The Bavarian Benedictines’ Legacy

A-8-liturgical-sAll the monasteries in the US have fascinating histories and none more so than the Benedictine Monastery of St. Emma in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. St. Emma’s roots go back to 1931 when on the feast of St. Walburga they arrived in the United States to serve the monks, seminarians and students of St. Vincent Archabbey.

The first Benedictine monastery in the US was this very St. Vincent Archabbey, founded by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, OSB, who came from St. Michael Abtei in Bavaria, Germany. The sisters founding abbey, Abtei St. Walburg, in Eichstatt, is also in Bavaria and was founded in 1085!! The Latrobe monks asked for the sister’s help and hence they came, by Divine coincidence it seems, on the feast of St. Walburga.

In 2009, St. Emma monastery voted to become an independent priory and they continue to belong to the “Federation of Bavarian Abbeys of Benedictine Nuns.” The nuns pray together six times a day, beginning with Vigils at 5:25 a.m. They welcome single women between the ages of 16 to 38 for monastic immersion weekends. The next one is scheduled for Thanksgiving Weekend: November 29-December 1, 2013.

My mind always goes on tangents and I wondered: who were these great saints, Emma and Walburga? St. Emma, Queen of Bavaria, was a wife and mother who died in 876. Queen Emma raised her children “in great care in faith and virtue and, in particular, in the fear of the Lord.”

st walburgaSt. Walburga was born in 710 in Essex in England but came to Germany to work as a missionary with her kinsman St. Boniface (c.675-754). In 741, Boniface created the diocese of Eichstätt, from whence would come the Benedictines of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. St. Walburga became the abbess of a monastery and after her death, her remains were eventually interred in a small church to which some canonesses were attached.  In 1035, these Eichstätt canonesses were replaced by the foundation of Abtei St. Walburg, the very same monastery that sent the Benedictine nuns to America.

All this makes me realize that what Mother Teresa said is really true: we are not saved in groups, but individually. In this case, the faith was not passed on by groups, but by each nun, abbot, and saint who left their mark and blood (Boniface was martyred) in Bavaria. Isn’t it amazing that these nuns and monks have as their spiritual forebears in faith Sts. Emma, Boniface and Walburga who lived 1300 years ago!

St. Emma, St. Walburga, St. Boniface and of course St. Benedict, pray for us!


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