In the Name of ourLord Jesus Christ, Amen.I offer myself to Almighty God…
Through the Blessed VirginMary and our Holy FatherBenedict…
As an Oblate of Saint BenedictMonastery, Bristow, Virginia…
I promise to dedicate myself to theservice of God and humanity…
According to theGospel of Jesus Christ and the Rule ofBenedict, in so far as my state in life permits.
“What is it that makes Oblates unique?What tenets inform our lives? They includeuniversality of spirit, commitment to theRule, and constant witnessing. These offerOblates a special kind of inform our lives?They include universality of spirit, commitment to theRule, and constant witnessing. These offer Oblates aspecial kind of stability that we may otherwise not havebecause we do not live in a monastic community. Weare, however, a community without walls – one in the worldand whose presence offers daily opportunity forreflection, faith, and service. It is a stability of the heart, andwe need only to listen!” ~Catherine Nolte Evans, Obl.S.B.
In the beginning. . .“Our Oblate Program in Bristow came into beingbecause of a simple request by two couples tolearn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. SisterHelen Johnston introduced them to SisterErnestine Johann…
“Sister Ernestine…quickly realized that besideswanting to pray as Benedictines prayed, thecouples also wanted a closer affiliation with ourcommunity. (She) sent out an invitation toascertain interest in establishing an oblateprogram. The response was gratifying…” ~Sister Andrea Verchuck, OSB
“In a centuries-old ceremony at the Benedictine Priory in Bristow, 15 members of the laityreceived as Benedictine (Oblate Novices) by Sr. Ernestine recently wereJohann, prioress. (They are): Mrs. John Cole, Mr. and Mrs.John Q. Rathbone, and Howard Rivenburg, all of Manassas;Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Day of Oxon Hill, Md.; Ms. RosemarieFicco of Warrenton; Mr. and Mrs. Philip M. Gallagher ofHerndon; Mr. and Mrs. John W. Hinkell of Nokesville; Mrs.Andrew Johnson of Vienna; Mrs. Stephen Lafferty ofBaltimore; and Mr. and Mrs. William Farquhar of Bristow.” Arlington Catholic Herald, March 8, 1979
“In being able to admit my flaws and in forgivingmyself for them, I can also do this forothers, freeing me to serve them withoutpassing judgment. This is truly the mostprecious gift that I have received throughbecoming an Oblate…and through contact withthe…sisters…-the gift of unconditional love.” • Janet Frick, Obl.S.B.
“I was in the very first group of Oblates…I had always loved all the sisters and visited them at themonastery frequently. I was especially fond of Sister Ernestine, and she seemed to be interested inhaving a way that lay people could be connected to the monastery and the Benedictine way oflife, so she started the Oblate program.We would meet once a month, on a Sunday afternoon…Most of the Sisters also joined us. SisterErnestine gave a talk, always a very meaningful one, for about a half-hour. Then we took about aten-minute break after which we returned to our seats and had a discussion on Sisters talk. At theside table there was a spread of the most delicious homemade cookies you ever saw. So weindulged in them and chatted some more before going home.I loved going to the meetings. They were so inspiring, and I reallyneeded those moments of spirituality in my life. Thirty years agoI was married and had a daughter who was five and a son who wasfour. I have to admit that going to Bristow once a month was a bitof an escape for me in addition to the spiritual benefits, because itwas about the only time I could go someplace alone. When thoseSundays came around, my children would always chant,‘Moms going to Bristow, to get more Istow!’ ” Christine Johnson, Obl.S.B.
