Benedictine sisters elect Sister Karen Rose as new prioress

By Kristi Anderson

The Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict in St. Joseph elected Benedictine Sister Karen Rose as their 18th prioress Feb. 25 at Sacred Heart Chapel.

Sister Karen, 66, is from Manchester, England. She entered the monastery in St. Joseph in 2007 and made perpetual monastic profession on July 11, 2012. She currently serves as the director of mission advancement at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph. Her professional background is in nursing.

Sister Karen Rose, right, during the brief rite of acceptance of election. At left is Sister Susan Rudolph. (photo by Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer)

Sister Karen said that she knew she could potentially be among those selected for prioress but was stunned when her name was announced.

“It has been a very beautiful and holy process,” said Sister Karen following the election. “I knew it could be me, but nothing prepared me for how it felt when it actually happened. I am so honored that my community has chosen me, and I hope I can serve them in a way they deserve.”

The prioress serves as spiritual leader of the community, which currently has 157 sisters. She also acts as chief executive officer of the corporation and represents the monastery on the corporate board of the College of St. Benedict and the corporate board of St. Cloud Hospital, two institutions founded by St. Benedict’s Monastery.

Sister Karen said she would describe her leadership style as collaborative.

“We have such a wealth of talents and experience in this community,” she said. “I accept that I am the leader and the buck will stop with me. But I don’t feel I’ve got to do that on my own. I just really believe I am supported by the whole community of wonderful women.”

Through a canonical election process that began in October 2022, the community, through prayer and discussion, identified seven women to be considered for the role of prioress. In a two-day chapter process that began Feb. 24, the sisters gathered to hear the stories of the women, ask them questions and pray together to discern a new leader.

Benedictine Sister Nicole Kunze, vice president of the Monastic Congregation of Saint Benedict and prioress of Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, North Dakota, presided over the election. Typically, the president would preside, but because Sister Nancy Bauer, a member of St. Benedict’s Monastery, currently serves as president of the Monastic Congregation, she instead participated in the election as a community member.

Sister Nancy explained that, in December, the community developed direction statements for the years covering the term of the prioress which, for them, is six years.

“The direction statements are brief descriptions of what we wish to focus on for these six years. We had another meeting in January in which we talked about the qualities we need to have in a prioress at this time, and we named sisters who have these qualities. Finally, we came together this past Friday and Saturday to discern more deeply about which sister the Holy Spirit is calling forth to be our next prioress. We are very conscious that the Spirit is leading us in this decision. When we come to consensus around a particular sister, we hold the official election,” Sister Nancy explained.

Sister Christine Manderfeld, 84, has been through many elections in her 60-plus years as part of the community and was filled with emotion following the election.

The sisters bless Sister Karen following her election. (photo by Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer)

“It is such a beautiful, prayerful process,” she said. “I feel so loved by my sisters and I know [Sister Karen] feels loved. The whole process of discussion, asking them questions and their beautiful openness to sharing with us, I wish everyone could hear it. We are so blessed.”

For Sister Laura Suhr, who made her perpetual monastic profession in July 2022, this was her first time through the election process.

“I am very happy to be a part of this and experience the wonderful trust the community has in this whole process,” she said. “Sister Susan [Rudolph] has done a wonderful job, and I think Sister Karen will do a wonderful job, too.”

“I felt a great sense of unity within our community and a deep love for each other,” Sister Nancy added. “The election of Sister Karen was a moment of great joy for me. She is a good, kind and spiritual person. She is down-to-earth, humorous, smart and Benedictine to the core.”

Sister Karen will succeed Sister Susan Rudolph, who has served as prioress since 2017, when she is installed June 4 at Sacred Heart Chapel.

“One of my priorities will be to be a spiritual leader for both the women here and the people we connect with in the greater world,” Sister Karen said. “I want them to become the best person they can be, the person God wants them to be. Although we are a very small part of the world, what each of us does really matters.”

Top photo: Benedictine Sister Nicole Kunze, vice president of the Monastic Congregation of St. Benedict, presided at the election and the rite. Here she is pinning a corsage on Sister Karen. Sister Nicole is prioress of Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, N.D. She presided at the election because the president of the monastic congregation cannot preside at elections in her own community. (photo by Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer)

This story was updated Feb. 26, 2023.

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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