Testimonies from Catholics in local Madison Diocese parishes regarding Holy Wisdom Monastery

The testimonies that follow were delivered by myself and a friend to Holy Wisdom Monastery and Sister Simone Campbell in connection with their Feb 13, 2013 Ash Wednesday service there (click to read the story of that). You can also download the DOC file that we delivered printed copies of, especially if you would like to distribute copies to people you know.

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 name is Elizabeth Durack; my own comments are at the end. My email is (please use my contact form, that sends to my email)

Bob Bright

Bob Bright

Served on the Board shortly before they “went non-canonical”

It is with great dismay and sorrow that I continue to be denied the privilege of worshiping at Holy Wisdom, once a Benedictine Catholic monastery, due to their seeking a non-canonical status. I am deeply indebted to the Benedictines beginning with my education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. My wife Mary Kay is also a graduate from Mount St. Scholastica College now merged with Benedictine College.

I once served on the Board participating with the Sisters and others in articulating a strategic plan for the monastery. Had I known at the time that eventually the Sisters would move away from the Catholic Church, I would have never consented.  I feel like the monastery no longer belongs to  faithful Catholics.  Disaffected Catholics have their issues with the Church and generally express their views publicly and privately. I have listened to them respectfully, but I have never been able to separate myself from the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which are crucial to my understanding of who I am as a Catholic Christian. I pray that the Benedictine Monastery will one day return to the embrace of the Catholic Church where it belongs. Fifteen hundred years of faithful Benedictine observance should not be overturned by  a few individuals who seek to go their own way. I hope that before I die I will once again be able to receive the Sacraments from the Benedictine monastery in my own area. –Bob Bright, Blessed Sacrament Parish

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St Benedict’s Academy alumni were shocked by woman presider at reunion “Mass”

I attended St. Raphael school from grades 1 through 8 and then Edgewood High School under the wonderful, caring instruction of the Dominican sisters.  The years span from 1957 through 1969.  Never once in these vulnerable, learning years did I hear anything resembling dissension with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  It was always an atmosphere of unity and communion with priests, the bishop of the diocese of Madison, and The Holy Father.  If we could restore the obedience, faith, and trust that we once had, we would not be dealing with the evil that is rampant today.  I pray that Holy Wisdom and others who advocate and promote falsehoods and liberal teachings will realize the damage being done and the souls being lost by continuing this path.

I have spoken with former classmates of mine from Edgewood who, prior to coming to Edgewood, were students at St. Benedict’s Academy, an all-girls school [which was run by the Benedictine Sisters on the property that is now Holy Wisdom Monastery].  They attended services at Holy Wisdom as part of a St. Benedict’s class reunion, unaware that their former school had been turned into a liberal, new-age institution.  They were quite shocked and confused to find the Mass celebrated by women and felt trapped, unsure of what to do when the “consecrated bread” was passed to them.  Catholics need to know that this is NOT CATHOLIC TEACHING and must support our Shepherd, Bishop Morlino.  You cannot call yourself Catholic unless you support Catholic teaching in all matters. –Bette Weisshar

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Went to summer camp at St Benedict Center in the ’60s; it’s sad they went awry

My experience is a little unusual in that I’m one of the last woolly mammoths who actually remembers what Holy Wisdom Monastery was like when it was still the ST. BENEDICT CENTER.  Shortly after the Center ceased operation as a Catholic girls’ high school, in the middle 1960s, it became for a short time a well-regarded summer camp.  I was blessed to be a camper for 2 years, 1967-68, and even came back after I had “aged out”, to volunteer.  I loved the simple reverence of the place, and the kindness of the Benedictine sisters who were still very much in charge of things. I believe it was actually a district “motherhouse” at the time. There was a very elderly sister there, wheelchair bound, still in full Benedictine habit, which she’d worn continually for, like, 60 years.  Her name was “Sister Concepta”.  More about Sister Concepta later.