“In 1978, Sister Ernestine…started the oblate program…By Marchof 1979, fifteen men and women were received as BenedictineOblates; by July of that year five more persons were received.Sister Ernestine continued to direct the oblate program until shemoved to Richmond in 1983. By then, the number of oblates hadgrown to twenty- six.(I) directed the program for several years following, (and) invitedseveral sisters, among them Sisters Anita Sherwood, Cecilia Dwyer,Ernestine Johann, and Glenna Smith, to make presentations to theoblates.” Sister Andrea Verchuck, OSB
“The monastic life is an amazing thing! While it is grounded in traditional,centuries-old values, it is still flexible and adaptable enough to make roomfor the future. Our oblates have a pivotal role in that future, and yourconcerns and dreams are greatly valued. One of the most foundationalstrengths of monasticism is stability. It means that Saint BenedictMonastery in Bristow, Virginia, is our home for life - not any othermonastery. By our profession of stability we become ”people of place”. Byour profession of stability our monastic identity is formed as we areincorporated into the monastery of our choice with its own culture.Stability in community equates to a similar value of strong ties withinfamilies.” Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
Meetings: Sunday Schedule:Sept. 7 (Picnic) 8 a.m. - Morning PrayerNov. 7 9 a.m. - EucharistJan. 18 10:30 a.m.- BrunchMarch 15 11 a.m. - Private PrayerMay 17 Video tape Visiting 2:15 p.m. - Novice instructions 2:45 p.m. - Refreshments 3:00 p.m. - TALK 4:30 p.m. - Evening Prayer“The topics for the meetings will be taken directly from the Holy Rule and its relation to modern lay life…” Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
“Everyone called her ‘Grandma’.” George Healey, Obl.S.B.“In a nutshell she was the sweetest dearest lady that ever came down the road. Every (Oblate) Sunday afternoon Sister Agnes would be standing in the breezeway window looking down the driveway for me to drive up…One Sunday they had a bad accident on 95 which meant that I was 30 minutes late getting there…by the time I got there Sister Agnes was fit to be tied…she was so afraid that something had happened to me.One of the things that you will never forget about Sister Agnes, she baked the most wonderful cookies that you have ever eaten. She would bake two or three plates of cookies for the oblate meeting, she was famous for her plates of cookies.I was talking to Sister Agnes one afternoon about the days when sisters wore their habits. Sister Agnes said, ‘When we wore our habits people would defer to us and that’s not the way it was supposed to be. When we took off our habits we could defer to them and that’s the way it should be.’She was an inspiration…by the way she lived out her monastic life she inspired people to be better…to reach higher, and it was not in her words but in the way she lived out her monastic life…for my part, she is, will always be, one of the real saints.” John Gibson, Obl.S.B.
Meetings: Sunday Schedule:Nov. 22 2:30 p.m. – Gathering and CoffeeJan. 17 3:00 p.m. – PresentationMarch 20 4:30 p.m. – Evening PrayerLate May? 5:00 p.m. - Supper“Greetings from your new director!...The presentor of our first meeting will be Abbot Leonard Vickers, OSB…He will speak on the Rule of St. Benedict.” Sister Agnes O’Mara, OSB
“This year’s Oblate Meetings will coincide with the Sisters’ monthly recollection day which will give you more opportunities to join us…The day will begin with coffee and gathering at 1 p.m. and end with supper at 5 p.m.” Sister Agnes O’Mara, OSBOctober 16th Oblate Meeting: Father Richard Sudlick, OMI, gave two presentations: “Daily Spirituality” and “Reflections on the Blessed Mother”.November 20th Oblate Meeting: Sister Cecilia shared videos of her trip to Europe and the Holy Land.
“We will not have a meeting on Dec. 17 (1989) as scheduled. In place of that meeting, you are invited to attend the end of the year retreat day with the Sisters…”“It was gratifying to have so many of you with us at the January (1990) meeting. We thank Sister Andrea for her fine presentation on prayer. Sister involved the Oblates by asking George & Kay Gibson and John Gibson to relate some of their prayer experiences…” Sister Agnes O’Mara, OSB(First mention of Oblates speaking at a meeting.)
January 20: Community/Oblate Meeting with speaker Sister Melania Svoboda, SND, from Middleburg, Virginia.February Oblate Meeting: Deacon Mr. Emil Myskowski, speaker.March 17: Oblate Meeting with speaker James Schellmann, Associate Director of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, presenting “Prayer Life of a Christian, Personal & Liturgical”.April 21: Oblate Meeting with presenter Dottie McClintic, Obl.S.B. of St. Anselm Abbey, discussing “Scripture and Our Daily Lives”.May 19: Oblate Meeting with video on The Rule narrated by Sister Joan Chittester, OSB. Ceremonies of Oblation and Candidacy.
“I have enjoyed my years of being with you, working with and praying with you.Without a doubt, you, as a group and as individuals , have called me to a new anddeeper ways of understanding and living Benedict’s Rule. You have helped me to‘Listen with the ear of my heart.’” Sister Laurence Bucher, OSB “Under (Sister Laurence’s) guidance, the Oblate Program has attracted approximately 75 people with a mixture of interests in various aspects of the program…the many fine accomplishments and works of Sister Laurence in her role of Director have made the Oblate Program a standout.” The Bristow Bulletin March,2002
The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 16 “The Celebration of the Divine Office During the Day” Chapter 72 “The Good Zeal of Monastics”The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part II “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery” Section I “The Sacramental Economy” Section II “The Seven Sacraments of the Church” (Yes, all this was one meeting!)
