Sister Simone Campbell at the formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery

HolyWisdomMonasteryExteriorFor the last couple of weeks I have been collecting testimonies from local Catholic friends of mine, regarding why Catholics should not support Holy Wisdom Monastery, once a Catholic Benedictine religious community but not anymore, and now a very religiously irregular place. Included are testimonies from someone who was a board member there shortly before they “went non canonical”, someone who heard from friends who were alumni of the former St Benedict’s Academy girls’ school (which was run by the Benedictine Sisters on that property decades ago) about their discomfort when there was a woman “saying Mass” at their reunion, someone who went to summer camp there in the 60’s, and many more, including of course many from Catholics who have never been there but feel strongly based on the facts of the matter. The introduction to the “testimonies” document reads:

A few months ago, I noticed and became concerned about various men and women members of religious orders lending support to a place that no local parish Catholic I personally know thinks Catholics should support–the formerly Catholic Benedictine monastery where the Sisters left their vows and gave up the Catholic status of their group, now renamed Holy Wisdom Monastery–before I heard about a high profile Sister, Simone Campbell, going to give a reflection at one of their services and do a joint fundraiser with Holy Wisdom. From the perspective of a local Catholic, that’s outrageous! But there are many Catholics who haven’t heard how problematic Holy Wisdom Monastery is, so I thought of doing an educational project. I contacted local Catholic friends and asked them to explain why they felt Catholics shouldn’t support Holy Wisdom Monastery, which they did. There was no specific organization nor online community involved in this, and we claim no expertise on the Holy Wisdom situation. These testimonies were collected in February 2013, purely as a grassroots lay initiative. The Catholic Diocese of Madison has information about the status of Holy Wisdom Monastery on its website madisondiocese.org, essential for understanding the matter. This project is not aimed at attacking anyone nor debating politics, and we’ve joined to it much prayer for everyone’s good.

My friend who had also been with me to the Janesville “Nuns on the Bus” stop to bring a religious freedom and pro-life message to Sister Simone Campbell and her fellow bus Sisters, took these testimonies to Holy Wisdom today, where none other than Sister Simone Campbell was present to give a reflection at their Ash Wednesday service (see WI State Journal article announcing this).  So I’m going to tell you in this post what happened.

I described in a recent blog post the problem with “Holy Wisdom”, and followed up on that with details about “Womenpriests” activity there (and more recently learned of an actual Women’s Ordination Conference board meeting and a fundraising event for that organization, that were held there).  The Diocese of Madison’s information on Holy Wisdom is the really essential reading, though, and you can find that here.

My friend “J” dropped me off and then went back to the driveway on the edge of the public road where she stood peacefully and legally distributing the testimonies to some of the people in vehicles who were either coming or going. When I arrived, to my surprise right away one of the two Catholic Benedictine Women (they also have a protestant Sister, Lynn Smith, whom I did not speak with. I was meeting them for the first time so it does not stick in my head well which one first recognized me–I think it was Sr Mary David Walgenbach but I could be wrong) approached me and asked if I was the one with the blog–and had obviously read the article The Problem With Holy Wisdom Monastery! I said yes I do have a blog. The other Sister was there and she told her “she’s the one with the blog,” until she realized what that meant.

“Was it accurate?” I asked.

“It depends on your point of view!”

“Well, some of it is a matter of facts.” But they did not seem to want to get into it.

Sister said I was welcome, which I appreciated and thanked them sincerely. I gave them each a copy of the testimonies in a manila envelope without explanation, and Sr Joanne took Sr Mary David’s in hand. I think it was Sr Joanne Kollasch who asked if I went to St Paul’s, I said I used to but I belong to the Cathedral Parish now. I asked where they go to Mass.

“Here.” (I think this was Sr Joanne)

“There’s no Mass here,” I said (Bishop Morlino has forbidden it. They have a lay led “eucharist” service they call “Sunday Assembly”). She looked uncomfortable and I added something about being in full Communion is good and said “The Holy Father was [he still is, but I said was] all about Communion.” I let them know we pray for them, and they said they pray for the people in Madison too.