St. Ben’s had a lovely small chapel on a hill, overlooking the surrounding farmland, Lake Mendota & Bishop O’Connor’s nearby estate.  Campers were regularly taken over to visit with the bishop.  He obviously loved children, and had the twinkliest brown eyes.  I still have the Miraculous Medal he gave me.  The chapel was all glass and sunlight, like many post-war, pre-Vatican II churches.  It had a for-real “black Madonna” statue, an ebony Our Lady of Czestochowa.  I’d never seen one like it before; it fascinated me.  Camper girls gathered in the chapel for noon Mass each day.  We were given a list of supplies to bring to camp, which included (truly!), “skirts and chapel veils,” for Sunday Mass.  Each day concluded with sung Vespers and a reading from the Bible. I’d not yet acquired the habit of daily Scripture readings.  It was not the custom for lay Catholics in those days immediately following the Council.  We thought that was only for priests and Religious.

Regally presiding over all of this from her wheelchair, I got the feeling Sister Concepta approved.  I had all the usual summer camp experiences, games, crafts, swimming, horseback riding, and general little girl hijinks.  But looking back, almost 50 years later, I remember my time at “Camp Saint Ben’s” as a profoundly spiritual experience.  In all honesty, I can’t discount the prayerful example set by those holy, consecrated women.  They lived the Rule of Benedict, and it had a real trickle down effect, on me, anyway.  Fast forward to 2011.  A dear friend died, and her “memorial service” was held at HWM.  (She and her husband, a disaffected former priest, regularly attended, um, “events” there.  It was kinda-sorta Catholic, but not so much as to remind him of what he’d left behind in his former life.)  The little chapel full of light was gone.  A new, larger “worship space” had been constructed in its place.  HWM literature explains, with some pride, that the new structure is a totally “green building.”  The beautiful black Madonna I loved so well was nowhere in evidence.  There was a bubbling “holy water” font, but I hesitated to dip my fingers in it.  After the service, I took a walk-about to see what remained of my old day camp.  I discovered a tiny cemetery, small and rough-hewn.  One headstone simply read, “Sister Mary Concepta.”  I wondered what the saintly Sister Concepta thought of HWM now, from her Heavenly vantage point.  The grave marker was a sad commentary.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that the best of intentions–which those former (small b) benedictine women at HWM no doubt had in Sister Concepta’s day and still HAVE–can go sadly awry, without supernatural outlook.   As a seminarian I used to know would always say to me, “the devil’s greatest trick is getting us to fight the wrong battles.”  That’s what I feel has happened with them, and it applies to ALL people of faith, the ones clinging to orthodoxy, as well as those slip-slidin’ down the slippery slope.  We mustn’t demonize certain female Religious.  So while we should be rightly concerned about “bus hijackings,” and spiritual rabbit holes, we must proceed with exquisite charity.  Like my friend the seminarian said, all of us, through the pride that comes stamped upon our fallen natures, can be tempted to fight the wrong battles.  I hope we can recognize these sisters in Christ, appreciate the tremendous sacrifices they have made for the Catholic Church, during a tumultuous era, and ever so gently get them back on the path once more.

I’m acquainted with a lot of Catholics around the diocese, with varying shades of orthodoxy.  None of them seems to take Holy Wisdom Monastery  very seriously.

I DO worry a great deal about “legitimate” Catholic institutions (meaning, those like the Edgewood schools that profess to be in union with the Church, “in the Sinsinawa Dominican tradition”) sponsoring activities that are totally contrary to authentic Catholic teaching.   Wolves posing as Catholic “sheep.”  It goes beyond trying to shout down a handful of aging, misguided women, as I think about it.  The real demon here, IMHO, is the trend toward “Catholic Lite” in our culture, the notion that ideas don’t have consequences & that religion is irrelevant.  –Gail Geib, Cathedral Parish

Gail also delighted me by singing the “Camp Saint Ben’s” camp song for me, in person, this is how she transcribed it:

WE’RE from Camp Saint Benedict,
AND we’re very proud of it!
LISTEN as we sing about our
FAV’RITE
CAMP.
THROUGH the wind & weather,
WE have fun together.
GOING horseback riding, jumping
On the
TRAMP[oline].
Campers learn to grow and
MAKE new friends.
WE will not FORGET our days at
CAMP SAINT BEN’S!!!!!”

There are many more testimonies past the break, click “More” below to read them.

