Something to think about: Changes in Ministries

November 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

By Kristine Thomas

Throughout their 134 year history, the Benedictine Sisters of the Queen of Angels Monastery have provided leadership and service to Mt. Angel and neighboring communities.

Since their founding on Oct. 30, 1882 in Mt. Angel, the Sisters have led many different ministries in healthcare, education, human services and spiritual growth.

And as times have changed, the Sisters have discontinued some of their work such as the Mount Angel College and have asked others to continue their work such as with the Providence Benedictine Nursing Home.

In the book, A Tree Rooted in Faith, A History of Queen of Angels Monastery, written by Sister Alberta Dieker, OSB, it reads, “The 1993 earthquake became a symbol for ‘letting go,’ the process of giving up ministries, buildings and cherished relationships that had taken place during the last decades of the twentieth century.”

“One more ‘letting go’ took place in 1998 when the Benedictine Nursing Center was transferred to ownership and management of the Providence Health System.”

The last year has also been a time of letting go as the Sisters have been making decisions about their ministries and their business.

They have discontinued their business, Monastery Mustard, which is one way the Sisters supported themselves. They closed the Bernard Migrant Men’s Program in the spring and will close the Shalom Prayer Center in June, 2017.

Now, they are contemplating the future of St. Joseph Shelter and its ministries Casa Adele and Mission Benedict.

Fr. Philip Waibel, OSB, of St. Mary Catholic Church in Mount Angel is the chair for the St. Joseph board. He said that ultimately, the social ministries that the Sisters have – at this time managed by Catholic Community Services – will require decisions from the Sisters going forward, because some of the ministries occupy shared spaces on the Sisters’ campus. Casa Adele and Mission Benedict likely will continue because each are financially making their own way. The future of St. Joseph has yet to be decided as the Sisters are awaiting a report from Catholic Community Services as to whether or not there is the financial sustainability for it to continue.

The following is the status of the ministries and the business of the Benedictine Sisters.

Closed or closing:

Bernard Migrant Men’s Program

A program for single, migrant men farmworkers, the Bernard Migrant Men’s Program was closed this spring, Waibel said.

According to the St. Joseph Shelter 2015 annual report, 65 men were housed in the migrant men’s dorms.

“We don’t really have the same kind of migrant laborers we did 25 to 30 years ago when the shelter was opened,” Waibel said. “There was a dwindling of numbers of single men who are migrant laborers.  The whole way labor is organized for harvesting farm crops is different.”

Waibel said the building requires about $500,000 in maintenance including bringing it up to code and repairs to plumbing, heating and electrical.

“The shelter couldn’t be used in the cold and wet weather like we are having now,” Waibel said in October. “The building is 50 years old and had become a year-round shelter for men. It couldn’t be used in that way anymore.”

In Jan. 28, 2016 meeting notes from Oregon Housing and Community Services, it reads, “The Bernard Hall building has issues with deferred maintenance. They are currently doing exploratory demolition to fix the issues and get the building up to code. They’ve given a 60 day notice to men who are living in the units.”

Monastery Mustard

Using a secret recipe passed on for generations, the Sisters began making craft-prepared, premium mustards called Monastery Mustards in 2005. Flavors had whimsical names such as Glorious Garlic, Heavenly Honey, Pious Pineapple and Divinely Original.

Last December, the Sisters voted to discontinue making and selling Monastery Mustard.

“The vote to discontinue the business came after extensive review of the business and discussion about the Sisters’ core values and where they want to focus their time and energy as a community,” read a press release.

“We have spiritual and ministry priorities that draw our hearts and interests and it seems better to focus our efforts in those directions,” a community member said.

Shalom Prayer Center

For more than 45 years, the Shalom Prayer Center has been a place of peace, solitude, spiritual enrichment and joy.

According to a press release, it is “with both sadness and gratitude that the  Benedictine Sisters announce their plans to close Shalom Prayer Center and its gift shops on June 30, 2017.” The center began in 1973.

The reason stated for the closure is the Sisters reached a point where they could no longer “financially subsidize this spiritual ministry.”

Recognizing there will always be a need for spiritual enrichment and direction, prayer, retreats and biblical classes, the Sisters will continue to do spiritual direction, teach in parishes and offer spaces of hospitality.

The Shalom Prayer Center Gift Shop is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday at 840 S. Main St. in Mt. Angel. Call 503-845-6773 for information.

Will likely remain open:

Casa Adele

Opened in the spring of 2013, Casa Adele was named in the honor of the late Sr. Adele Mansfield, OSB, who was the co-founder of St. Joseph Shelter.

Casa Adele has eight apartments and two studios for migrant workers and their families. To qualify to reside at Casa Adele, families must be homeless, low-income and working in farm agriculture related employment in order to qualify to pay a below-market months rate and stay at Casa Adele for up to one year. In 2015, a total of 14 families were housed at Casa Adele, with a total rent collected being $37,560. The two-bedrooms are $475 a month and the studios are $295.

Renovating the former Bede Hall received financial support from a variety of public and private sources including Oregon Housing and Community Services; the Farmworker Housing Tax Credit Program; US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rural Innovation Fund; the Federal Home Loan Bank and the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Mission Benedict

A collaboration of the Benedictine Sisters, St. Mary Parish and Mt. Angel Abbey, Mission Benedict provides food, clothing and emergency financial aid to needy residents of Mt. Angel and Monitor.

In 2014, the Mission served an average of 385 people each month and distributed 50,000 pounds of food. Marion-Polk Food Share donated about 42,000 pounds of food.

The Mission also provided $20,000 in emergency financial aid.

Operated almost entirely by volunteers, Mission Benedict is open 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

Donations needed include canned goods of beans, tuna, soup and fruits and vegetables, cereal, gift cards to local businesses for gas, haircuts or food; personal care items such as toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and toothbrushes; diapers and wipes; blankets; winter coats; car seats, outdoor camping tents and a large van or bus. Volunteers are also needed. To learn more or make a donation, call 503-845-6147.


St. Joseph Shelter

Established in 1988 as the Sisters’ response to unmet needs for food and housing in the community, St. Joseph Shelter is the only emergency homeless shelter for families in Marion County.

With 17 family rooms, the shelter served 141 people or 36 families in 2015, including 81 children.

It was originally created to serve migrant and area farm workers.

The shelter provides families with case management support; advocacy and referrals; parenting classes; educational resources; meals; clothing and other necessities; help finding jobs and overall support for families working toward having their own home.

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