Obituary: Benedictine Sister Phyllis (Dunstan) Plantenberg

Benedictine Sister Phyllis (Dunstan) Plantenberg, 95, died Oct. 10 at St. Scholastica Convent, St. Cloud. The Eucharist of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 15,  at the Sacred Heart Chapel, St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, with burial in the monastery cemetery.

Friends may call at St. Scholastica Convent on Thursday, Oct. 14, for a prayer service at 1 p.m., followed by visitation until 4:15 p.m., or for a vigil prayer service at 7 p.m. at St. Benedict’s Monastery. Visitation continues at 9 a.m. until the time of the funeral on Oct. 15.

Phyllis Plantenberg was born Feb. 27, 1926, to Bernard and Evelyn (Thompson) Plantenberg in St. Cloud, the third of six children. She entered St. Benedict’s Monastery on Sept. 3, 1948, was received into the novitiate June 15, 1949, as Sister Dunstan, made first monastic profession on July 11, 1950, and perpetual monastic profession on July 11, 1953. In 1984, she reverted to her baptismal name. She celebrated her golden jubilee in 2000 and her diamond jubilee in 2010.

Sister Phyllis attended Holy Angels Grade School and Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and philosophy at the College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph. At Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin., she earned a master’s degree in ecology.

Many summers were spent in National Science Foundation-funded research and study. She also attended St. Cloud State University, St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota, St. John’s University in Collegeville, the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Drew University of Madison, New Jersey, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the University of Washington in Pullman and Shoals Marine Laboratory in the Gulf of Maine. She traveled to New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska and the Bahamas.

Sister Phyllis taught high school science at St. Benedict’s High School in St. Joseph, St. Boniface High School in Cold Spring and later at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. Most of her classes were taught at St. John’s University. She was chairperson of the biology department and spent a semester on sabbatical at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Sister Phyllis remained a member the faculty of CSB until retiring in August of 1996.

Time spent at Genesis Farm in New Jersey gave her a background to develop the Common Ground project at St. Benedict’s Monastery, which provided fresh, chemical-free vegetables and built community. In 1995 she became director of Common Ground and was also food production consultant.

Sister Phyllis was hostess for the Benedictine Life Experience, a member of the World Justice/New Jubilee Committee, Minnesota Land Trust, and Healthy Community Partners. After retiring from CSB, she was property manager of St. Benedict’s Monastery, as well as continuing her work with Common Ground and ensuring that the 26 acres of oak savannah at St. Scholastica Convent were monitored and protected forever. She also reintroduced beekeeping at St. Benedict’s Monastery. and helped found the St. Joseph Farmers Market.

Sister Phyllis is survived by her Benedictine community, a sister, Elizabeth (Betty) Wolney, and many nieces and nephews. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by brothers, Bernard, Donald and Paul, and her sister, Patricia Leisenheimer.

Please direct memorial gifts to the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict Outreach Ministries.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Leave a Reply