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Intercommunion with Protestants at simulated Masses asserts a unity that does not exist

I had a little contact with the St. Benedict Center, earlier.  In the late 80’s I organized a retreat out there, renting space from the folks who ran it.  Fr. Debock, then at St. James, agreed to come out and celebrate Mass for the group, and to offer a retreat meditation. (Come to think of it, I don’t recall if I offered him any money for his service…)  When I was setting up for Mass, I recall having to go through quite a few corporals before I found one that was not torn, burned, or stained.  There were no large hosts to be found, so Fr. Debock had to use a small host for the celebrant’s host.  I attributed these difficulties to there having been no resident or regularly visiting priest there who would normally see to such things.   The folks there treated us very kindly.   Even so, something did not feel “right” about the place.  Perhaps it was the plainness of the chapel.

When I chatted with Fr. Debock later, he told me that he was surprised that I had gone there for a retreat location.  I found this a bit puzzling, then he realized that I did not know that the St. Benedict Center had a reputation that was not the best among those in orthodox circles.

Regarding Holy Wisdom Monastery:  those who organize that community must surely know that it is, at the very least, a violation of ecclesiastical discipline for a Catholic to participate in a simulated Mass, aside from “mock Masses” that seminarians do to learn to say Mass, simulated Masses that are part of a legitimate play, etc., even if they do not comprehend that it is sinful,  and that the Church does not normally permit intercommunion as that would be, at very least, asserting a unity that does not exist.

This apparent willingness — if I understand the situation correctly — to lead Catholics into and to encourage their participation in things that have the potential to put them, — again, at very least — in bad ecclesiastical standing, is, at least in my mind, sufficient to tell people that they should not be supporting this organization in any way.

Also, it seems to me that if people sacrificed to supply the land on which the organization is head-quartered, and the original buildings housing it, it was with the intent of furthering the Catholic Church. If the property is not being used to further the mission of the Catholic Church, then something is wrong. –Rich Bonomo, Cathedral Parish

Calls to mind the false shrine in Necedah WI, where supporters had to be interdicted

The Catholic Church is Apostolic!  Jesus established the Pope as Head of His Church, and there has been an unbroken succession of Popes.  Cardinals and other clergy are under the Pope.  All must be obedient to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and the clergy must teach these to the laity, who, in turn, must be OBEDIENT to their BISHOP.  Bishop Morlino has clarified that Holy Wisdom Monastery is NOT Catholic and does NOT teach Catholicism!

This reminds me of the Necedah shrine.  The people who operated it, made decisions about it, and collected money from visitors DISOBEYED THEIR BISHOP OF LACROSSE.  That forced the Bishop to put everyone under INTERDICT who deliberately supported the Shrine after he had condemned it BECAUSE OF THE DISOBEDIENCE.  Interdict meant that they could not go to Communion in ANY Catholic Church because they had SEPARATED THEMSELVES FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH until they WENT TO CONFESSION WITH A FIRM RESOLUTION TO NOT ATTEND SHRINE ACTIVITIES OR PARTICIPATE IN THEM IN ANY WAY OR VISIT THERE.  This was written on a sheet of paper and posted in the local Necedah parish to warn any out-of-town visitors to stay away from the shrine if they expected to attend the LEGITIMATE CATHOLIC PARISH known as St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Many people had MOVED TO NECEDAH AND PURCHASED PROPERTY because of the Shrine.  Now, many left the shrine because they wanted to belong to the church and had no intention of leaving it when they moved there in the first place.  They were sad that they had been so deceived, but they humbly returned to the TRUE CATHOLIC CHURCH in OBEDIENCE TO THE BISHOP.

Pray for those the devil has deceived!  Pray for those still in darkness! –Linda Brazy, Cathedral Parish, many years ago a participant at the unapproved Necedah “Shrine”

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They divorced themselves from Christ and His Church

We are and will always be in full support of the Catholic leaders in our church from our priests all the way up to the Holy See in Rome. This especially includes our own Most Reverend Bishop of Madison Robert C. Morlino. We fully support the decisions and actions taken by Bishop Morlino concerning the nuns who were speaking and acting outside of Catholic doctrine and the actions he’s taken toward Holy Wisdom Monastery. He has always treated them with respect and dignity yet remains strong is his resolve to keep from our Catholic church any practices and ideologies that do not follow church doctrine.

