Saint Joseph, Minnesota – On June 4th, 2023, Sister Karen Rose was officially installed as the 18th prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Saint Joseph, Minnesota. The installation, which occurred at the monastery’s historic Sacred Heart Chapel, marked the beginning of Sister Karen’s six-year term as prioress.
The selection of the succeeding prioress is a careful one, made by a collective election by the 157 Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict. According to Sister Karen, a prioress is a caretaker for souls – a humbling description that signifies the trust that her community has placed in Sister Karen by electing her to this role.
“As prioress, it is important to me to help all the sisters in the community to live their lives as monastics to the fullest and deepest extent that they can, and to help them grow in their journey towards God,” said Sister Karen Rose.
Prioress Sister Karen is not only considered the spiritual leader and chief executive officer of the Saint Benedict monastic community, but she will also tend to the important relationships that the monastery maintains with various groups and organizations. Most notably, she will represent the monastery on the corporate board of the College of Saint Benedict and the Saint Cloud Hospital. She is tasked with demonstrating a sensitive approach to leadership that always puts the gospel message and Benedictine hospitality first.
The College of Saint Benedict is the sister school to Saint John’s University, the institution which commissioned the creation of The Saint John’s Bible.The Saint John’s Bible is a singular achievement: the complete text of the Bible, written on calfskin vellum using traditional tools and inks. As a work of sacred art, it ignites the spiritual imagination of all those who view its pages. The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, limited to 299 seven-volume sets, was created to allow more communities to experience the work. It is true to the scale, beauty, and artistic intent of the original manuscript.
Born and raised in England, Sister Karen was thrilled when she learned that the chief scribe of The Saint John’s Bible, Donald Jackson, came from Wales. She feels very strongly that the work can be used as a means of contemplation to reflect on the values of Saint Benedict’s Monastery and plans to integrate the text into her community work as prioress.
“I just love the whole concept of The Saint John’s Bible,” said Sister Karen. “To take an ancient monastic art and do something so beautiful and so wonderful with it is such a wonderful thing to do in this day and age.”
Stepping Into the Role
Having joined the Monastery in 2007, Sister Karen Rose considered the possibility of being elected as prioress, but nothing could have prepared her for the overwhelmingly grateful feeling of being chosen for the honorable position.
Sister Karen remembers feeling incredibly supported by the monastic community after being elected as the 18th prioress. Current Prioress Sister Susan Rudolph, the 17th prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, has made the transition of tasks easy for the new prioress. Since the announcement of Sister Karen’s election in January 2023, the sisters have met repeatedly for what they fondly refer to as “prioress lessons,” which helped to familiarize Sister Karen with the role. Though their personalities differ, both Sister Susan and Sister Karen demonstrate a deep commitment to caring for one’s community, making for a seamless transition.
Answering the Call
After Sister Karen Rose earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and theology, she gained valuable experience that would one day aid her in the position of prioress. She entered the healthcare field post-graduation, working as a nurse of general medicine and surgery. Later, she obtained a master’s degree in medical social anthropology and went on to earn her Ph.D. in the field. She then served as a nurse researcher at Manchester University, a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and professor of nursing Staffordshire University.
Though her work in healthcare was gratifying, Sister Karen felt a pull towards joining a monastic community that became too strong to ignore. After visiting a Benedictine monastery in England for a retreat, Sister Karen felt ready to embrace the call to her monastic pursuits wholeheartedly.
Newly inspired, Sister Karen enrolled in a program with the Studium of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, where she was granted access to the college library, and an office space. Sister Karen officially joined the Monastery in 2007.
It didn’t take Sister Karen long at all to thrive in the community, eventually taking on the role of Director of Mission Advancement. Sister Karen’s time as Director allowed her to explore all areas of the Monastery, learning to understand the functions of communicating with and generating a list of dependable contacts. Based on her 16 years at the monastery, Sister Karen feels immense pride in her community’s ability to care for each other and use their gifts as instruments to better the world around them.
“We have so many sisters in the monastery who have so done many amazing things and have many different gifts,” said Sister Karen. “I am confident that together, we are stronger.”
In the following six years that will complete her term, Sister Karen plans to apply and practice the Benedictine value of stewardship, helping to spread the gospel message to the world and illuminate the monastery’s vibrant and vital community.
The Saint John’s Bible: An Invitation for Community
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