High School in May, 1976. Growing up, Barbara enjoyed reading, swimming, camping with her Girl Scout troop, and being a big sister to her four younger brothers, the youngest of whom she was guardian of for four years. The family attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marion, SD, where Barbara had her First Communion and was confirmed.
During and after High School, Barbara worked at the local Printery and then attended the University of SD in Vermillion for two years. She then settled in Rapid City, where she lived for 13 years. While living in Rapid City, she worked with Black Hills Workshop where she managed a group home for developmentally disabled adults. Barbara was very involved with her parish as a liturgical minister and member of the Liturgy committee. She worked with the Diocesan retreat committee. An avid traveler, Barbara has been to Spain, Mexico and France with groups that combined her love of history and languages. While living in Rapid City, she enjoyed exploring the Black Hills.
Barbara first visited Sacred Heart Monastery in November of 1993 and immediately felt at home. It took a few more months of discernment before she was ready to say yes to God’s call. She entered the Monastery on January 19, 1995. Upon becoming a Novice on January 6, 1996, she received the name Phoebe, after St. Paul’s co-worker named in Romans 16:1-2. She made her First Monastic Profession on January 19, 1997 and Final Monastic Profession on May 26, 2001. In 1998, Sister Phoebe received a BA from Dickinson State University in Spanish and History.
Sister Phoebe was the Administrator of Marillac Manor in Bisamrck August 1997 until August 2003. Marillac Manor, an independent living facility for the elderly, is one of the works sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Richardton. She was very proud to carry on the work her Sisters had built.
After two years in graduate school in Colorado to earn a Masters degree in Public History, she worked for 7½ years as DRE and Liturgical Coordinator for Queen of Peace parish in Dickinson, ND.
Currently she works at the Monastery as Director of the Spirituality Center, Liturgist, and part-time cook.
Sister Phoebe likes to read, walk, swim, cook, watch movies and play cards and Trivial Pursuit. She has volunteered as a small group counselor for the Good Grief Program. She serves on the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway Committee as Chairperson. Sister Phoebe feels very blessed that God has called her to seek God with the Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery.
Sister Renée Branigan
How one can pack a whole life into a few words is beyond me, but I shall try. I was born in Macon, GA, on September 11, 1946, while my dad was the radio operator for the Macon Police Department. Shortly thereafter, however, he reentered the service and we began life on the move quite literally. I could not even name all the places where we lived, but suffice it to say that I remember (from about age four) living in 16 different places before I entered the convent at age sixteen. I had attended ten schools before I graduated from high school.
Life in the Air Force was one grand adventure after another and I am grateful for its experience. The nearly continuous relocating helped to make me adaptable to various cultures and situations, to appear braver than I actually was in meeting people and asserting myself, and to let go of the old so I could grasp the new. My parents loved one another and us three kids deeply, so the close family bond was never threatened even when Dad would be away from us for up to 14 months at a time. Neither of my parents divided life into women and men’s “work,” so I grew up in an environment of gender equality. They did for one another and for us out of love and taught us to do the same. We were also exceptionally hospitable to the young GIs and always “adopted” several in every place we lived, giving them a home away from home.
While these may seem somewhat ironic beginnings to committing myself to a community in the furthest north we had ever lived and consisting overwhelmingly of women from North Dakota or Montana who had lived pretty much in the same area all their lives, God spoke clearly and surely and so it came to be. I was and am simply meant to be a Benedictine in this community. God could not have blessed me more.
I have been a teacher most of my life in grade school, high school, but mostly university. While my BA and MA are in Speech/Theatre and I have taught mostly speech, communication and English courses and I have greatly loved my teaching years in which I learned so much. My other love is in the field of my second MA, Christian Spirituality. I thoroughly enjoy teaching formation classes and giving retreats, primarily in the area Benedictine monastic spirituality.
My interests and background serve me well in being editorial assistant for The American Benedictine Review, a scholarly publication, a work I have enjoyed since 1982. I am again editor for our community newsletter, The Benedictine Witness, and our Sacred Heart Benedictine Foundation newsletter, Promise of the Prairie. For the American Benedictine Academy, I have edited the convention proceedings for publication and served as the managing editor of The American Monastic Newsletter in the past, but now serve on the Academy’s board of directors. Obviously, I like words!
After twenty years as resident manager at our Subiaco Manor in Dickinson, an apartment complex for independent elderly and teaching at Dickinson State University, I returned to the Monastery to take up other works. Since my return I serve as director for our Foundation, our Volunteer Program, Vocations and our library, and serve as a team member and teacher in our Formation Program. As a member of our monastic board and council, I also serve as community secretary.
It may, then, come as a surprise that by nature I daily need silence and solitude to cultivate prayer, and I need my community and Divine Office to help form me. For hobbies I am an avid reader, dedicated cross stitcher, and a positively rabid DSU Blue Hawk fan. My life is rich and full of many blessings!
Sister Ruth Fox
I was born January 24, 1936, at Stanley, ND, and enjoyed growing up on our family farm. Like my older sister and three brothers, I attended country school for eight years, then Van Hook Public High School. After two years I transferred to the Benedictine Sisters boarding school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Minot. After graduation in 1953, I entered the novitiate of Sacred Heart Convent and made my monastic profession a year later, at the age of 18.
Since my mother and grandmother were both teachers, I was probably destined to enter this profession. The next years were spent alternating between teaching at St. Nicholas School, Garrison, and at Sacred Heart Academy, Minot, and going to school at St. Benedict’s College, St. Joseph, MN, and Creighton University in Omaha, NE. In 1965 I was appointed formation director and in 1973 the Sisters elected me to the position of prioress, in which I served for two four-year terms. Then a two-year sabbatical gave me the privilege of studying scripture and theology in Israel, Rome, and St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.
In 1990, after several years as campus minister at Dickinson State University, I was elected president of the Federation of Saint Gertrude, an association of 18 monasteries of Benedictine women in the United States and Canada. This nine-year position gave me the opportunity for international travel including several trips to Rome. I conducted retreats in several Benedictine monasteries, published numerous articles on spirituality, and wrote a book on monastic leadership titled: Wisdom Leadership. From 2000 to 2005 I guided the ecumenical Benedictine Spirituality Center at our monastery, until I was again elected prioress of our monastery for six years. Currently I am director of monastic formation and our oblate program, as well as organist for our liturgies.
Although I do not consider myself an expert in any area, I have multitudinous interests. I like to write, read, sew, play organ, play Scrabble and go for walks. I have few dislikes, but among them playing bridge and any kind of sports rank high. All in all, I have a wonderful, enriching life for which I am very grateful to God, family, community, and friends.