“Being accepted as a Benedictine oblate was most important to me since I had been in the community for seventeen years. Dispensation from my vows did not erase the spirit of Saint Benedict or The Rule. Coming back to the community through the Oblate program gave new life to my monastic calling.” Suzanne Gallagher, Obl.S.B. “Throughout all the years, the Benedictine Community has been there providing support and love when we needed it. It has been the true Body of Christ in my life and has shown me how to be the Body of Christ to all I encounter.” Linda Gulden Obl.S.B.
“Presentations are made by two presenters, one of whom is an oblate. The change in format (a 20 minute talk, a brief break followed by reflection, a short group discussion and comments) has brought about active participation. We are learning that each of us is part of the whole and it is enriching to hear what others have to offer…The Bristow community invites you to join us on the Fourth Sunday of the month from 3:00-4:15 p.m.” The Bristow Bulletin Sister Laurence Bucher, OSB
Josephine Zimmermann, Obl.S.B. her sister, Sister Henry Marie Zimmermann, OSB and her brother, Brother Andrew Zimmermann, OSBSister Louise Dowgiallo, OSB,her mother, Julia Dowgiallo, Obl.S.B.and her sister-in-law, Frances Knott Dowgiallo, Obl.S.B. Edward P. Ix, Obl.S.B. and his daughter, Sister Vicki Ix, OSB
Richmond Deanery“ A new and exciting challenge is going to be undertaken by the Oblates…After much prayer and discernment, the Sisters and the Oblates agree that there is a need for the Oblates to be able to meet at St. Gertrude’s in Richmond, as well as at the…monastery in Bristow…Yes, the program is taking on a new look and life but it hopes to keep the same commitment of spending time with the Scriptures and reflecting on the Rule…” September, 2000 The Bristow Bulletin “(Sister) Gertrude was a real lover of all things Benedictine and monastic. She helped to begin our Oblate program in Richmond and it was of the highest priority for her.” Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
“I remember (her) spirited, generous, joyous welcome of me…Practicing obedience to her has been a light-hearted and healing experience.” Ellen Cronin, Obl.S.B.“(She was) a very gentle woman who could move mountains. She could accomplish anything she set her mind to. I will miss her tug on her veil (and) her huge smile that came from within…” Sue Riley, Obl.S.B.“The last job (Sister) Eileen took on was directing our Oblate program…which started at the monastery only, (and) now has sites in Richmond, (Bedford), and Nevada. Don’t even ask! Eileen did not initiate all of these sites. Let’s just say that God made an opportunity and Eileen, with the help of her sisters, jumped on it.” Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB
First published in December, 2002. Donna Dettmann, Obl.S.B., editor 2002-2003 Margarite Arrighi, Obl.S.B., editor 2003-2007 Marissa Olszewski, Obl.S.B., editor 2007-present
Connie Ruth Lupton, Obl.S.B., became Sister Connie Ruth Lupton, OSB, and made her perpetual monastic profession on September 2, 2006. Rosemarie Ficco, Suzanne Gallagher, and Christine Johnson – former community members of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia – became Oblates of the community with the first group in 1980. Rosemarie later assisted in the founding of the Nevada Deanery and served as its first Dean. Suzanne aided establishment of the Bedford Oblate Deanery and was its first Dean.
Nevada Deanery“I approached our...pastor…about the possibility of beginning a Benedictine Oblate program…Having been a member of the Bristow Benedictines…and an Oblate…I wrote Sister Andrea…(who) forwarded my letter to Sister Eileen, and we were on a roll!...On May 8, 2003, Sister Andrea and Eileen came for our first Oblation ceremony---24 members were received…” Rosemarie Ficco, Obl.S.B.“We are a group of 27 Oblates with two inquiring candidates…Almita Bey-Carrion, graciously and lovingly guides us and spiritually feeds us at our monthly evening meeting…We are kept abreast of information from Bristow, Virginia, and then discuss an assigned monthly reading from The Rule. Almita closes with a spiritual reflection…(some) of us…meet once a week…for Morning Prayer before Mass.” Sharon Hennessy-York, Obl.S.B. Easter, 2008
Oblate Meetings – 2nd Saturday of the month in Bristow, 3rd Saturday of the month in Richmond“Each month a sister will present a talk of about a half-hour on the theme followed by a fifteen minute response reflection from an oblate..with time for the other oblates to share personal reflection. The sisters have Office at 9 a.m. followed by Mass…The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. Midday Prayer is at 12 noon, followed by lunch with the sisters. From 1-2 p.m. the Candidates (and all interested) will reconvene for discussion.” Sister Eileen Heaps, OSB
“Being connected to this Community for all these years, I truly appreciated the Oblate program.” Bill Farquhar, Obl.S.B.“(Saint Benedict’s) Rule has such a personal, gently commanding voice that my heart feels he’s talking to me…I am thoroughly sustained and enriched by…his guidance…For the price of obedience, moderation, and hospitality each of us (can) find ourselves blessed with consideration, comfort, and stability and…knowing that one’s true essence is holiness…To me, that is heaven on earth.” Rita Lombardo, Obl.S.B.
