SOUTH OGDEN -- The sisters of Mount Benedict Monastery are giving up their independent status, providing them with more security in the short run but opening the door to a likely closure of the monastery in the coming years when they become unable to continue in their present capacity.
"The most important reason we are doing this is, we want to secure our position here in Utah and have the mother house back us," said Mount Benedict Monastery Prioress Danile Knight.
The six sisters who reside in the monastery and two more associated with the group will become members of St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., in a private rite-of-transfer ceremony Nov. 20.
It's the same monastery with which their group was affiliated in 1944 when the sisters first established a mission at the old St. Benedict's Hospital. All of the Mount Benedict Sisters entered religious life and made their first professions at St. Benedict's.
Once the sisters renew their vows in Minnesota, the six now living in Ogden will return and work much as they now do, serving Ogden Regional Medical Center, local parishes and a host of nonprofit organizations until such time as they need care themselves.
At that time, they will return to Minnesota.
"I'm sure it's also hard letting go of their dream of making a foundation out there," said Sister Nancy Bauer, prioress at the Minnesota monastery. "We're very aware that the people of Utah are very fond of the sisters."
While the renewed association with the Minnesota monastery opens the door to associations with 285 additional sisters, Bauer said it's not likely that any of those sisters will want to replace aging Mount Benedict sisters as they retire.
"None have really come to me and said, 'I'd really like to come to Utah,' " she said, explaining that while the Minnesota community is larger, it also is experiencing the nationwide trend of aging sisters. Plus, sisters there already are engaged in other activities.
"It's probably more likely that the sisters from Utah will come back here one by one and at some point will have to look at the viability of keeping the monastery open," Bauer said.
Knight said sisters who will remain here are relieved for several reasons.
"Being able to stay here means a lot to us. Normally when you merge, you go back. We asked if we could stay here as long as we could."
Also, they are relieved knowing that the sisters will be taken care of as they age or need assistance, Knight said.
"We had to do something, with just six of us," she said. "We are very happy, very much at peace with the whole thing. The Lord really guided us."
The change comes after several years of trying to recruit younger women to join the monastery.
Knight said there was "a little disappointment" in the monastery's failure to recruit.
"But you know," she said, "God has his plan."
The sisters at Mount Benedict Monastery served under St. Benedict's Monastery in Minnesota when they first came to Ogden in 1944 until 1993.
"We were under Minnesota for all those years," Knight said, noting that, at that time, the Utah sisters felt a bit isolated, as they couldn't attend meetings and events hosted by their sponsoring community.
"Now, it's really great with all the technology," she said. "We'll be able to hear and see, and they'll be able to hear us. Years ago, we couldn't do that. I'm excited. We'll be much more involved."
A news release from St. Benedict Monastery states that the Ogden sisters' St. Benedict's Foundation will continue.
Through this foundation, the sisters fund a variety of activities and organizations in the Top of Utah, especially those that assist women and children.
The foundation is separately incorporated, and none of its assets will be transferred to St. Benedict's Monastery, the release states.
The Mount Benedict community announced the merger last week in a letter to friends.
The letter stated that the sisters will remain in Utah "for as long as we can" and will continue "living the Benedictine life of prayer, community and service ... and we will continue working with you to spread the 'Good News' to the people of the Ogden area."
Bauer said another such community recently returned to St. Benedict's Monastery and is now living in Minnesota. These sisters, from Eau Claire, Wis., also were a blessing as they returned, she said.
"When we sent sisters to serve in those areas, we were responding to the needs of the time," she said of both the Utah and Wisconsin groups. "Now we are receiving them back in response to the needs of a new time."
She said the newly returned sisters were college and novitiate classmates of a number of the sisters there.
"One of them, Sister Luke Hoschette, has a sibling in our community, Sister Rosemary Hoschette," she said. "We know these sisters, and this is like a big homecoming."
Also participating in the renewed union are Sisters Jean Gibson, Stephanie Mongeon, Mary Zenzen and Iris Beckwith.