I wandered around, looked at brochures and displays. There was a cabinet of nametags of the congregation’s regulars, with many many of them having pieces of rainbow ribbon affixed. There was a table full of 2013 Lenten reflection booklets you could buy for $2, by Green Bay Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Mourneau, who I happen to know is beloved by dissenters on “women’s ordination” for his support of that belief among other things. There were all kinds of brochures on activities at Holy Wisdom. There was, of course, a display relating to the local pro-union group that Holy Wisdom and Sister Simone’s NETWORK Lobby are doing joint fundraisers with tonight and tomorrow.

JimatJanesvilleNunsontheBusStopThen someone I knew approached me! This is Jim, who I first met when he was one of those manning a HW-affiliated “Pax Christi” booth at the Farmer’s Market on Capitol Square last spring. They were collecting petitions for the “Nun Justice Project”, an initiative of a coalition of dissent groups (Call to Action etc etc) to support dissenting LCWR Sisters against the Church which hopes to win them back to Catholic fidelity. The idea was to collect signatures “in support of nuns” and then send it to the Nuncio etc. Everyone likes nuns and wants to support them. People signing had no idea the people collecting the signatures were associated with a former-LCWR community of Sisters that actually left their vows and gave up the Catholic status of their group and now have a lay-led “eucharist” and host an assortment of groups (Call to Action, Women’s Ordination Conference, the pro-homosexuality group Dignity) focused on dissent within the Catholic Church. Jim and I had a long conversation that day. The picture above is not from that day at the Farmer’s Market nor from today, but rather was taken when I met him at the Nuns on the Bus stop in Janesville!! Though, today he was wearing exactly the same shirt bearing the name of an organization important to many at Holy Wisdom, so it is a fitting picture of him. I’ve thought of Jim from time to time and prayed for him, and let him know that. I asked him if he’s involved with the Women’s Ordination Conference. He said no, but when I said I saw a Jim (last name omitted) posting about some event of theirs at Holy Wisdom he acknowledged he’d helped advertise things for them. I gave him the testimonies too (he’s mentioned in mine, though not by name). He is a friendly guy.

HolyWisdomGatheringforService

When I went into the I went into the chapel, and glancing around I saw the person who I mentioned in a previous post is a staff person at a local parish, sitting with their spouse who had on a nametag as a member of the HW congregation. I gave them a copy of the testimonies (and after the service this person approached and gave me a business card and asked if we can talk about it which I agreed). They’re in the photo above, but not recognizable.  Please pray.

I was sitting next to a nice Catholic woman from India, first initial R. I quite liked her, she was unhappy with the Church for a particular reason but her Faith is important to her and she loves the Blessed Mother, she also said she twice hosted Brother Roger of Taize in her own home when he went to India to see Mother Teresa, we had a warm and enjoyable conversation. I gave her the testimonies too. She asked me to pray for her.

HolyWisdomServiceReader

It was Sister Mary David Walgenbach, in white chasuble, who was the presider of the service. Maybe they only have one chasuble? Happily, there was no altar table: it would not be a communion service. The opening hymn was one I never heard before, “Slowly Turning, Ever Turning” by Delores Dufner, OSB. The lyrics are neither heretical nor specifically Christian. They indeed say “in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier”. There was a first reading, responsorial psalm, and second reading (shown above). Then Sister Simone got up and read the Gospel, shown below (a lot of people don’t realize that although the Church says Sisters should have some kind of specific habit, they seem to have a lot of leeway about what that is, and for some of them their habit is a particular medal. That’s what that is, a Sisters of Social Service medallion):

SrSimoneHolyWisdomMonasteryReadingGospel

At this point someone asked me not to take pictures during the service, and I was obedient. I didn’t go there to be disruptive or do anything wrong. The Gospel was Luke 4:14-21, which I strongly suspect had less to do with Lent than it was just what they most wanted to hear Sister Simone read. Then she gave her reflection. She started off saying, significantly, that she’d arrived in Middleton this morning and to get there they’d gone through JANESVILLE. And a big cheer went up! That was apparently the best attended and most energetic of the Nuns on the Bus stops (see Jim’s picture above for photo proof that the HW folks were there). I didn’t cheer but I could have, I was there too! There was not that much to the rest of her reflection, there was something about “we are being given gifts, that sometimes I would rather give back unopened” which made me think of the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, and reflected (“bless me, brothers and Sisters, I have sinned”) that she has “defined” a few people in a negative way but “the list probably doesn’t include me” (insofar as she was saying it is necessary to examine ourselves, wholeheartedly agreed, one of the most important preparations my friend and I made was we both went to confession soon before going to this), the second half of her brief reflection my mind was wandering.

