The Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict are reaffirming their policy not to promote the sainthood process for any of their own members, despite efforts by some others to promote the cause of Benedictine Sister Annella Zervas.
“As Benedictines, we do not promote one sister above another, disseminate devotional books or materials related to any sister, or actively support canonization of individual sisters,” the sisters said in an Oct. 27 statement signed by Benedictine Sister Susan Rudolph, prioress of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, and Benedictine Sister Karen Rose, director of mission advancement.
“We revere all our deceased sisters and pray that each one of them, including Sister Annella, may rest in peace,” the statement added.
Anna Cordelia Zervas was born in Moorhead, Minnesota, in 1900. She became a novice with the Benedictine sisters in 1918, taking the name Sister Annella. After making first monastic profession a year later, she was assigned to teach music at St. Mary’s School in Bismarck, North Dakota, according to a story about her published in The Visitor in 1989.
Within a year after making perpetual monastic profession in 1922, she developed a rare skin disease that the Mayo Clinic said was incurable. With the prioress’ permission, Sister Annella’s mother cared for her daughter at the family home in Moorhead. Sister Annella died on Aug. 14, 1926, and was buried in the monastic cemetery.
Following her death, there were reports of alleged cures or favors granted through her intercession, although they were never substantiated by church authorities.
The bishop of the diocese in which the person died is responsible for beginning any sainthood investigation, and no bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese began the process in Sister Annella’s case. Bishop Donald Kettler said he supports the decision by St. Benedict’s Monastery.
“I think this is a wise policy,” he said. “While I appreciate the passion of those who desire to advocate for Sister Annella’s cause, the sisters have again affirmed their long-held position on this matter. I agree with that decision and would discourage further pursuit of the cause.”
In their statement about Sister Annella, the sisters said they “highly respect her and acknowledge that she suffered greatly and expressed a great love for God.”
“It is our belief that many holy women are buried in this cemetery,” they said, noting that all of these sisters faced a variety of challenges, joys and sorrows. “We cherish the memory of all our deceased sisters and believe that the saints are known to God.”