It’s concerning that Holy Wisdom Monastery is calling itself “Benedictine” and may attract Catholics who could be unaware that by attending the services there they are endangering their spiritual welfare and going against church doctrine. It’s sad to see these nuns who took a vow in the Catholic church divorced themselves from it because they are what they termed “strong women” and I understand they have accused the church of not being able to handle them. Our Catholic church has had many beautiful, strong women in it’s ranks from Our Virgin Mother Mary to Mother Teresa. The bible states in Nehemiah 8: 12 “For this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  The strength in our wonderful Catholic saints and women comes from their joy in and ability to love and serve the Lord. They should do this by serving the church they took a vow to and that Christ Himself created.

Taking a vow to be a bride of Christ is much the same as the wedding vows I took to love, honor and obey my husband. Just as I am not to rule my house we should be able to have the reasonable expectation that these brides of Christ do not seek to rule their churches but use the strength they receive through their joy of the Lord in love and service to the Catholic church while obeying it’s edicts and doctrine. They err in seeking roles outside of the ones they took vows for, leaning on their own understanding, making their own moral judgments and deciding that their psychological and social preferences are above those of the Holy See.

Our prayers are with them all. It was wise for them to recognize that their practices and beliefs were no longer Catholic and to have divorced themselves. I pray some day they will understand what they’ve done and come back to the one true Church. I also hope they can reflect and pray on what they are doing by soliciting others to follow them on a path away from the Catholic church. Bishop Morlino was right for letting them know they were going against church doctrine. He is a good and holy man and has our respect even more so now. He is our representative from Rome, our leader and the protector of our diocese in Madison. We know he does all things through Christ and with love for Christ, the Catholic Church and all the people in our congregations. –Julia Haag, St Ignatius in Mount Horeb

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Dissent from the Church is espoused there

Dear Catholic:

In the 60’s, my aunt gave me a very thick book with all the religious orders of sisters in it. I went through the whole book, picking out my favorites. I considered a vocation to religious life, based on the great love I had for the holy teaching sisters who gave me twelve years of Catholic education. I also had been given a beautiful nun doll, and really enjoyed that gift.

It turned out I had a vocation to Holy Matrimony, and my husband and I raised our children in the Catholic Faith. Now I volunteer for pro-life prayer vigils, sidewalk counseling, and various other pro-life events. That is my background.

I am writing this testimony to steer you away from Holy Wisdom Monastery. This is not a place for the furtherance of the love of Holy Mother Church or Her teachings. Dissent from the Church is espoused here. Please leave and do not come back.

Thank you and please pray for these wandering souls. –Jeanne Breunig, St Mary of Pine Bluff

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St Paul warned that in the last times some shall give heed to spirits of error

This situation is more than expected in view of the changes brought about by the post-modernist culture and the ‘aggiornamento’ promoted in the middle of the twentieth century, which led to Pope Paul VI in 1972 to comment:”Satan’s smoke has made its way into the Temple of God through some crack.” Further more, it was actually forewarned by non other than St. Paul, -whom the ecumenical movement is so inclined to uphold as the champion of independence from ecclesiastic authority-, in the Epistle to the Galatians Chapter 1: I wonder that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the Grace of Christ, unto another gospel. Which is not another, only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.

So, what are we to do? First, follow Christ’s advice: You know then how to discern the face of the sky; and can you not know the signs of the times? [Matthew 16:3b] The sign of the times are spelled out by St. Paul in the First Letter to Timothy [4:1] Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the Faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils.  For the time is, that Judgment should begin at the House of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the Gospel of God? [1 Peter 4:17]

Second, follow Saints Peter and Paul’s advice:  But the end of all is at hand. Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers. [1 Peter 4:7] By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the Spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: [Ephesians 6:18] Now the end of the Commandments is charity, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned Faith. [1 Timothy 1:5]

Lastly, But yet rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice in this, that your names are written in Heaven. [Luke 10:20] And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to His Purpose, are called to be saints. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son; that He might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren. And whom He predestined, them He also called. And whom He called, them He also justified. And whom He justified, them He also glorified. [Romans 8:28-30] –Dr. Milton Pozo, MD, Cathedral Parish

They separated themselves

I am certainly sad that Holy Wisdom Monastery has shown poor judgment and disregard to any guidance or advice from our Bishop Morlino. The resulting losses are theirs alone to accept. For me personally, in seeing how they have obviously separated themselves via disobedience, from the local and universal authority of the Catholic Church, it is equally obvious that I, prompted by my own better judgment, sincere love for, and joyful obedience to my Bishop and Holy Father, must separate myself from them (HWM).

