US women Benedictines launch Taize-style ecumenical community

(Catholic News – Wisconsin) Members of a Benedictine community, which has been accepting Protestant members for several years, have been dispensed of their vows in order to create a fully ecumenical Christian community similar to Taize in France.

Catholic News Agency reports the St Benedict Center, a Benedictine ecumenical community in Madison for the past 40 years, has chosen to end its ties to the Catholic Church in order to live out more comfortably its ecumenical character.

The prioress, Sr Mary David Walgenbach, told the Wisconsin State Journal that there are several reasons for the change, one of which is that the order started accepting Protestant members several years ago.

The 67-year-old sister said the Sisters of St Benedict petitioned the Vatican for dispensation from their vows as a Catholic religious order and that the request was granted. The order will now be called the Benedictine Women of Madison.

“We didn’t want our non-Catholic sisters to have second-class status,” she told the newspaper. Rev Lynn Smith, a Presbyterian clergywoman, took her final vows to become a member of the order in 2004.

The prioress said the centre, with members from several Christian denominations, will now function as an ecumenical community under its new name, Holy Wisdom Monastery. All members will retain their individual religious affiliations.