Bedford Deanery“Suzanne and Phil, I have some ideas about you two starting a Bristow Oblate Chapter up there…something interesting happened over the summer. Rosemarie Ficco, who lives in Nevada now, is starting a…chapter out there…it’s a long story of God’s doing…Blessing on you two up there spreading Benedict!” Sister Eileen Heaps, OSB August 27, 2002“We wanted to give you an update on our first meeting yesterday. We had a total of sixteen people…It was decided to meet the 2nd Saturday of each month here in Bedford...” Rita Zimmermann, Obl.S.B. August 14, 2005
“The first time the Oblates were allowed to attend (NAABOD), I went with Sister Laurence to St. Meinrad…we saw Thomas Merton’s grave (in Bardstown, KY) and visited the Sisters.” George Healey, Obl.S.B.“Every other summer, the Oblate Directors attend a Directors’ conference. Directors and some Oblates meet to share ideas and concerns while offering support to one another. St. John’s Abbey (MN) and St. Benedict’s Monastery (MN) will host the conference this summer…Oblates Kathy Frick and Donna Dettmann along with Sister Gertrude…and I plan to attend’” Sister Laurence Bucher, OSB“Ive attended numerous NAABOD conferences through the years, first few as a "guest oblate" and then as an Oblate Co-Director. One of the most heartening thing for me is to have seen the growth in understanding of what oblation means. When I first started attending, oblates were looked on, for the most part, as a special type of volunteer. As time when on, the realization that oblates are as Benedictine as the vowed monastics has become the norm. The words "oblate program" are being replaced with "oblate way of life." Oblate directors are becoming facilitators, more than simply instructors, for the healthy exchange of ideas and understanding of Benedictism between the oblates and monastics.” Katherine Frick, Obl.S.B.
“The Benedictine Oblate Community:Director – Sister Eileen Heaps, OSBAdministrative Assistant – Deborah Fancher, Obl.S.B.Refreshment Coordinator – Volunteer neededCoffee Man – Ed Ix, Obl.S.B.Treasurer – Susan Ragan, Obl.S.B.Newsletter Editor – Margarite Arrighi, Obl.S.B.” OSBVA Oblate Newsletter Fall, 2005(The Sherpas!)
“God has led me many places. It is because of His direction that I now have the Benedictine Sisters…as my friend(s), for which I am most grateful. When I became an Oblate…it was a moving experience…I mentioned to one of my friends that I almost cried. Her reply was that that was all right as she had cried for me.” Juanita Oliver, Obl.S.B. “I am most impressed with the depth of faith and shared desire to grow in faith of all who are a part of the Oblate groups. I have appreciated the maturity and depth of meeting presentations and the faith sharing that follows. The cohesiveness of fellowship also speaks to the quality of leadership Kathy and Sister Charlotte embody, truly of the Benedictine spirit…a servant leadership sensitive to the diversity of the group.” Sharon Watkins, Oblate Novice
“A major milestone in my spiritual journey! The ceremony was beautifully done and the experience will be a special memory for years to come.” Eugene Epperly, Obl.S.B.“As I looked around the chapel at the Sisters, new Oblates, and Candidates, I felt a surge of emotions. To be in that place and to be accepted was a humbling experience. I will try by prayer, example and counsel to be a blessing to the Benedictine Sisters and the Oblates…” Gillian Quintana, Obl.S.B.
“So let us begin (this new Oblate year) in God’s name, and with God’s help, and with the encouragement of one another.” Sister Anita Sherwood, OSB“Putting her education together with her marvelous faithful life-experience as a Benedictine Sister, it is obvious that (Sister Anita) has much to offer the Oblates and is eagerly looking forward to the experience… Katherine…loves all things Benedictine, attends the Oblate Directors’ meetings and keeps all her fingers and toes immersed in Benedictine experiences!” The Bristow Bulletin
“I sought out community specifically as an Oblate …because I needed the wisdom and support of a committed and prayerful group to help me find God and a passion for the Gospel in my very ordinary life. It seemed that this was the core of the…Rule, somehow allowing the daily to transform us.” Diane Hastings, Obl.S.B.“It is comforting to know we are not alone in our striving. When I look around the room at our meetings I see other(s), just like me, wanting to grow closer to God and become all God created us to be.” Almita Bey-Carrion, Obl.S.B.
