Century of Presence on the Camas Prairie
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS “AT HOME” IN IDAHO
The Benedictine Sisters of the Monastery of St. Gertrude officially mark a century of presence in Cottonwood on April 26. On that day in 1909, Mother Hildegard Vogler and a small group of sisters – mostly from Sarnen, Switzerland – accomplished their mission to establish St. Gertrude’s in Cottonwood as their new motherhouse.
The centennial is an occasion to honor the people and the story that brought the monastery to this point: Mother Johanna Zumstein and the European sisters who came to the Northwest, Mother Hildegard Vogler who established St. Gertrude’s as the motherhouse and the subsequent prioresses who answered the needs of their time by starting schools, building hospitals and providing leadership and pastoral ministry to the people.
The year-long centennial celebration has acknowledged the legacy of faith, courage, generosity and the pioneering spirit.
“We embrace this same spirit to carry us into the future,” said Sister Clarissa Goeckner, Prioress, as she proclaimed August 2008-August 2009 a Year of Jubilee for the Monastery of St. Gertrude. “Jubilee invites us to deepen ourselves as a praying, forgiving and reconciling community. It urges us to practice justice in all our relationships and find ways to be a leaven, a voice and an advocate for justice and peace.”
The sisters remember their work with the people of the Camas Prairie – through St. Joseph’s School in Cottonwood, St. Maurus School in Ferdinand, St. Anthony’s School in Greencreek, St. Anthony’s School and religious education program in Nezperce, Sts. Peter and Paul School and religious education program in Grangeville, Holy Cross School in Keuterville, St. Gertrude’s Academy, the College of St. Gertrude, the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, Retreat Ministry/Spirit Center, Prairie Schools, Our Lady of Consolation and St. Mary’s Hospitals, home care for shut-ins, Tri-Parish Release Time Program, Pastoral Ministry and the Horizons Rural Development Program.
The community at the Monastery of St. Gertrude includes 59 sisters and two novices. The oblate program comprises 65 men and women who have committed themselves to living Benedictine values in their own life. This program is celebrating its twentieth anniversary.
Presently, the primary ministries of the monastery are Prayer, Stewardship of the Land, Spirituality Ministry and the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude. Some of the sisters work away from the monastery in education, healthcare and social and pastoral ministry. These ministries are united by core values of healing hospitality, grateful simplicity and creative peacemaking.
In appreciation for a century of support and shared legacy, they hosted a series of free concerts for the people of the Camas Prairie entitled, “Traditions Shaping Tomorrow” – a celebration of friends in music and story; honoring Benedictine traditions of the past, celebrating present traditions at St. Gertrude’s and featuring local and regional musicians.
The community at the Monastery of St. Gertrude has deepened its commitment to the Benedictine way by formulating and beginning to implement a 2008-2020 Strategic Plan and by shaping a new vision statement: Prayer awakens. Justice impels. Compassion acts. Thy Kingdom Come.
Sister Clarissa explains that the goals for living out “these crucial words that inspire, shape, empower and bring us into the future” will be achieved by focusing on three or four strategies each year until 2020. This year’s focus is on deepening communal prayer, pro-actively seeking new members, expanding the volunteer program and finding ways to reduce costs and increase income for financial viability.
For 100 years, the monastery’s foremothers took faith-filled risks to grow a future rooted in hope. Today’s members seek to honor this heritage by being a sign of hope as they begin a new century.
Coming Centennial Events
August 2, 8:00-4:00
August 16, 1:30
St. Gertrude's community on the steps of the original wooden convent, 1909.
Benedictine Sisters of Cottonwood, Idaho in the Monastery of St. Gertrude chapel, 2009.