My statement is more in support and obedience to my Bishop than accusation to Holy Wisdom Monastery. This grassroots project’s fruit will be to inform us “sleeping” Catholics to be more alert and use the actual grace from the sacrament of Confirmation to better discern any obvious dissent confronted with within our universal or local Church community. –Beth Ptak, St Mary of Pine Bluff

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I build the house of my Faith upon the solid Rock of Peter

The greatest danger posed by Holy Wisdom Monastery is the obfuscation of the fact that one cannot claim to be a Catholic-Christian while knowingly opposing the infallible doctrines of the Faith, upheld by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. For St Paul makes it exceedingly clear that there is only “one Lord, one Faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5); that there is one Church “built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20). The earthly realm of this Church was entrusted by Christ to St Peter and his successors: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon the earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” (Mt 16:18-19), and we must be united with this same Church if we are to deem ourselves followers of Christ, for Our Lord says, “He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth” (Lk 11:23).

If we wish to gather with Christ, we must incessantly hold to the teachings of Sacred Scripture, of Sacred Tradition, and the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. Now some will object: We already have the Bible, which is the irrefutable Word of God; why would we need the hierarchy of the Church? It is easy to see how this proposition is false. Scripture itself teaches that the Bible alone is not enough. St Jude writes in his letter, “But you, my dearly beloved, be mindful of the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 17). St Paul exhorts the Thessalonians, “brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle” (2 Thes 2:14).

But – some will interpolate – the practices of the Church are unfair and outdated! Such a contention is no less than preposterous, and can only be based upon the passing fads of the world, not the eternal Truth of God. “For who among men is he that can know the counsel of God?” (Wis 9:13). “Hath God not made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor 1:20). Wherefore St John instructs us: “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world… For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 Jn 2:15-16).

Therefore I build the house of my Faith upon the solid Rock of Peter, that when the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and they beat upon that house, it will not fall, for it is built upon solid Rock (cf. Mt 7:24-27). And so I echo the words of the holy Saint Jerome, in his letter to Pope Damasus I: “As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but Your Blessedness; that is with the Chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the Rock on which the Church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” –Michael Schumacher, Cathedral Parish

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Charity and truth for Holy Wisdom Monastery

As a poorly catechized Catholic, it is dismaying to try to sift through what is good, holy and uplifting and what has gone astray. Whom can I trust? My growing faith is threatened by divergences from the truth in many areas of our culture, not to mention the Church. Holy Wisdom Monastery is deceptive. You have to dig around to find out the truth about this group. This verse from Matthew comes to mind: ““Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin!” (18:6-7). In charity, we love those who meet at Holy Wisdom Monastery. In truth, this community requires fraternal correction. –Laura Karlen

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Saint Benedict was a true son of the Church

I am writing to urge you to come back home to the Catholic Church, our mother and the true and pure bride of Christ.  Your very soul depends on it.  Do not follow the pride which seems to have usurped your hearts for you lead people astray and are doing perhaps irreparable harm to the souls and innocent people who are taken in by your “feel-good” deceptions.  Come back home not only to the faith founded by our Lord Jesus Christ but also to the faith and the rule of St. Benedict, a true son of the Catholic Church.  Having lived under his rule for some time, your life is a sad commentary on the faith of your founder. –Leon Blanchard, Cathedral Parish

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The uninformed might think it is Catholic because it is described as “Benedictine”

Thank you for the opportunity to give my views on “Holy Wisdom Monastery.”  Although I have not participated in any of the activities there, I have read the information on their website and the information from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison.  It is crystal clear that the monastery is not a Roman Catholic institution.  When Catholics make a decision to support this organization it is my hope that they are fully aware that it is not Catholic and that it does not have the support of the Diocese of Madison as a Catholic institution.  I do have a concern that the uninformed laity might surmise that the organization is Catholic because of such words as “Benedictine” being used on the website.  Such an assumption is an error and needs to be corrected for the sake of clarity and truth. –Dr. Robert Enright

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Catholics cannot accept the false Eucharist practiced there

