Sister Irene (left) and Sister Esther (right) during the Abbot’s Table Live Stream, where Sister Irene accepted the Lumen Vitae Medal.
Sister Mary Irene Nowell was the honoree at this year’s “Abbot’s Table,” the benefit dinner for the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison. She received their Lumen Vitae Medal, an award given each year to “recognize those who have followed Christ in service to his people and the church.” The inscription on the plaque she received says, “The monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey present this Lumen Vitae medal to Sr. Mary Irene Nowell, O.S.B., on April 10, 2021, for sharing the Word of God as an educator, formator and scripture scholar.”
The monks chose her for this, their most prestigious award, to honor her outstanding scholarship in biblical studies, including her numerous books, work on the St. John’s Bible, and role in establishing the Give Us This Day worship aid. In addition, she has made significant local contributions in her two decades of teaching and administration at Benedictine College and as a novitiate instructor for a generation of monks and sisters. The event was held in a hybrid format so, although the sisters could not attend in person, they gathered as a community for a meal that was provided by the monks; and were able to enjoy the live broadcast. Prioress Esther Fangman presented the medal to Sister Irene during that meal and all were able to hear the tributes to the honoree. The recording from the event is available on the abbey’s YouTube channel, and the 7-minute video about her may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SVS4612UzI , beginning at minute 53 of the full video. It includes her biography and tributes from Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, Abbot John Klassen, Sister Esther, and others.