Genesis House brings a new beginning to Habitat for Humanity

The Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict in St. Joseph handed over the keys of Genesis House to members of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity in December. The transfer of the property ended with a prayer service to bless the home, the workers who will renovate it and the family who will come to live there.

Originally the property, built in 1926, was purchased by the sisters in 1950 and accommodated lay staff from the College of St. Benedict. Over time, the need shifted to housing chaplains, a charismatic prayer group and, most recently, Benedictine sisters.

Sister Patricia Ruether, assistant director of mission advancement and a resident of Genesis House since 2011, was pleased to see it become part of the monastery’s social justice outreach, a particular focus of hers as well.

“Last year we couldn’t hold the Nun Banquet, our Lenten soup supper that raises funds for the Central Minnesota chapter of Habitat for Humanity,” she said, “so we gave them a house instead.

“Eight years ago when my group moved there, it was a new beginning for us,” she said. “Because we didn’t want our home to be just a number, No. 103, we named it Genesis House. Now it’ll be a new beginning for a young family.”

From left: Eileen Bitzan, in client and homeowner services for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, talks with Benedictine Prioress Susan Rudolph as Sister Karen Streveler, monastery treasurer, approaches Genesis House before for the ceremonial transfer of keys and prayer service to bless the house. (photo courtesy of the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict in St. Joseph)

In October 2019, after Sister Patricia and her housemates returned to live at the main campus, the monastery began discerning the best use for the property within their core Benedictine values — awareness of God and the Gospel message, hospitality, building community, caring for God’s creation. Donating Genesis House to Habitat for Humanity fulfills all of these values.

“For us, making Genesis House available to Habitat is a way to share the wealth we’ve been given. Through our outreach, many of our benefactors can be part of helping others, even if donors don’t write that actual check,” Sister Patricia said.

“Habitat for Humanity is a good steward of the land, and this property is a boon because they don’t need to purchase the lot or start building from scratch, both of which make it hard to offer affordable homes.”

Before the family can be move in, some renovation needs to be completed — removing old cabinets and carpeting and adding egress for a new basement bedroom. Due to the restrictions of COVID, work on the home is halted until volunteers can safely work indoors.

“St. Benedict’s Monastery co-sponsored the first Habitat family in St. Joseph in 2006,” Sister Patricia said. “We’re so happy to welcome this young family to St. Joseph and know they’ll enjoy Genesis House’s yard and garden as much as their new home.”

To read the blessing and prayer service that transferred Genesis House to Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, visit

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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