The situation at Holy Wisdom saddens me deeply, as does the confusion surrounding them, and the implication in the media that they speak for the majority of local Catholics in their rejection of key Catholic doctrine and the authority of our Bishop.  While I support dialogue and charitable discussion with people of all faiths and a recognition of the basic unity that all followers of Christ share, the false Eucharist practiced there is not something Catholics with a proper understanding of the Eucharist can accept as valid.  I urge all Catholics to prayerfully educate themselves on what Vatican II truly teaches, and to research for themselves the teachings of the Church regarding the Eucharist and the nature of the Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is easily found in bookstores, and many key documents can also be viewed online for free. The Church and Her teachings are a great gift to us, and despite the failings of any individual in the Church (which are bound to happen as we are all sinners in need of grace!) we can trust in the Church and Sacraments founded by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit. I am grateful for Bishop Morlino’s clarifying of the situation and how they relate to Church teachings for the faithful of the diocese that he is serving. –Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton, St. Paul’s University Catholic Center

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Satan’s day job: to attack and divide Christ’s living mystical body

We had a guest speaker at Serra Club [a group that promotes Catholic vocations] some years ago…a Catholic priest / historian who illuminated for us some interesting facets of Church history.  I recall his observation that in the 2000 year history of Catholicism, some 1700 religious orders had come into, and gone out of existence in the Church.  He said, “Some fulfilled their purpose and dissolved, some were destroyed by enemies of the Church, and some simply got distracted and lost their way.”  The phenomenon of Protestantism… Satan’s day job… to attack and divide Christ’s living mystical body, His living presence on earth…has been bumping along for hundreds of years.  It’s very human to protest…to place our personal wishes first…to depreciate the virtues and vitality found in living a sacramental life, for some banal purely human interests.

“He knows if you eat this fruit, you will be like Him.”

Absent the grace of the sacraments, we can become such easy targets, and lose our way.

It saddens me to dwell on the women of holy wisdom monastery, but these are my extraneous thoughts when I do. –Tom Delaney, Cathedral Parish

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Cherish the life-giving bond with the Holy Catholic Church

I believe it is vital for a Catholic institution to remain connected to the Chair of Peter. I hope and pray that those making decisions for Holy Wisdom Monastery may choose and cherish this life-giving bond with the head of the Holy Catholic Church. –Keith Bersch

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An “ecumenism” which disregards our essential differences never creates true unity

How is a Catholic lay person to support a non-Catholic ecumenical endeavor? In fact, our commitment to the Love of Christ demands that we support and dialogue with all our Christian brethren (whether Catholic or not) in their honest search for Truth—for ultimately such a search is always a search for Christ, our Redeemer. But this support must always be offered in the Spirit of Truth and Charity. It must from the beginning acknowledge our differences, whatever they may be, and start from there.  An “ecumenism” which disregards our essential differences never creates true unity, let alone Communion, and in the end leads to an erosion of the sense of Truth for all parties involved, and–ultimately–to great spiritual harm.

It seems that a very important responsibility in true ecumenical dialogue is honesty and respect for each others’ tenets. In the context of Holy Wisdom Monastery, given its prior Catholic history, it is very important and only honest and respectful to be as upfront as they can be as to the fact that they are no longer a Catholic institution, and that, while sharing some significant values with the Catholic Church, they also have essential differences with Her. In all their teaching and talks they should make clear what the differences are. Certainly no Catholic can currently receive the sacramental  Eucharist  at Holy Wisdom Monastery (since no validly ordained priests are allowed to celebrate the Mass there), and participation in their Ecumenical Lord’s Supper would be a violation of canon law. Prior to their liturgy they should remind any new Catholics who may be in attendance that their liturgy service is not a Catholic Mass and would not fulfill the Catholic precept to participate in a Catholic Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.  Not to do so—even if they strongly disagreed with the Catholic Church—would be irresponsible, dishonest, and disrespectful to the very goal of ecumenism which they claim to uphold.

