OGDEN — The five Catholic sisters at Mount
Benedict Monastery have announced solid
plans to leave the Top of Utah.
The announcement Monday was the first time the sisters have spoken definitively about leaving since they realigned themselves with St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn., two years ago.
In a news conference at the Standard-Examiner on Monday, all five Catholic sisters who remain at the South Ogden monastery attended to announce plans to leave the area as soon as they can sell their home.
Their leaving will end a 68-year presence in the Top of Utah.
“We leave with no regrets,” said Sister Stephanie Mongeon. “We leave our peace and gratitude with the people of this community.”
“You can work anyplace, but it’s the relationships we’ve had with the people over the years that’s been important,” said Sister Luke Hoschette. “I think the people at (Ogden Regional Medical Center) are trying to emulate the spirit of the sisters.”
The order of sisters came to Ogden in 1944 with a mission of building a hospital, St. Benedict’s. Two of the sisters, Mongeon and Sister Mary Zenzen, remain employed at Ogden Regional Medical Center today. The others serve the area as they can in other capacities.
The sisters made the announcement of their departure with emotion but with resolution that they are doing the right thing for themselves as they age.
Also leaving are Sister Danile Knight, who has served as prioress at the South Ogden monastery, and Sister Jean Gibson.
Sister Iris Beckwith was called home to the Minnesota monastery in October.
A month later, at the sisters’ annual fundraising dinner that benefits St. Benedict’s Foundation, those who work closest with the sisters expressed heartfelt emotion at their impending departure.
Ron Thornburg, executive director at Family Counseling Service, said the contribution of the sisters through their foundation, which is geared toward helping women and children, has been invaluable.
“We’ve come to really appreciate the service the sisters have given to our community,” he said, noting that for 16 years St. Benedict’s Foundation has been the largest single donor to the agency.
“As a result, we’ve been able to have a major impact on the community,” he said. More than 1,700 families and 6,000 children were helped last year.
Family Counseling Service is one of 18 current foundation beneficiaries. The sisters also announced that they will be supporting 18 nonprofit agencies as the money is spent down over about 10 years.
Speaking of the sisters at the news conference, former foundation board member Michael Joseph said, “Each of them brings an incredible value to the community.”
He touted the sisters’ order, which has brought a total of 155 sisters to Ogden over the years, for arriving during the “darkest days” of World War II and for bringing with them a holistic solution to medicine decades before it became popular.
“They always bring their incredible, uplifting spiritual value,” Joseph said. “There is no personal agenda with them.”
Mongeon said the Ogden area, for her, lived up to the reputation she heard about before she ever arrived.
“You’ll never believe what wonderful people are in Ogden,” she recalls being told by a fellow Minnesota sister who had been here decades ago, before Mongeon arrived.
“You dare not say you like something, because the next day, it’s going to be on your desk.”
The sisters said local residents will have an opportunity to say their farewells. An open house will be scheduled once their property is sold and they are more aware of the exact date they’ll be leaving.
Yvonne Coiner, the executive director of the sisters’ St. Benedict’s Foundation, said the $5 million in foundation holdings will be transferred to the United Way of Northern Utah and the Diocese of Salt Lake to be distributed over the next 10 years.
According to a news release distributed by the sisters, “All the funds and interest, which have been the result of local donations and generous gifts from the Sister’s labor in the community, will be used in Northern Utah, in an area they have come to love.”