reunion is held
At 5 p.m. on August 3, the walls of the Monastery chapel vibrated with the buzz of voices. From front to back, side to side, every seat was filled as people leaned over seats and prayer stalls to greet one another and exchange embraces as well as exclamations of delight. The people were of various ages and they had come from diverse geographical locations but they had one thing in common: They had all come to celebrate the St. Gertrude’s Academy (SGA) All-School Reunion.
At last, Prioress Sister Clarissa Goeckner rang the bell to do what many SGA teachers had done in the past: bring silence and redirect attention to the approaching liturgy. The 5 p.m. Mass would begin a weekend of events that included a barbecue later that night, individual class activities on Saturday, a dinner dance Saturday night, and Raspberry Festival on Sunday.
Father Lyle Konen, C.Ss.R of the Class of 1949 presided at Mass and Father Gerry Funke, who also attended SGA, gave the homily. Marcie Beckman of the Class of 1967 was the cantor and sang the communion meditation “Only in God.” The hymn hearkened to the Benedictine phrase “that in all things God may be glorified” that SGA students were required to write at the top of their papers so as to inspire work dedicated to the highest purpose, which ultimately inspired lives of service and creativity.
In his homily, Father Gerry recalled attending the elaborate musical productions that were put on each year by the SGA students and faculty. Growing up on the rural and isolated Camas Prairie, he described how the world was opened up to him by his teachers. “I was reading Shakespeare, going to the school plays and musicals, and being exposed to art,” he recalled. “I learned about a larger world that I was very much a part of – I learned about what it means to be Benedictine: we are a part of something greater and are called to contribute to it.”
The Benedictine Sisters opened St. Gertrude’s Academy in 1928. Over the next 42 years they taught students from across the Camas Prairie and beyond. The school closed in 1970 due to declining resources. This summer’s reunion was the second all-school gathering after the first in 1988.
“There was kind of an awesome joy of being there and still feeling a part of the Benedictines and being among the teachers that served us,” says Peggy Dorf (née Reed), a reunion attendee. “It was kind of like being back in school again, having the different ages together -- many people I hadn’t seen in 50 years. It takes a village to raise a family and it took a monastery to bring us all into that oneness.”
Marcie Beckman, Class of 1967, sang “Only in God.”
Father Lyle, Class of 1949, presided at Mass.