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The College of St. Scholastica

Mission Statement

Shaped by the Catholic Benedictine heritage, The College of St. Scholastica provides intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work.

Vision Statement

The College of St. Scholastica aspires to be a diverse and inclusive academic community of excellence, grounded in the rich Catholic Benedictine heritage, sending forth thoughtful leaders sharpened and sensitized by the liberal arts, who are prepared and committed to serve and transform the world.

The Purposes of The College of St. Scholastica are to:

  • Foster an environment in which students, staff, and faculty will be inspired with the Benedictine values expressed in community, hospitality, respect, stewardship, and love of learning.
  • Stimulate a zest for lifelong learning by supporting the general education goals of critical thinking, intellectual integrity, aesthetic appreciation, and intellectual curiosity.
  • Prepare students, through undergraduate and graduate programs, for responsible leadership in professional positions and/or advanced studies.
  • Provide programs for traditional and nontraditional students to meet community needs.
  • Lead public interfaith discussions of ethics and peace and justice issues in the tradition of our Catholic Benedictine intellectual heritage.
  • Ensure continued access to a faith-based institution of higher learning through proper stewardship of human and fiscal resources.

Community

Sharing responsibility to create and support community. Creating a climate which promotes a sense of community while valuing the uniqueness of the individual. Manifesting an ability to adapt to circumstances without compromising our values.

Hospitality

Creating a welcoming atmosphere personally and institutionally. Listening and responding sensitively to all. Extending warmth and acceptance to all. Welcoming new ideas and being open to change.

Respect

Cherishing and promoting the worth of all human life. Treating all persons with dignity and reverence. Honoring and supporting the spirituality of each person. Valuing the dignity of all work. Promoting participation of all persons in the decisions affecting their lives.

Stewardship

Utilizing human resources responsibly. Providing wise and respectful use of all material and monetary resources. Promoting prudent use of natural resources and energy. Finding time for work, play and prayer in daily life which will promote physical, mental and spiritual growth.

Our mission integration is a key part of the student experience at The College of St. Scholastica, informed by the humanitarian values of our founders. 

Our History

We take great pride in our Benedictine heritage and have collected the history of our school, mission and the Benedictine tradition below.

 

History of the Benedictine Tradition

There is always hope for a tree: When felled, it can start its life again; its shoots continue to sprout.
Job 14:7

Benedictines have always been attracted to the tree as a metaphor for the growth and dissemination of the Benedictine way of life – most often in the genealogical sense of family tree, growing as each monastery in turn gives birth to new “daughter houses.” St. Scholastica Priory, for example, traces its lineage back though houses in St. Joseph, MN; St. Mary’s, PA; and Eichstatt, Bavaria; to the convent of Nonnberg in Austria which first adopted the Rule of Benedict in the eighth century. This genealogical tree is somewhat misleading, though, because it invokes an image of unbroken continuity between root, stem and branch which has not always been the case in Benedictine monasticism. A more accurate model is that of the tree repeatedly cut down, but whose roots continually send forth new shoots. Indeed, the motto of the monastery of Monte Cassino is succisa virescit: “cut it down, and it grows up stronger.”

Within 50 years of St. Benedict’s death Monte Cassino was destroyed in the Lombard invasions as were most other monasteries in central Italy. The monks fled to Rome. For the next 300 years the history of the use of St. Benedict’s Rule by monks and nuns is fragmentary and unclear, as monastic houses all over Europe tended to use several rules simultaneously as a guide to their lives. Pope Gregory I, the author of the Dialogues and a great admirer of Benedict and his Rule, sent the monk Augustine to England in 596. There he established a monastery at Canterbury. By 650 the Rule of Benedict was widely accepted in English monastic houses. At about the same time Columban, an Irish monk, set out to establish monasteries in Gaul. By mid-seventh century many Gallic houses had adopted the Rule of Benedict along with Columban’s Rule. In 718 Boniface, an English monk, was sent to Germany as a missionary where he reformed the Frankish church and founded monasteries whence the Rule of Benedict spread to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. These were centuries of noted English Benedictine scholars – Hilda of Whitby (d.680), Bede of Jarrow (d.735), Lioba of Wimbourne (d.782) – authors, patrons of the arts, administrators and consultants to ecclesiastical and secular rulers.

