OGDEN -- Honoring the sisters of Mount Benedict Monastery on Wednesday proved to be a bittersweet moment for nearly 400 local residents attending an annual Funds of Love banquet at Union Station.
Two years ago, the sisters gave up their independent status and became members of St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn.
It's the same monastery with which their group was affiliated in 1944 when the sisters established a mission at the old St. Benedict's Hospital.
The inevitable pain of losing the constant influence of the sisters in the Ogden area was fresh Wednesday night, as one more sister had left just a few weeks earlier.
Sister Iris Beckwith was called home to the Minnesota monastery just last month.
"Sister Iris was asked to go back to Minnesota to increase the ranks of nurses who take care of the sisters back in Minnesota," said Prioress Danile Knight.
Beckwith wasn't available to provide her traditional harmony when the sisters sang their blessing on all those present at the event titled "Share the Harvest" to reflect both the bounty the sisters had brought to the area and the ending season of their presence.
"May the blessings of the Lord be upon you," the five sang along with Foundation Executive Director Yvonne Coiner and former board Chairwoman Jeanne Hall, who were invited to join them. "We bless you in the name of the Lord."
Knight gave an announcement of encouragement, assuring that the sisters' St. Benedict's Foundation would continue to fund its existing 18 charities for at least the next decade.
"Our legacy will go on," she said.
She said the foundation soon will transfer its funds to management in Minnesota.
However, she said, that money will be managed in a manner similar to the way they've been managed locally and dedicated to only serve Ogden-area charities until they are depleted.
There were plenty of sweet words offered Wednesday as those present honored the five remaining sisters and the 155 that had served in Ogden before them.
"They, too, have appreciated the support they've gotten from all of you," Knight said of those who had gone before.
Hall and Bob Hunter, CEO of United Way of Northern Utah, referred to the women as angels.
Hall spoke of the love Knight and the other sisters had for the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, of which Hall was a member for many years.
She talked about how the words in at least one Mormon hymn described well the type of service and love the sisters gave to the area.
"Beloved sisters, you have blessed our lives by the service you have given," Hall said. "Truly, you live the Master's teachings."
Hunter spoke of wishing the sisters would stay in the Ogden area forever.
"A smile from a sister is a sign of joy," he said. "A hug from a sister is a sign of love. A laugh from a sister is a sign of happiness. Those of us that call ourselves friends of the sisters, that's just a sign of good taste."
Father Charles Cummins, of the Weber State University Newman Center, spoke of how the sisters have maintained their loving spirits through the years, even in the face of dwindling numbers.
"God bless you for what you've done for me over the years," he said.
Sherm Losee, a co-chairman of the Funds of Love event, described the sisters as "a group of women who feel like they are simply fulfilling their mission to love and support the community."