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Benedictine sisters: eight decades of service

by Mary Jo Tesitor

WALSENBURG — On Sunday, May 1, from 2 to 5pm, the Benedictine Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs will come to Walsenburg to celebrate 50 years as daughter house of the Atchison, KS mother house, Mt. St. Scholastica. Walsenburg holds a special place in their hearts, since it marks their first foray into Colorado, more than 100 years ago.

In 1913, Bishop Nicholas Matz traveled to Atchison, KS to beg Mother Aloysia Northman of the Benedictine community to provide sister for the newly established St. Mary School. After much prayer, five teachers and a housekeeper were chosen to go west.

On January 3, 1914, the sisters arrived in Walsenburg, soon joined by two others. On opening day, 500 exuberant students filled the school. The first morning, there was a rush for the door at the sound of the recess bell. Thinking she would enforce an orderly exit at noon, one sister stood firmly in front of the door, only to have her students scramble out through the windows.

More than 296 Benedictine Sisters served in Walsenburg from 1914 to 1996. Their names are legendary: Margaret, Thoephila, Elfrida, Charlotte, Felicia, Suitberta, Suzanne, Bertrand, Jose, and Naomi, and many others who “planted seeds of faith”. Their students became doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, teachers, professors, religious, priests, and good citizens.

If you or your family were touched by the Benedictine Sisters at St. Mary, wish them well on Sunday, May 1 from 2 to 5 at Eagles Hall. They are a treasure our community was blessed by for eight decades; women who instructed, formed, and guided generations of citizens.

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