The ashes were distributed. I was simply observing this service, and I already went to Mass this morning and still had smudges on my head. After that, there were some intercessions, and they prayed “the Prayer of Jesus” which is a genderless and simplified revision of the Our Father: “Holy One, our only Home, blessed be your name…”. Then they sang a perfectly good Catholic Lenten hymn, “Again We Keep This Solemn Fast” and the service was over. As noted above, then a certain person came up to me and wanted to meet with me at a later time.

Sister Simone was standing in the sanctuary chatting with people, and I approached her with a manila envelope of the testimonies, on which I’d written “Sister Simone”. I shook her hand and said it was from some people in Madison who love her, which is very much how I feel, and she smiled and thanked me. That’s all, even as indisputably wrong as it was, from a Catholic perspective, for her to support Holy Wisdom Monastery, I didn’t come to condemn anyone nor get into any debate, and saying that we love Sister Simone and leaving it at that, felt entirely right.

I went out and found my courageous and faithful and treasured friend continuing to hand out testimonies to departing drivers. As we drove off, we thanked God together that we were able to do a little to try to inform people and do for some the charity of fraternal correction, and asked for His mercy on all of us.

17 Responses to Sister Simone Campbell at the formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery

  1. On February 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm Bob said:

    This is sad – I mean, your need to spy and post. You don’t agree – let them be. You said you were not there to disrupt, just to judge. Perhaps it is you that need to read the Gospels.

    • On February 14, 2013 at 8:30 am Elizabeth said:

      Dear Bob, advertising for the Holy Wisdom Ash Wednesday service said that all are welcome, and a sign out front said all are welcome, and when I came there one of the Sisters recognized me and let me know personally that I was welcome, and Jim who was listed in the Ash Wednesday program as a greeter and whom I knew previously and assumed would be there and recognize me, indeed also recognized me and approached me in a friendly way, I didn’t try to look into anything that wasn’t perfectly open, nor do anything to deceive, so saying I spied does not seem to fit, and I do not mind you coming to my parish and then recounting your visit on a blog. I am not anyone’s judge, but on the contrary have prayed for mercy for all, as I said, and have wanted good for everyone and I want your good too. I certainly agree I should read the Gospels.

    • On February 14, 2013 at 9:40 am Michael Schumacher said:

      Christ teaches us in the holy Gospel that we must “Go therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20, cf. Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47).

      Unfortunately, sometimes spreading the Faith includes the very unpleasant work of exposing the lies and deceptions of heretics, schismatics, apostates and other dissenters, in order that more unsuspecting persons may not fall into the same traps of wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

      St Augustine wrote: “You become worse than the sinner if you fail to correct him” (De Verbis Domini). St Thomas Aquinas goes on to explain: “The correction of the wrongdoer is a remedy which should be employed against a man’s sin. Now a man’s sin may be considered in two ways, first as being harmful to the sinner, secondly as conducing to the harm of others, by hurting or scandalizing them, or by being detrimental to the common good, the justice of which is disturbed by that man’s sin” (STh, II-II, xxxiii, 1).

      The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is indeed a home for sinners, and is always open to those who come to her with a humble, contrite heart, prepared to accept the undeniable, eternal Truths taught by Our Lord and guarded by His Apostles, from Sts Peter and Paul all the way up through His Holiness Benedict XVI and our diocesan bishop the Most Rev Robert Morlino.

      • On March 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm Sixtus Maximus said:

        Obedience to the One Holy Catholic Church and the Chair of St. Peter, who is Pope Francis the First is the way of the cross and Holy Sanctity. Thank You for not being the Straws that bend in the winds of Progressive Heretics!

