Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Two women make perpetual profession as Idaho Benedictines
the Inland Register
(From the Oct. 1, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Sisters Carlotta Maria Fontes (left) and Miriam Mendez in the Monastery of St. Gertrude chapel. The two women made perpetual monastic profession Sept. 19 at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. (IR photo courtesy of the Monastery of St. Gertrude)
Sisters Miriam Mendez and Carlotta Maria Fontes made their perpetual monastic profession Sept. 19 in the chapel at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho.
The ceremony will feature their public acceptance of the monastic promises of stability, obedience and fidelity to the monastic life, marking the final stage of their initial formation journey.
For Sister Carlotta, the journey began when she experienced a strong calling to the Religious life while traveling in Europe in 2000. She was praying in a chapel in Medjugorje, when a group of nuns entered the sanctuary. “I watched them pray and felt an overwhelming sense of wanting to belong to something like that,” she said.
Sister Miriam felt her calling while volunteering at Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, N.D. At a crossroads in her life and searching for new meaning, she embraced the daily balance of prayer, work, study and leisure she found at the monastery. “I discovered I had a Benedictine heart and soul,” she said.
Both women spent time in personal reflection, talked with friends and family and made several visits to the Monastery of St. Gertrude while they discerned their calling.
According to Sister Miriam, “I wasn’t here 12 hours before I knew I was supposed to explore this community and find out what it meant for me.” She made her first professions of faith with Sister Carlotta on March 21, 2006.
The mother of three grown children, Sister Miriam was a hospice nurse when she entered the community. She has set her medical background aside, however, and now manages the monastery’s Book and Gift Shop, contributing her own needlework, photography and stained glass creations to the shop’s inventory.
Sister Carlotta discovered her love of herbs after entering the community and earned a certification as a master herbalist. She has developed an herbal lip balm, soaps and a salve, which are sold in the monastery’s Book and Gift Shop, as well as in local stores and at the Grangeville Farmers’ Market. Sister Carlotta teaches classes on making natural products as well as classes on holistic living.
Sister Miriam sees life as a Benedictine as being a witness to the world. “These are hard times and the future is challenging for the Church and for the world,” she said. “There is a rhythm to daily life at the monastery and to living The Rule of Benedict. People sense the peace and the love of this community and are drawn to the balanced life.”
For Sister Carlotta, quietly promoting a holistic lifestyle and demonstrating the Benedictine principals of simplicity and connection to the Earth comprises her individual witness.