“Benedictines, be they oblates or vowed, possess a zeal and desire to hear and live by the wisdom of Saint Benedict and the wisdom of the Rule which is an expression of the Gospel life.” Sister Charlotte Lee, OSB“Ever since I made the decision to become an oblate, Ive worked hard to give this way of looking at the world and living it with a Benedictine spirit priority in my life. When Sister Cecilia asked if I would be willing to act as Co- Director with Sister Anita, I was overwhelmed. I felt as if Christmas had come early and Santa had given me everything on my list!! As the years pass and I have had an in-depth opportunity to experience the gift of working with Sr. Anita, Sr. Charlotte Lee and all those who are walking the Benedictine path of oblation, I still feel as if everything on my wish list continues to be answered. However, Ive come to believe that it is those Holy Twins, Benedict and Scholastica, not Santa, who are sending the wonderful people of Benedictine oblation into my life.” Katherine Frick, Obl.S.B. (Jake, Sister, Elwood, and Kathy!)
November, 2007, attended by 48 Oblates, Oblate Novices, and friends. Sister Cecilia Dwyer, Prioress, gave three conferences on “Hospitality of the Heart”.Rita Zimmermann made her Oblation during Midday Prayer.
Oblate Survey - 2008How do you see yourself sharing your spirituality with others…?“…by modeling the framework of Benedictinism – prayer first, tasks of everyday life second.”“By example and action – striving to live every day without hurt or injury to others, strengthening my spiritual life, and prayer.”“…’Listen with the ear of your heart’…continues to draw me into the deepest meaning of hospitality.”“Educate regarding Lectio Divina, spirit of the Benedictines, living simply, working on areas of hospitality and beauty in surroundings. Working on issues of justice and equity in dealings with clients and co- workers.”
Overheard as one of the Sisters was introducing an Oblate to a visitor – “This is (Jane Doe). She is a member of our community, she’s one of our Oblates.” December, 2008 “Let us praise our God – and give thanks for all His blessings. May the Divine assistance remain always with us – and with our absent sisters and brothers.” Closing of the Sisters’ Liturgy of the Hours (including the word “brothers” in specific reference to their Oblates)
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Rule of Benedict, the Oblate Advisory Council of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia exists to advise the Oblate Director(s) by facilitating the sharing of the oblates’ ideas about programs, formation, service, activities, and communication.Members of the Inaugural Council (2008-2010): Sister Charlotte Lee, OSB, and Katherine Frick, Obl.S.B., Oblate Co-Directors Bedford Deanery: Oblates Sharon Burrow and Rita Zimmermann Bristow Deanery: Deborah Fancher, Obl.S.B. Nevada Deanery: Oblates Almita Bey-Carrion and Lin Wilder Richmond Deanery: Oblates Patricia Hartsock and Catherine Nolte Evans
Oblate Survey - 2008What is one aspect of Benedictine living that has most influenced your life?“Simplicity and room for quiet contemplation which enables us to hear God. Both are counter-cultural in our noisy, frantic and materialistic world.”“A life of balance based on true humility.”“The Rule, experienced, studied and practiced in community, has given me life and brought me close to God.”“I take comfort in the fact that in monasteries throughout…the world prayers are being offered…I can also participate by…praying the Divine Office and feel connected to these holy people who have committed themselves unreservedly to the Lord.”
“Prayer, work, community, listening – Benedictine virtues all – pervade the entire monastery experience. What a wonderful opportunity it is to share in the wisdom, joy, worship, and good works of this Benedictine monastery.” Margarite Arrighi, Obl.S.B. “Oblates are lay persons who commit themselves to living the Benedictine Rule as best they can in their lay life. The monastery of their oblation becomes their spiritual home.” The Bristow Bulletin
Whoever you may be, then, in your eagerness to reachyour Father’s home in heaven, be faithful with Christ’shelp to this small Rule which is only a beginning. RB 73
Listen, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher. Attend to the messageyou hear and make sure that it pierces to your heart, so that you may acceptwith willing freedom and fulfill by the way you live the directions that comefrom your loving Father. RB Prologue
My words are addressed to youespecially, whoever you may be, whateveryour circumstances, who turn from thepursuit of your own self-will and ask to enlistunder Christ, Who is Lord of all, by followingHim through taking to yourself that strongand blessed armor of obedience which Hemade His own on coming into our world. RB Prologue
They should value nothing whateverabove Christ Himself and may Hebring us all together to eternal life. RB 72