When Charlemagne became Holy Roman Emperor in 800, he set out to create uniform religious practices throughout his empire. This program of reform was continued by his son, Louis the Pious. The Benedictine monks Benedict of Aniane (d.821) and Alcuin of York (d.804), served as advisors to the Carolingian court, and through their influence the Rule of Benedict was mandated for all religious houses in the Empire. This attempt at standardization was brought to an abrupt end by the political turmoil of the dissolving empire, and the Viking, Saracen and Magyar invasions of the ninth century, during which many monasteries were once again destroyed.

In the 10th century and after, new foundations with a new mode of monastic governance came into being: the monastic confederation – groups of monasteries following the same rule and customs, and looking to a centralized authority separate and independent from the local bishop or secular prince. First among these both in time and in importance was Cluny (founded in 910) and its affiliated houses, which was to become a veritable monastic empire of great wealth and refined culture. The 10th through 12th centuries are the “Benedictine Centuries” during which Benedictines were instrumental in shaping the European world artistically, literally, academically, spiritually and even politically. These are also the centuries of reform to the austerity of the “pure” life of the Rule with the foundation of the ascetical orders of Camaldolese and Cistercians. This is the age of the great Saxon nuns: scholars and mystics such as Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (d.1002), Hildegard of Bingen (d.1179), Mechtild of Magdeburg (d.1282), and Gertrud of Helfta (d.1302). It is the era of the theologians Anselm of Canterbury (d.1109) and Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153), as well as Abbot Suger of St. Denis, who started the fad for the Gothic style of architecture. It is often said that the Benedictines, as they spread through Europe, brought with them “the Cross, the Book and the Plow.” In doing so they were instrumental in transforming the barbarian invaders of the late antiquity into the cultured Europeans of the middle ages. In recognition of this, Pope Paul VI declared St. Benedict to be Patron of all Europe in 1964.

From the 13th century onward monasticism and its influence declined. There were a number of causes, including the removal of monastic governance from the hands of monks, a shift from a feudal-agricultural to an urban-mercantile economy, wars, harassment by secular princes, the Black Death, the foundation of popular new mendicant orders which were perceived to be more “socially relevant,” and eventually the Protestant reformation which caused once again the wholesale extinction of monasticism in Protestant Europe. It was not until the 19th century that what are now the great men’s and women’s abbeys of Europe were refounded in Bavaria, France, Germany and Switzerland.

In 1846, from the newly reestablished Bavarian abbey of Metten, a new Boniface – Boniface Wimmer – set out for the mission fields of the New World. He arrived in Latrobe, PA, where he founded a monastery and set to work with the German immigrants who had settled in the area. In 1856 he sent monks to Minnesota to establish what is now St. John’s Abbey. Early in his American career he decided he needed nuns to teach the immigrants’ children, so he persuaded the nuns at St. Walburg’s Abbey in Eichstatt to send a delegation. In 1852 two choir nuns and a lay sister, headed by 26-year-old Benedicta Riepp, arrived in the American wilderness at St. Mary’s, PA, to start a parish school in their two-room convent. These nuns, who would later be joined by nine others from Bavaria and a flood of American candidates, faced tremendous challenges. They had not only given up a comfortable, cultured life in their Bavarian convent for one of crushing poverty and unending labor on the frontier, but were also forced to relinquish their ecclesiastical status as nuns because of the impossibility of maintaining the prescribed enclosure and the traditional monastic prayer schedule. Their new candidates were permitted to take the simple vows of active sisters rather than the solemn vows of the enclosed nuns. Although today’s American Benedictine women have reclaimed all the traditional monastic hallmarks except for enclosure, and although Canon Law no longer distinguishes between simple and solemn vows, these distinctions still divide us from our European counterparts.

In 1856 Mother Benedicta sent six sisters to St. Cloud, MN, and eventually joined them there before her untimely death at the age of 37. It was about this time, in 1862, the St. Cloud community moved to its present home in St. Joseph, MN, to become St. Benedict’s Convent. In the same year a 15-year-old girl from St. Paul, who had come to America from Prussia with her parents when she was five, entered the Benedictine community at Shakopee. Her wealthy father was appalled by the poverty of the struggling community, and in 1877, his friend the Abbot of St. John’s, secured her transfer to the community at St. Joseph. Scarcely three years afterwards the 33-year-old Scholastica Kerst was appointed prioress of the St. Joseph community by the same Abbot.