Should a Catholic lay person support them? Only if Holy Wisdom Monastery is practicing an authentic ecumenism that Catholics could faithfully engage in. Certainly the stories I have heard about them are not encouraging.  It seems many confused people still think of them as a Catholic institution.  And their beliefs and practices would put them at odds with many very essential Catholic doctrines.  Therefore, the potential for attributing their beliefs and practices as authentic Catholic beliefs and practices is great.  If Holy Wisdom Monastery is contributing to this confusion, then it should not be supported by faithful Catholic lay persons. –Jaime Piña, Cathedral Parish

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Holy Wisdom Monastery in some ways appears to be Catholic, but teaches at odds with that

I would like to briefly state my support for Bishop Morlino in his statements and actions regarding Holy Wisdom Monastery. Bishop Morlino, as a successor of St. Peter, is obligated to teach and preserve the Catholic faith. When an organization that in some ways appears to be Catholic is teaching principles that are at odds with the Catholic Faith, the Bishop must highlight the problem. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the faithful of his diocese. If the possibility of confusion exists—and it clearly does, in the case of Holy Wisdom Monastery which uses Catholic terms like “Eucharist” while teaching a philosophy that is often at odds with the Catholic Church—it is the Bishop’s role to highlight this inconsistency out charity for those within (and without) his flock. Some will choose to attend services at Holy Wisdom Monastery—an organization which is definitively not Catholic. But they will do so now knowing and understanding that they are not attending a Catholic liturgy, thanks to Bishop Morlino. Certainly, members of Holy Wisdom Monastery and those who participate in their services are free to pursue their own beliefs. It would be improper, however, to call their organization Catholic, as to do so would require adherence to the doctrine and tenets of the Catholic Faith which comes to us from Jesus Christ. Likewise, it is disingenuous and confusing for an organization to use Catholic terminology when their philosophy is at odds with Catholic doctrine. It is in this arena that Bishop Morlino steps in, clarifies Holy Wisdom’s standing (they are not Catholic), and provides, in charity, a teaching moment for the Catholics of our Diocese.  For that, I am very grateful. –Elizabeth Leone

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The issues there are a serious threat to uninformed Catholics

I’m a student at UW-Madison, and I would like to give full support to Bishop Morlino for his actions in trying to keep the serious errors in the Faith occurring at Holy Wisdom under control. The issues there are serious threat to many Catholics in the diocese who have not been informed as to what is going on there, and hopefully they will recognize their errors and return to the fold. –John Prezzia, St Paul’s University Catholic Center

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As Catholics we cannot take part in a pseudo-parish that only seems Catholic

My fellow Catholics,

As Catholics we cannot take part in a pseudo-parish that only seems Catholic in some superficial ways, while doing things the church has said is not acceptable. One example is that there is no such thing as a female priest in the Catholic Church. If a woman claims to be a priest, you can be entirely sure she is not a Catholic priest. Jesus only ordained male priests, 12 apostles, the church does not have the authority to do anything different than Christ.

If you have access to the internet, please go to this address: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/women-and-the-priesthood
It lays out that Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. It goes further to point out quotes from important past Catholics that objected to the ordaining of women. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Augustine are among the people who are quoted stating that Priestesses do not exist in the Catholic Church. Know what your religion teaches and heed 1 Peter 3:15: “…Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

Philosopher Peter Kreeft wrote: “There is no such thing as a Cafeteria Catholic. You’re either Catholic or you’re not.” –Peter Schooley, Cathedral Parish

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As a convert, I’m thankful for the truth I receive from our Priest and Bishop

As a relatively new Catholic I am very thankful for the truth that has been taught to me.  I am very thankful that I can trust the teachings of my Priest and my Bishop.  I am also very thankful that I have not been led astray or confused by groups like Holy Wisdom Monastery. –K.P., Cathedral Parish

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Vatican II: “Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach”

The charitable hope of the Diocese of Madison at the time the Benedictine Sisters left their vows seems to have been that Holy Wisdom Monastery might yet choose to live out ecumenism (meaning work toward Christian unity) genuinely consistent with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Council says in its document on Ecumenism, “Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning.” Bob Bright, my friend through the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul who was a former board member back when the place was called Saint Benedict Center, told me that he does not understand their intentions with certainty, but his impression when the Benedictines accepted a Protestant Sister, was that the Sisters hoped to simply erase the distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Bob’s interpretation also seems supported by the fact of the Holy Wisdom Monastery Sunday Assembly, which their newsletters long continued to call a “eucharist” but is not led by a priest, and both Catholics and Protestants participate and receive communion. A Holy Wisdom Monastery congregant, a long-ago former Catholic religious Brother who I met when he was manning a “Pax Christi” booth associated with HWM at the Dane County Farmer’s Market last May, insisted to me that the Holy Wisdom Sunday Assembly service, though not led by a priest, was the same thing as a Mass and that by his participation there he was a practicing Catholic. He was dismissive of Bishop Morlino’s clear statements to the contrary, and I could only wonder why the former Catholic Sisters, Mary David Walgenbach and Joanne Kollasch, were not preventing nor correcting this misunderstanding. Are they receiving communion at this invalid “eucharist” themselves? Besides such a choice being inconsistent with Catholic doctrine regarding the Eucharist, participating in invalid communion is inconsistent with Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law, which applies to all Roman Catholics.