    • On February 15, 2013 at 9:55 am James said:

      Bob, I’m looking through to find “judging” statements. Here’s what I found:

      – “to my surprise right away one of the two Catholic Benedictine Women..approached me”
      – “She looked uncomfortable”
      – “He is a friendly guy.”
      – “I was sitting next to a nice Catholic woman…I quite liked her,”
      – “Maybe they only have one chasuble? Happily, there was no altar table: it would not be a communion service.”
      – “The Gospel was Luke 4:14-21, which I strongly suspect had less to do with Lent than it was just what they most wanted to hear Sister Simone read.”
      – “Then they sang a perfectly good Catholic Lenten hymn, ‘Again We Keep This Solemn Fast'”

      What are you feeling judged about? Are you the nice guy?

    • On March 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm Sixtus Maximus said:

      This is sad Bob, That you would condone their falsely protraying themselves Benedictine Monastery. This is a huge lie, Bob! They are perverting the Holy Church! They are performing a Satanic ritual having a women performing a false mass! Giving blessings to gay marriage is a blasphemy to God. Satan is alive and working his dirty deeds at this evil wisdom circus and anyone in the Holy Catholic Church is afraid to call these Heretics out in the name of love are straws in the wind as St Paul would put it. Better read his letter to the Romans!

  2. On February 14, 2013 at 8:12 am Elizabeth Weisshaar said:

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you and Jeanne for your courageous witness and testimony to the One,True Faith! This was truly an act of love as well.
    God bless you both,
    Bette

  3. On February 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm Meatless and Muskrat Fridays said:

    [...] Girgis, Public Dscrs Many Feel Hurt & Abandoned by Pope Benedict XVI – A Reluctant Sinner Sr. Simone Campbell & Formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery – Laetificat God Can’t Save Me From the Lion’s Den – Emm. Joseph, Catholic Stand [...]

  4. On February 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm Carlos said:

    Thank you for this, it’s something to remember in my prayers now. May our Good Shepherd bring them back into the flock – and may they stop running from him.

  5. On February 16, 2013 at 9:03 am Nina said:

    Elizabeth,

    Very interesting, and very courageous on your part. Also, congratulations on making the “Best in Catholic Blogging” page on NCRegister! I was excited to see your blog there!

    God Bless,
    Nina

  6. On February 18, 2013 at 11:38 am Terry said:

    Incredible! Thanks for these posts.

    You write with great charity and clarity. I do not see you as a ‘spy’ or out to write an expose – you were free to attend the services at the ‘monastery’, you were welcomed, you were candid and identified yourself – everything was transparent. I admire that.

    God bless you.

  7. On April 15, 2013 at 5:55 am Sixtus said:

    Ever notice the Sisters who do not wear Habits or the Priest’s don’t wear there Collars, most have a rebellious nature about them especially the Sisters. Some of these Sisters and lay women want to be priests want to men and hate men! They have a problem with authority and profess a different faith far from Catholism! Dis-Obediance and Pride fill their souls instead of Humility as in the Virgin Mary, who was always Obedient to God. Their immortal souls are in the gravest of danger!

  8. On April 20, 2013 at 7:25 am Ed the Roman said:

    “Slowly Turning, Ever Turning” is heretical. Describing the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier is the heresy of Modalism, which ascribes divine actions to particular persons as if they were heads of department.

    • On April 20, 2013 at 10:29 am Elizabeth said:

      Ed, thank you for pointing out what specific heresy that is, because I encountered a “theologian” priest a while back who clearly suffered from the error you describe.

  9. On May 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm Gail Finke said:

    Ed the Roman is indeed correct about Modalism, this is a clarfification — Modalism treats the Trinity as a Unity, who acts in one of three “modes” -ie “Now I am creating, now I am redeeming, now I am sanctifying.” It doens’t really consider God to have three persons. That’s why it’s heretical to say “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” — they are not just three different but unsanctioned names, as many might assume.

  10. On May 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm Sarah in Texas said:

    Elizabeth: I saw your comments on the news article and want to commend you for your charity to Catholics who could easily be confused by this group. God bless you for your charity — you sure have a lot more self control than I would!!

    I keep thinking, as I hear about “persons of a certain age” acting up a certain way, of the children of Israel as they wandered in the desert for 40 years — NOT ONE was allowed to enter into the Promised Land.

    Meantime, the young people are elsewhere. And, as young people always do, they long for truth and know it when they encounter it.

    Thank you again for your outstanding witness.

    • On May 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm Elizabeth said:

      Without charity, there is no point in talking to them. Thanks for your kind comments.

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