St. Agnes Monastery

St. Agnes Monastery
Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes | photo found at

Unique Experiences

It was heartbreaking for me to leave Chipole so suddenly.  Our unexpected departure left little time to say all of the goodbyes and thank yous that were owed—to leave the people and the place that had become our home.  Under the circumstances, however, I am so thankful to be home among friends, family, and familiarity.  It has been the silver lining in our return early. 

When we learned we would have to return early, Maggie and I asked to continue our service at the St. Benedict’s Monastery to finish our ten month commitment to the Benedictine Women’s Service Corp.  The sisters readily agreed, welcoming us to share 2 months with their community.  Since then, we have been hard at work!  I enjoy the variety of service we get to do—gardening, housecleaning, grounds work, Mondays at St. Scholastica, and in downtown St. Joe.  It keeps things new and I am able to meet and learn about so many members of the community.  From all of their wisdom and life experiences, I think I learn ten new things each day. 

So with this unexpected end to our year of service, Maggie and I have had the unique opportunity to live and participate in two Benedictine communities—St. Agnes and St. Benedict’s.  Inevitably, our brains have tried to link the two experiences as we try to make the transition back home as smooth as possible.  It has been interesting to see that in some ways, the communities are incomparable.  I think that has much to do with the cultures in which they operate in.  Tanzanian culture differs drastically from American.  St. Ben’s, therefore, operates efficiently, is always on time, and emphasizes communication.  St. Agnes is slower paced and as a result more flexible with time.  Having worked in the two cultures I can truthfully say that there are values in both!  On the other hand, there are many consistencies between both communities.  The hospitality we received as guests in Chipole continued as we were welcomed to the community at St. Ben’s.  The sisters’ commitment to religious life and to serving others is inspiring both here and there.  I have captured some of these consistent and not-so-consistent experiences between the two communities that I think will demonstrate how our brains are working overtime to connect the two unique experiences. 

 The graveyards

The graves are raised in Chipole and decorated with planted flowers.  The children from the orphanage came to bless each grave each afternoon with holy water.  The graves at St. Ben’s are evenly placed and lay in a beautiful cemetery just outside the Sacred Heart Chapel. 

Planting trees

Maggie and I helped plant ten acres of trees with Sister Tuzinde in Chipole.  This is an avocado tree planted by Ed and Julie Niebur.  At St. Ben’s I helped Sister Philip transplant trees along Vista Lane.  This is a Colorado Blue Spruce I believe.

Playing cards

We taught Father Damas to play Yahtzee and Farkle in Chipole.  He was a natural!  At St. Ben’s I’ve learned to play Bridge and 500.  Here, Sister Angelo and Sister Joyce are beating Maggie and I at 500.  They are good!


 Maggie and I had a small section of one of the gardens in Chipole.  We planted carrots, cabbage, watermelon, and tomatoes.  At St. Ben’s we get to help Sister Elizabeth in her flower garden on Tuesdays.  We are professional “quack attackers” working on ridding her garden of quack grass.

Break time

Break time in Chipole was usually 10 a.m. tea.  When we were out in the shamba (tree farm) we had break time with Sister Tuzinde in her grass hut.  She would make popcorn, cooked corn, or cooked pumpkins!  At St. Ben’s we never miss a break time when we are working in housekeeping or the physical plant.  Peanut butter toast is a break time favorite and we get to enjoy it with many of the sisters!

Favorite spot

We got to walk this road every day to school in Chipole.  It was one of the most beautiful spots I found.  Some days the children would run from the orphanage to escort us down this road.  Vista Lane at St. Ben’s has always been a special place for me.  The sisters have really made it beautiful the past few years. 

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