Mother Regina Mary, foundress
Mother Regina Mary entered the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel, Oregon at the age of 15. All her life she wanted to be a Benedictine Sister, like the sisters who taught her in school. As a child she would sometimes try to hide in the Sisters' school as she wanted so badly to join them.
Her first years in the convent were not easy years as the sisters thought she was too thin. They would make her drink fresh milk from the farm and had to weigh in each week to make sure she was gaining. Because she had to be on a special diet, she was not permitted to eat with the community. When it came time for her to make her first profession, the council would not allow her to make her profession until she could eat with the community. With many tears, she watched the novices of her class make their profession while she remained behind. She did get to make her first profession in the next class and went on to make her finals.
Sister Regina Mary was very talented with music and had a very tender way with children. She earned her master's degree at the University of Portland, Oregon, and for the next 70 years she taught school, bringing children closer to God and to their Faith.
Mother Regina Maryand her first postulant in 1976
The Benedictine Sisters in Mount Angel were not immune to the vast and drastic changes of the 1960's. The community started by modifying their habits in stages and worked on to wearing lay clothes. They had stopped chanting their beautiful Benedictine Divine Office and substituted it for a modern version. Their vocations dropped and their schools began to close as they continued their modifications.
in 1975 Bishop Dwyer of Portland Oregon had advised Sister Regina Mary to begin a new foundation of Benedictine Sisters to preserve their original charism. Sister still loved her community regardless and did not find this advise easy to do. But she understood her bishop and proceeded as he advised.
In 1976 Sr. Regina Mary, two other sisters and her fist postulant were accepted in the diocese of Helens, Montana by Bishop Eldon Francis Curtiss who welcomed them with open arms.
First Convent in Deer Lodge, Montana in 1976
The first sisters settled in Deer Lodge, Montana and began teaching school. Two of the sisters returned to their community in Mount Angel while Sr. Regina and her postulant remained. Another lady soon joined. Sister Regina Mary became Mother Regina Mary and her first postulant became her first Novice.
After some time, not having any colleges close by for the sisters to attend to earn their degrees, they decided it would be best to search for another location where the sister can attend college close to home.
Bishop Curtiss was sad to see them go, but he understood the needs of the sisters.
Soon another lady joined the community and together they were accepted into the diocese of Gary, Indiana with the open arms of Bishop Andrew Grutka. They first settled in Michigan City and taught at Notre Dame.
On May 1, 1984 Bishop Gurtka formally established the community as a Public Association in the Diocese of Gary Indiana.
Eventually they moved into a beautiful Convent in Hammond, Indiana and taught school at St. Thomas More in Munster.
Unfortunately, the parish wanted to use the convent for other purposes and ha asked the sisters to leave. Another convent was found in Hammond at St. Casimirs. Meanwhile the sisters continued to teach at St. Thomas More and branched out to other schools.
Bishop Gurtka retired and Bishop Norbert Gaughan was appointed to be the new bishop on July 9, 1984.
In the mean time other women came and left as time went on.
Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ and a canon lawyer for religious through the Institute on Religious Life helped the community write it's constitutions. Fr. Hardon was the spiritual advisor of the community for many years.
Mother Regina Mary, second from left, and her sisters in 1988,
pictured with Fr. Demetrius, OSB
In June of 1988 on the Feast of Corpus Christi, three sisters made final vows and one made first vows. Fr. Demetrius from St. Procopius Abby, Carlisle, Indiana came and said the profession Mass.
Bishop Gaughan was not too favorable with sisters while one unhappy member made false reports to him about Mother and the community.
Bishop Gaughan appointed a new Vicaress for Religious, a sister from a liberal community, and together they had asked the community to leave the diocese in 1990 at the end of the school year.
With the help of Fr. Hardon, they were accepted in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan by Bishop Kenneth Povish.
The sisters settled in a house in the country provided by Mr. Tom Monaghan, then owner of Domino's Pizza, and began teaching in the first private Catholic school to open in Ann Arbor, Michigan in September of 1990.
Mother and her community remained in Ann Arbor serving the Diocese of Lasing in teaching school to elementary children.