In her nine years in office Mother Scholastica demonstrated a talent for organization, administration and foresightedness that was to extend the mission outreach of her community from the St. Cloud area into much of Minnesota and North Dakota. In her first year as prioress she traveled north to Duluth to investigate the possibility of establishing a school. In 1884, after a couple of abortive starts, a school was opened and in 1888 a hospital – the present St. Mary’s. In 1889 her term of office at St. Benedict’s ended. The bishop of the newly-created diocese of Duluth, James McGolrick, wanted a Benedictine priory of his very own, so in 1892, 28 sisters and four postulants, headed by the indefatigable Mother Scholastica Kerst, established in rented flats in Munger Terrance the independent Benedictine community which eventually became the St. Scholastica Priory.
Sister Margaret Clarke, O.S.B.

St. Benedict and St. Scholastica

Our only source of information on the life of Benedict of Nursia (480?-547?) is the second book of the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). This work dates from less than 50 years after the death of Benedict and is based upon the reminiscences of persons who knew the Abbot, yet it is not history or biography in our modern sense. Instead, it is intended as an edifying and didactic tale illustrating the means by which humans journey towards God.

Benedict, whose name in Latin means “Blessed,” was born to a Christian family in the mountains to the northeast of Rome. The Roman Empire was crumbling and the Goths and Vandals controlled Italy. As a youth, he was sent to Rome for schooling and there experienced a religious awakening which caused him to renounce corrupt secular society and to join a band of Christian ascetics. He later became a hermit, living in the hill region of Subiaco. His fame as a holy person grew until he was importuned to become the abbot of a group of monks, who eventually became so peeved by his reforming zeal that they attempted to poison him. Benedict left them to their evil ways and began organizing groups of his own followers into small monasteries. In about A.D. 529, he and a few disciples came to the mountain above the city of Cassino where they established the monastery now known as Monte Cassino. This is probably where he wrote the monastic Rule, the only document which remains to us from his hand. Benedict’s death occurred about 547, and tradition tells us he died standing before the altar, supported by his brothers, a model of fidelity and perseverance for all of his followers.

Scholastica is, according to tradition, the twin sister of Benedict. She is a shadowy figure whom we know from a single charming story in the Dialogues. She led some form of consecrated life with a group of Christian women. Gregory tells us that yearly she journeyed to meet her brother at a small house midway between their residences. On one momentous occasion, as evening fell, Benedict packed up his monks to return to the monastery from which, according to his own Rule, he was not permitted to be absent overnight. Scholastica begged him to make an exception and stay over so that they could continue their holy conversation. When Benedict refused, Scholastica wept and prayed and immediately such a torrent of rain fell that no one could leave the house. As Gregory says, the woman’s prayers prevailed with God because her love was the greater. When Scholastica died, Benedict had her body brought to Monte Cassino and placed in his own tomb. Scholastica’s name means “she who has leisure to devote to study.” Some skeptical historians have suggested that she is only a literary device: a personification of the Benedictine practice of reflective study. She remains very real, however, to Benedictine women, with the reality which can transcend simple historical existence, as a model of the feminine aspects of Benedictine monasticism, and an example of the power of the soul who loves God.
Sr. Margaret Clarke, O.S.B.

Continuing the Benedictine Mission

In A.D. 529, the Emperor Justinian closed the Academy at Athens which had been founded by Plato in the fourth century B.C. and which had preserved the tradition of classical thought for over eight centuries.

In A.D. 529, St. Benedict founded his monastery at Montecassino to be a “school for the Lord’s service.” It was to provide the beginning of a new effort to preserve the treasures of human culture in the centuries to come.

In some sense a torch had been passed.

Benedict had no conscious intention that the preservation of culture would become an important contribution of his monks, but within the next couple of centuries the education of the young, the copying of manuscripts – not only religious, but secular works of classical antiquity as well – and scholarship had become an important adjunct to the Benedictine way of life dedicated to seeking God. Even today in Benedictine schools young people are still the beneficiaries of this fifteen-century responsibility.

