By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
On April 8, the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict sponsored a free concert by the Rose Ensemble at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to honor and celebrate their community’s centennial.
“It is so wonderful to see such a full and happy, joyous crowd here this evening,” Sister Shawn Carruth, Prioress of Mount Saint Benedict said, addressing the crowd of around 400 gathered for the concert. “We are pleased to be able to simply offer this to you as part of our centennial celebration.”
She spoke about the community’s foundress, Mother Eustacia Beyenka. As a young sister at the monastery in Duluth, Minnesota, Sister Eustacia was sent to study Gregorian Chant. In May 1919, Bishop Timothy Corbett, the first bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, asked her to lead a new community in his diocese.
“For many years at Mount Saint Benedict, Mother Eustacia herself directed and trained the sisters in the schola in this style of singing which we call Gregorian Chant. For at least the first half of our history, Gregorian Chant was at the core of our liturgical celebrations,” Sister Shawn said. “I think being able to sponsor this musical event in our centennial year should be very pleasing to the spirit of Mother Eustacia. Once she said, ‘Sisters, if ever the love for music or the beauty of Gregorian Chant dies out among you, you may look for me in these corridors for I will come back to haunt you!’”
The Rose Ensemble was founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Jordan Sramek. The group is in their 23rd and final season. They have performed across the United States, Europe and Latin America with a repertoire spanning 1,000 years and 25 languages. To learn more, visit www.roseensemble.org.
Eight vocalists and two guest instrumentalists captivated the crowd performing sacred music composed or inspired by Benedictine monks and sisters in the 1600s. The singers were Chelsie Propst, Phoebe Rosquist, Alyssa Anderson, Raquel Winnica, Garrett Eucker, Bradley King, Jordan Sramek and Daniel Mahrun. They were accompanied by Paula Fagerberg on the Italian-Baroque triple harp and Michael Asmus on the positiv organ.
Sister Marmion Karels, a sister of Mount Saint Benedict for 67 years, enjoyed the performance and the many connections the pieces had to her experience of monastic life throughout the years.
“Being at the Mount for high school, Gregorian Chant is something I have kind of grown up with,” she said. “Then, after high school, staying and joining the community and belonging to the schola, I just love Gregorian Chant.”
She appreciated the portions of the Rule of St. Benedict and stories of the lives of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica that were read by members of the Rose Ensemble between performing pieces of music. One of the stories was about a yearly visit St. Benedict paid to his sister, St. Scholastica, at her monastery. She begged him to stay longer, and when he declined, she appealed to God. St. Benedict was trapped at the monastery overnight by a storm too severe for travel.
“In my teaching at the grade school, we performed the little skit about Benedict and Scholastica almost every year on the feast of St. Scholastica,” Sister Marmion said. “The students dressed up as Benedict and Scholastica. That’s just been part of my whole life.”
The concert also connected with her current experience praying Liturgy of the Hours in community.
“As they were singing, and the English translations were on the sides [of the program], I noticed that they sang many of the things that we prayed at 5 o’clock prayer tonight,” said Sister Marmion. Lines including “God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me” and the Gloria Patir, or Glory Be stood out to her during the performance.
Teresa Cymbaluk, a parishioner of Cathedral, was a graduate of Mount Saint Benedict’s final class.
She enjoyed the performance.
“It’s amazing to be able to bring them here to Crookston,” she said.
She was also grateful for the high attendance and opportunity to celebrate the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict.
“They are such a beautiful group of women. It’s wonderful to celebrate them,” she said.
On September 15, the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict are holding another public Centennial Celebration including Mass and a reception at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.