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.
With the blessing of Mother Regina Mary and Fr. John Hardon, in 1994, Sr. Anna Marie took a leave with the intention of taking part of a new foundation of Benedictine Sisters with the Tridentine Latin Mass that was starting to spring up and grow. Mother had suggested that the two foundations could work together. In attempting a new foundation, Sister met with a great deal of "competition" from another sister from another community, thus was the beginning of a long battle just to be able to have the Tridentine Mass.
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 no young vocations remained. In the mean time the remaining sisters aged and infirmities came in.
Over the next few years things did not work out for Sr. Anna Marie for a foundation with the Tridentine Mass. Though sister tried in other areas, but the time was not ripe as many new priestly foundations were not yet mature enough for a foundation of sisters. When they were ready, they sought for young inexperienced women. By that time Sr. Anna Marie was too old. She returned to the community in 2008 as well as Sr. Terese Peter.
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 seeing the community was in need, gathered a committee to decide what to do with the community. They were not getting young vocations and had no young sisters to care for the aged sisters or sisters to work in the apostolate to bring in income for the community.
The community did have many inside troubles that needed work on. The situation worsened as Mother Regina Mary aged and could no longer command the community as she did when she was younger. Due to the age and infirmaries of the remaining sisters, there was no one to take on the community, except one sister. The older sisters did not want her to be the head, but something needed to be done to help the situation.
Unfortunately, the diocese was not experienced in dealing with an aging community and thus sought "experts" among themselves who were not experts in religious life and religious law. At the time our community did not know of a canon lawyer for religious and relied on the diocesan canon lawyer. Fr. Hardon and many others has warned them in the past never to seek the counsel of a diocesan canon lawyer as they are mostly schooled in marriage tribunals. Religious Law belongs to canon lawyers who are schooled in this expertise.
Due to the lack of genuine expertise on the part of the diocese, though they sincerely believed they were doing good, 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. 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 help. Meanwhile Sr. Anna Marie was left alone 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 canon lawyer for religious, Sr. Anna Marie has been advised that such suppression is invalid as a bishop cannot suppress a community unless it is something very serious. There is no crime in aging. The canon lawyer stated that a Public Association is transferable from one diocese to another when a community is accepted into a new diocese. He also stated that 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 are at a disadvantage, but both remain strong in their conviction to remain faithful to their vows and continue on, though due to health reasons and need, Sr. Terese Peter needs to be near her family.
What was done to this community by the diocese was most unjust. The aged and infirm sisters needed care, not disbanding and "suppressing". The other two sisters are in need as well and are unable to defend themselves against this most unjust action.
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.
Please consider donating to help the two abandoned sisters who are in great need of financial help.
Sr. Anna Marie is losing her house 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.