Benedictine Oblates are Christian women and men from any walk of life who seek to live a life in harmony with the spirit of St. Benedict as it is found in both the Rule of Saint Benedict and in its contemporary expression.
They choose to associate themselves with a particular monastery because of a personal connection with its members and spirit. In doing so, they share in the prayer of the monastery and in its efforts to live more completely what it means to be a Christian. They are aided in developing their own spirituality through regular personal prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, study of the scriptures and the Holy Rule as well as other spiritual reading (lectio), and the practice of such virtues as humility, hospitality, community, stewardship, mindfulness and peacemaking, which are particularly emphasized in Benedictine spirituality. They and the sisters also feel a sense of shared community and mutual support.
Mount St. Scholastica has over 150 oblates. As they are able, they meet monthly in regional groups in Atchison, Kansas City, Topeka, St. Joseph and the Oklahoma City area.
As their time allows, Oblates volunteer their time to support the ministries of Mount St. Scholastica.
One of these ministries is the Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Below, some of the Oblates share how they are involved with this effort to assist women and families.
When I retired I had already decided that I would teach Nutrition Classes at Keeler because of the need in the urban core. I enrolled in a 40-hour training through Kansas State University which would qualify me as a Master Food Volunteer and began offering monthly classes at Keeler. I’m not much of a cook but enjoyed interacting with the women about healthy eating. We got to know each other well, and topics veered sometimes to other life concerns. That was 14 years ago! We had a well-established group until COVID hit. Then I stretched my limited computer skills to present classes online. Presently, we offer a hybrid version. Volunteering at Keeler brought me close to the sisters and their Benedictine spiritually, and I decided to become an oblate. Throughout the years I’ve offered other classes as I’ve come to appreciate the holistic nature of the Benedictine charism: journaling, writing, and creative and hands-on crafts. And I’ve appreciated being a participant in the varied offerings at Keeler.
Rev. Mary Donovan
First, I love the Keeler Center! Every time I go in there I feel and breathe the Benedictine spirit. I mean we can laugh, we can help, and we can pray, almost all at the same time. After graduating from Souljourners, I felt cut off from that group of sisters but soon I got connected at Keeler. I offered to be a spiritual director, but instead they told me they needed teachers. That’s the role I have filled there, teaching everything from drawing to painting to calligraphy to lessons on Irish culture. The Holy Spirit does not abandon places and people that are a force for good in this world. The Keeler Center seems to me to be a resilient place, open and available for women throughout Kansas City. I am happy to be a part of this place and I intend to keep up my connections there.
One of the ways I live my desire to be an oblate is through volunteering at Keeler Women’s Center. A friend suggested I share my interest in nonviolence through a course there and the sisters readily accepted the idea. That led to meeting like-minded folks and some oblates too. It wasn’t long before I stepped into that journey to oblation. So, for several years now I have received much from St. Benedict and St. Scholastica through the sisters and those they helped form. I hope I have been contributing for the growth of others, too. I’ve especially
enjoyed studying Rule Ch. 7 “On Humility.” For me it is a significant key to Benedictine spirituality as well as the key to living Gospel nonviolence. Significant correlation there! Early on in my journey I was taught that “humility is the gateway, the only gateway to holiness.” I’m blessed to be surrounded by people I enjoy while on this journey. That’s because I am sure for me learning how to love with Christ-like love for all of God’s children — friend and enemy — is a for-the-rest-of-my-life journey.
My first volunteer job at Keeler was to babysit children whose mothers were attending classes at Keeler in the evening. When no children came to the nursery, my fellow volunteer and I would crochet and knit. Some of the attendees noticed our respective crafts and asked us to teach them. We asked Sister Carol Ann if we could create a class for the women. A notice was published in the local parish newsletters. I taught knitting and my counterpart taught crochet. So many women attended the first class that we overflowed the entire lobby of the Catholic Charities building. It was heartening to see an overwhelming interest in ancient crafts. We later discovered that some of the women who attended were sisters; each one enrolled in the yarn art that she was unfamiliar with. We also learned, much later, that some of the relatives had enrolled in order to facilitate mending old wounds. Keeler was a safe place to heal. After this first meeting it was clear that this combined class would continue and not just be a one-time offering. Keeler was designed to be a warm, welcoming environment. Tables of baked items, fruit, candy and beverages are placed in the hallway outside of the classrooms. When a new student arrived, I would walk with her to the tables, offer her a plate and point out all of the items that she could enjoy. Once in the classroom, I would chat with her and encourage her to eat while we talked. Eventually, we would approach what she wanted to learn in the class. Learning knitting or crocheting was not a requirement to be in class. Some folks came to just sit with friendly women and enjoy the conversation. Some just sat and read magazines or articles about yarn craft. A new student was given time to watch the knitting and crocheting and decide which she might enjoy. She could even learn both if she so chose. When she thought she was ready to work with the yarn we would discuss what kind of knitting needles felt good in her hands; metal, plastic or bamboo. Knitters quite often have a preference. After all, she will be holding these instruments for a long time. The focus was always on the attendee, not the subject of the class. The class was never really about learning knitting or crocheting. It was about spending an evening with friendly women in a safe, inviting place and knowing that this environment would always be there for her.