Martin's Abbey Honors the Sisters of St. Gertrude
On September 10, 2004, St. Martin's Abbey dedicated the new wing of their dining hall in honor of the Sisters of St. Benedict from the Monastery of St. Gertrude. It was named St. Gertrude's Dining Hall.
Abbot Neal Roth said Saint Martin's was pleased to find an appropriate way to honor the Benedictine nuns who faithfully served the institution for 55 years.
In recalling the many nuns from the Cottonwood monastery who came to operate the school's kitchens, Abbot Neal said they labored hard to feed the students, staff, faculty and monks of Saint Martins.
"They did it the old, hard way, with everything bought fresh or brought fresh from the farm then on campus and prepared from scratch," he said. "It wasn't fancy, but it was wholesome. They also brought a lovely feminine spirit with them - they were hospitable and very kind."
Abbot Neal's personal memories of the nuns are many, and include a particular day when he and another young novice were hard at work washing the dining room's windows.
One of the sisters came out with an entire pie and pitcher of ice-cold milk from the dairy, insisting we take a break. "It was typical," he said. "They mothered you and the students always appreciated them."
In response to Abbot Neal's invitation to come and celebrate this dedication, Sisters Wilma Schlangen, Connie Sonnen, Bernice Wessels, Angela Uhlorn, Clarissa Goeckner, and Mary Kay Henry went to St. Martin's. Sister Wilma Schlangen was one of the many sisters who worked in the culinary department. The other sisters had attended college there between 1960 and 1968. Srs. Theresa Mary Stroeing and Theresa Dvorak are two other sisters still living who worked at Saint Martin's.
"I am privileged and delighted for this profound gesture of gratitude the monks and college community extended to us for the friendship and work of the sisters who cooked and sewed at Saint Martin's," said Sr. Mary Kay Henry at the groundbreaking ceremony.
In all, 56 sisters worked in the kitchen and sewing department. Many sisters also attended summer school once the institution became a co-ed school. And the assistance was mutual. Saint Martin's provided five chaplains to St. Gertrude's over the years as well.
In remembrance of the St. Martin's connection, Father John Scott presented his book, This Place Called St. Martin's 1895-1995 to each sister attending the dedication. The St. Martin's monks extended very warm hospitality and were welcomed into the monastic dining room for a lavish banquet as well as all the other meals. They also joined with the monks for liturgy.