Fort Smith Benedictines turning to development board for help

The Development Advisory Board at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith began meeting in January 2006 to assist development director Sister Elise Forst (front row, second from right).
The Development Advisory Board at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith began meeting in January 2006 to assist development director Sister Elise Forst (front row, second from right).

FORT SMITH — St. Scholastica Monastery has convened a new Development Advisory Board to help insure that the 127-year-old tradition of Benedictine life in Arkansas will continue to thrive.
Sister Elise Forst, OSB, development director, leads a board of long-time supporters and benefactors: Debbie Bentley, Dorothy and Tom Calderera, Bettye and Ed Franz, alumnae; Kaye Bernard, oblate; and Paul and Theresa Cronan and Father David McKillin, OSB, mentors for development.
The group, which will meet quarterly, began its service on Founders Day, Jan. 23, 2006. The decision to direct a development program was difficult at first for Sister Elise, the monastery’s former prioress. The Rule of St. Benedict requires that, as far as possible, each monastery should form an independent, self-supporting community.
"Our community is getting smaller, and a lot of people here are older, so it’s a matter of how do we continue what we want to continue — our way of life, our ministry, our service, our retreat programs — how do we best do that? I had heard reports about the benefits of development from other communities, but I, like, most of my community, hesitated to actively ask for help from others. My first learning had to be an attitudinal change."
Many former students of St. Scholastica Academy, oblates and supporters encouraged Sister Elise and were eager to help the community continue its mission. By attending workshops and meeting with development mentors, Sister Elise educated herself and gathered information the Development Advisory Board would need to begin its work.
At its first meeting, the board reviewed the monastery’s mission and ministries, current and projected membership statistics, financial situation and needs. They have sent out two appeal letters to Horizons subscribers and are expanding their database to include alumnae and people educated in their missions.
"This year we are focusing on our primary need for more vocations," Sister Elise continued. "Building a strong vocations program requires travel, education and publicity. A big part of development is spreading the word of who we are and what we are doing."
The monastery presently has one novice, Sister Cecilia Brickell, and one in temporary profession, Sister Pat Bolling. Sister Therese Moreno made her final profession in June 2006.
The community has contracted with Sister Barbara Dannhausen, OP, a specialist in helping religious communities develop master plans for the future use of their buildings and grounds. Sister Barbara met with Sister Cabrini Schmitz, OSB, prioress, and the Monastic Council in November and will return in April to meet with the whole community to discuss the planning process with them.
The sisters also hope the development campaign will cover the cost of two energy-efficient boilers to replace the original boilers installed when the monastery was built.
Although energy savings will eventually offset the cost, the initial outlay is $125,000.
Finally, the director of the infirmary has requested new hospital beds for the sisters residing there, at a cost of $1,500 each.
Meeting the needs identified by the Development Advisory Board will allow St. Scholastica Monastery to preserve the Benedictine way of life and continue its pastoral, spiritual, and service-related ministries.
"This goal will require a joint effort between our community and those who care about us. We want to invite them to join us in what we are about and to be a part of our future," Sister Elise said.

Maryanne Meyerriecks

Maryanne Meyerriecks joined Arkansas Catholic in 2006 as the River Valley correspondent. She is a member of Christ the King Church in Fort Smith, a Benedictine oblate and volunteer at St. Scholastica Monastery.

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