Sr. Terese Peter had a new school up and running in another part of Ann Arbor where she served as principal for a few years doing a great job in educating the children in the Catholic Faith. Later she went to teach in another private school in another diocese.
The community was among the few that accepted older women to try their vocation as a Benedictine Sister and to take in sisters from other communities. Unfortunately, it did not work out and there were no young vocations to carry on the community. In the mean time the remaining sisters aged and infirmities developed.
A new bishop, Bishop Earl Boyea, was appointed in 2008.
The last community school closed in 2009 due to lack of funds during a low eb in the economy. Shortly after, Mother Regina suffered a stroke. Her health began to deteriorate as well as the other sisters. It reached a climax where Sr. Anna Marie was about to take on the full care of three sisters.
The Diocese then stepped in and gathered a committee to decide what to do with the community. Unfortunately, the diocese was not experienced in dealing with an aging community and thus formed a "committee" among themselves who were not experts in religious life and religious law. This action lead to misinformation which brought an unjust action. If you needed a lawyer for medical malpractice, you would not go to a real estate lawyer. It is the same with canon lawyers. Very few, even well intended ones, do not specialize in canon law for religious. Most specialize in marriage tribunals. There is also the danger of bias standing in most diocesan canon lawyers who tend to more liberal ideals of the mindset of the 60's church revolution against tradition.
Due to the lack of this genuine expertise on the part of the diocese, the community came to a very sad and most unjust conclusion.
Basically, the diocese chose which sisters they will care for and which sisters not to care for. Mother Regina Mary, Sr. Patricia Ann and Sr. Jean Frances were to retire at the Felician Home in Livonia, who have an infirmary for sisters. They presently are receiving very good love and care. Sr. Terese Peter and Sr. Anna Marie were to take a job offer in Rochester, NY to teach in a private school. On March 1, 2012 the house in Ann Arbor was closed.
Sr. Terese Peter and Sr. Anna Marie went on to Rochester, NY, to begin teaching. Due to the great stress of the house closing and all the went with it, Sr. Terese Peter's health broke down and was not able to get the medical help she needed, she went to live near her family to get the care she needs. Meanwhile Sr. Anna Marie remained teaching in Rochester.
On July 28, 2012, Bishop Earl Boyea issued a decree of suppression. Mother and the sisters in the retirement home are permitted to wear their habit, keep their vows and call themselves sisters. The sisters in Rochester are to be on their own. The Felician Sisters of Livonia have since forbid Sr. Anna Marie to visit Mother Regina Mary and the sisters, in habit.
Upon contacting a very good canon lawyer specializing in religious law, Sr. Anna Marie has received his evaluation in a letter stating that such suppression is invalid, giving four reasons. This letter sates that Sr. Anna Marie and Sr Terese Peter are both valid final professed religious with valid private vows. This letter will not be published here for the public to see as there are those who can abuse it and do great harm.
A Public Association lasts for 100 years, even if there is only one sister remaining. If there should be no religious remaining, a new community could pick it up. At the end of 100 years, the community may renew it or go a step higher.
Sr. Anna Marie and Sr. Terese Peter remain strong in their conviction to remain faithful to their vows and continue on.
What was done to this community by the diocese was most unjust. The aged and infirm sisters needed care, not disbanding and "suppressing".
Update: The school foundation in Rochester could no longer afford the house they provided for Sr. Anna Marie. They recently sold it and laid Sr. Anna Marie off. They did not give her 30 days to be able to sort/pack and sell furniture and items of value from her community. Most things were either lost or sold way under their value. Fortunately, a few things went to people who were in need. Having no place to go, she is now staying with friends.
Mother Regina Mary in her last days in a retirement home for religious. She sacrificed everything to found this community. Her heart is broken to see what has become of her community that she worked and sacrificed so hard for.
Wont you please consider donating to help the two abandoned sisters who are in great need of financial help? We lost our 501c3 status, but if you can help, perhaps we can apply for another.
Sr. Anna Marie has lost her house and teaching job in Rochester and needs to move to a location to be near other religious. In order to do so, she needs financial support to obtain a house and continue her work of art (see opusbenedicti.webs.com)
Sr. Terese Peter is also in need of financial help and medical needs. She is not able to work at this time.