Monday, August 17, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Norfolk Priory

In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.


On July 31, 1923 a sapling was planted by four Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany.  They had been invited to Nebraska by Archbishop Jeremiah Harty of Omaha to minister to German immigrants.  That fall the Sisters began teaching in St. John Berchman’s School, Raeville, Nebraska.
 The small community quickly began to sink its roots and grow.  Within one year, a second mission, Sacred Heart Hospital in Lynch, Nebraska was established.  In 1926, Raeville gained status as a priory, with Sr. Diemud Gerber, OSB, as the first Prioress.
 Five years later, the priory center was transferred to Norfolk and named Immaculata Convent.
Despite depression and drought, which plagued rural Nebraska in the 1930’s, the Sisters made great sacrifices to continue to  expand their ministries.  They offered religious education in many parishes and staffed Catholic schools in Raeville, Madison, Wayne, Winnebago, Columbus, and Assumption Academy in Norfolk.
  In Winnebago, the boarding school (now a day school) provided a second home for many Native American children.  Today the Sisters continue to work with the Native American peoples to provide pastoral care and to promote the identity and culture of Native Americans.

Bold building projects were begun to provide more Catholic health care in the rural Midwest.  Land was purchased and hospitals built in Lynch, Nebraska (1924), Norfolk, Nebraska (1935), Graceville, Minnesota, (1945) and Wayne, Nebraska (1974). 
Providence Medical Center- Wayne, NE
 Because of the needs of the Church and the changing talents of the community, the Spirit continues to call for adaptations in our ministries.  Between 2008 and 2010 the Sisters divested themselves from ownership of the hospitals. The sisters are now engaged in Hispanic ministry, domestic service, ecumenism, environmental concerns, justice and peace issues, parish ministry, and religious education.  Through the oblate community the sisters support the laity who desire to live out our Missionary Benedictine values in our secularized world.  The oblates support the sisters through their prayer and association with the community.
Immaculata Convent, now known as Immaculata Monastery & Spirituality Center, has become a center for Northeast Nebraska, the sisters provide retreats and spiritual direction, and host many groups such as:  Christians Encounter Christ, Engaged and Marriage Encounters, training for candidates to the permanent Diaconate, enrichment courses, and various other groups. 
In 2011 a new ministry was begun when the development office was created.  The three fold focus of this ministry is to develop relationships with people located throughout the world by use of social media, the Priory website and by direct contact.  Secondly, through social media and by personal presence of the Sisters at national events and youth gatherings we promote vocations to the Missionary Benedictine way of life.
Thirdly, we hope to raise funds for our Sisters in mission countries by active fund raising and by grant applications.  These are all direct ways of implementing the directive of new evangelization.  By daily devotionals, prayer requests and news of the missions we help people see the needs of the Church in the world and invite them to participate in the work of our Sisters in whatever way they choose.




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