Benedictine life is based upon the Gospel of Christ and is lived in witness to this Good News in peace and simplicity. It strives to create surroundings permeated by Christian vision and an attitude of openness to the Spirit. Benedictine education draws its inspiration and values from the Rule and monastic tradition. What follows are some of the ideals that characterize life at a Benedictine college.

The Rule says of the abbot: “Let him not make any distinction of persons in the monastery.” (RB 2:16) Highest importance in our dealings with colleagues and students is the recognition of the unique worth and importance of each individual. In our teaching, it is reflected by a sincere concern for the welfare of each student and inspires personal interactions between students and teachers both in and outside of classes.

While the abbot is given the last word in all decision-making, Benedictine life also values the views and opinions of each of its members. The Rule directs the abbot: “As often as any important business has to be done in the monastery, let the abbot call together the whole community and himself set forth the matter. . . All should be called for counsel, for God often reveals what is better to the younger.” (RB 3:3) The Benedictine model of governance allows for a great deal of collegial decision-making. Each faculty member has a voice at faculty meetings and should value his or her freedom to participate in policy making. Students have the right to be heard and to have their opinions considered seriously. Each person has the freedom to express views without risk of reprisals, and with the consciousness of the responsibility he or she has to the welfare of the community.

One well-loved Benedictine motto is Ora et Labora, “Pray and Work” – known to generations of fatigued novices as “Ora et labora, et labora, et labora. . .” Prayer and work are two important facets of life at a Benedictine school. Benedictines have long been known for the beauty they have added to public worship. We strive to maintain that tradition of beauty and reverence in all of our services. We also encourage students and faculty to find opportunities to cultivate the life of the spirit, no matter what their religious traditions.

Benedictines deserve the credit for introducing into western culture the idea of the dignity of work. The Classical world saw scholarship (the very word comes the Greek word for leisure) as the prerogative of the privileged class and scorned manual labor, even in the form of the production of works of art, as beneath the dignity of those who pursued the life of the mind. The monks demonstrated to post-classical Europe that they could be scholars and teachers and also participate in Divine Worship, serve at table and work in the fields to bring in the harvest when needed. We view work not just as a means of providing economic support, but as a creative outlet for human energies. By providing programs for professional education, we make it possible for students to find a life’s work which will be rewarding and fulfilling. We also encourage the participation in and appreciation for the intellectual, visual and performing arts, as human crafts which are of vital importance to a full life.

We are stewards of God’s possessions. The Rule says: “Let him look upon all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as upon the sacred vessels of the altar.” (RN 31:10) We look upon the world not as something to be ruthlessly exploited to our own ends, but as God’s property, entrusted to us for care and safekeeping. We manifest this in a concern for the physical aspects of our buildings and even in the smallest ways by an awareness of the part each of us plays in the proper and moderate use of material goods. On the largest scale, we strive to inculcate a consciousness and concern for the quality of the natural environment.

Benedictines cherish a tradition of hospitality. “Guests are never lacking in the monastery,” says the Rule, and they should be welcomed as if they were Christ himself. (RB 53:16,1) We receive guests and strangers on our campus in the same spirit and demonstrate courtesy and kindness to those we teach and with whom we work. This spirit of hospitality can extend to an interest in and acceptance for other cultures, and can reach beyond the campus in the form of working for peace and justice in the world.

These ideals are summed up in the College Mission Statement which may be found in the Catalog. St Benedict refers to his monastery as “a school of the Lord’s service,” (RB:Prol) and that certainly characterizes the ultimate mission of The College of St. Scholastica as well. Benedictines have always been adaptable, and so have survived for fifteen centuries in spite of the changing needs of the world around them. A Benedictine college must also be adaptable: able to change as the needs and characteristics of its constituents change, but also, like the tree, firmly rooted in the Christian and Benedictine values which are the ground that supports and nourishes it. By listening attentively in the spirit to the voices of God’s people and responding generously to their needs, we are assured that we will fulfill the hope of St. Benedict for all his followers –

THAT IN ALL THINGS, GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED
Sister Margaret Clarke, O.S.B.