Bishop Morlino’s charitable handling of the unusual and difficult situation and making it as clear as he could that Holy Wisdom Monastery is not now Catholic deserves praise. I think of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, who let his younger son take his inheritance and leave–and the ending of that story gives hope that, through the Mercy of God, coming home to the family of the Church is always possible. A person who was regularly in the late Bishop William Bullock’s environment just told me that Bishop Emeritus Bullock was very glad for Bishop Morlino’s handling of the Holy Wisdom Monastery situation and recalled Bishop Bullock saying, “Good for you, Bishop Morlino, I should have done something about that years ago.”

The Mass-going Catholics I know universally consider Holy Wisdom Monastery problematic and not something they would support. Some of the details I’ve learned of include [according to a WI State Journal article] their use of the formula “in the name of the Creator and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier”, and [according to the Madison “Call to Action” dissent group website] at least one liturgy last year celebrating homosexuality and led by a so called “Roman Catholic Womanpriest”, and [according to facebook http://www.facebook.com/events/127297700731963/ ] a fundraiser for the organization “Women’s Ordination Conference” (Catholic belief is that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that a priest is an icon of Christ the Bridegroom of the Church; as a woman it’s important to me that men and women are not simply interchangeable and I’m offended by the claims that women only have their dignity if they do specifically male things), and [according to the HWM website] use of “Center for Progressive Christianity” religious education materials for children written by a staff member of a Hindu center and warmly endorsed by Episcopalian Bishop Spong who notoriously advocates a post-theistic non-supernatural revision of Christianity. I think of Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink’s famous 2008 Presidential Address to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (to which Holy Wisdom Monastery formerly belonged up till 2006) in which she mentioned some Sisters “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.”

But, I’m hopeful nonetheless. I’m 34 and all of the several local Madison women I know who’ve entered religious life joined traditional type communities orthodox in their beliefs (and that wear habits and follow a traditional style of life–though I have met orthodox non-habit-wearing Sisters). The truth is that they’re the future of religious life in the Catholic Church. –Elizabeth Durack, Cathedral Parish, personal blog: LaetificatMadison.com

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Please read what the Diocese of Madison says about Holy Wisdom Monastery

3 Responses to Testimonies from Catholics in local Madison Diocese parishes regarding Holy Wisdom Monastery

  1. Thank you for the Information, as I have not been aware of all that has happened. I am not greatly surprised as years ago I remember
    Edgewood College asked an extreme Liberal woman at the time, Angela Davis to be their graduation speaker, Bishop O’Donnell
    did not plan to attend if they (Dominicans) had her. I was also outraged. At that time we had our children in Edgewood H.S. and elementary school. I no longer live in Madison and three of my children still do. My daughter Julia told me about this recently.
    I am heartbroken over these Sisters leaving our Catolic Faith. Reading about the happenings broke my heart. All I could think of as I kept reading was – prayer, prayer, prayer. Much prayer and fasting is needed. I feel the property should be returned to our Catholic Church. I feel they are sacrilegious and led by Satan not Christ. I will be in prayer over this and support Bishop Morlino in all. Jan Sarbacker

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  2. […] Seery, Public Discourse Fixing the Classics? – Simcha Fisher, National Catholic Register Catholics Speak Regarding Scandalous Monastery – Laetificat Father of Infant Crushed by Communist Family Planning Talks – Life […]

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  3. It is clear these women are not what they purport to be — Catholic and Benedictine. Using ‘Catholic’ is a misnomer. Using ‘Benedictine’ is a misnomer too. I would imagine that St. Benedict, given these faux-religious women’s stance, would call them heretics. Heretic describes them accurately. He would roundly condemn them for using the Rule to given them a patina of illegitimacy. Let us then never use Benedictine when referring to this monastery.

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