Seeking God in our life together and enlivened by daily prayer, we, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, respond to the needs of the people of God in a spirit of hospitality, simplicity, and reverence for one another and all creation.
When a Benedictine community from Pilot Grove, Missouri, merged with the Shoal Creek community in 1916, the Arkansas Sisters began a health care ministry. The Missouri Benedictines operated a hospital in Boonville, Missouri. At one time the Fort Smith Benedictines operated five hospitals, four in Arkansas, but in 1994, they withdrew from the fifth and final one.
What sustained the Sisters through their 100-plus years was their faith and trust in God. The depression years in the 1930's were especially difficult. Mother Perpetua Gerard, the prioress, and her staff spent many a night in chapel begging God and St. Joseph to help them through those financially crushing times.
St. Scholastica Monastery joined the Federation of St. Gertrude the Great, a network of Benedictine monasteries with similar ministries, in 1964.
In 1969 we established a dependent monastery, Our Lady of Peace Monastery, Columbia, MO, which has since become independent.
In 1981 they established St. Benedict Monastery, Canyon, TX, as a dependent monastery. At the present time, St. Benedict Monastery is no longer a dependent monastery but is continuing as a monastic presence in Canyon.
Take a Tour of St. Scholastica
Adopted August 1990 | Amended July 2000
We, the Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, have responded to a call to seek God by a total gift of self in a religious community of celibate women, who make profession to live the Gospel according to the Rule of Benedict, the norms of the Federation of St. Gertrude, and the norms of the Monastery.
By professing stability and fidelity to the monastic way of life, we promise to be faithful to our Benedictine tradition of prayer, work, and leisure, and to be a Christian community where persons are reverenced in their uniqueness and diversity.
By professing obedience, we center authority in the Prioress with all Sisters sharing responsibility in corporate decisions. We listen to the Lord inviting us as monastics to be a part of the universal mission of the Church. In a spirit of hospitality and reverence for the connectedness of all creation, we respond to local and global needs according to our giftedness and material resources.
We strive to give witness that people can live in unity and simplicity, that bonds of caring and forgiveness can heal the wounds of loneliness and broken relationships.
To those who hunger for meaning in life, we wish to share the power of the Gospel to free people for a fully human life and to create a community of peace.
In 1879, two Benedictine sisters moved from Subiaco, Arkansas, fifteen miles east to Shoal Creek. These sisters were originally part of the group of four sisters who left their motherhouse of Immaculate Conception Convent in Ferdinand, Indiana, to come to join the Benedictine monks in Subiaco.
The vision of a new motherhouse in Arkansas was rooted in the railroad. The Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company sought more settlements near the railroad lines, and they extended an invitation to sisters and priests to settle land in Western Arkansas. The opportunity to serve German Catholic immigrants also settling along the railroad lines appealed to the hearts and mission of the monks and Sisters, and so land in Subiaco and Shoal Creek became the “promised land” for the Benedictines.
The first building to house the sisters in Shoal Creek was a four-room log cabin. The sisters faced bitterly cold winters, very little water, and a wilderness not easy to conquer. Despite these challenges, the sisters tended the soil, built humble furniture with their own hands, and grew in number. The four-room cabin saw additions as more young women were drawn to the life of a Benedictine Sister, and by 1898, a new quadrangular building surrounded a center courtyard—the new iteration of the cabin as the burgeoning convent grew.
By 1900, about 70 sisters were teaching in about 15 elementary schools in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma. The mission to serve blossomed, but this growth posed a challenge as well. A lack of water, poor roads, and inaccessible healthcare only added to the lack of space, and a decision had to be made. After consideration and prayer, it was decided that Fort Smith would meet the needs of the convent and further the mission of the sisters. In 1924, the move to Fort Smith began a new chapter in the history of St. Scholastica.
The towering monastery that stood atop one of the highest points in Fort Smith for almost 100 years originally began as just another area of land at the “Old Barnes place”. The land was purchased in 1922, and the Gothic Revival building testified to the prayer, faith, and labor of the sisters as they trusted God for every step of the building process to proceed. F.W. Redlich of Oklahoma City was the architect of the five-story building.
St. Scholastica Academy opened its doors to students in 1924, continuing the work that began as St. Joseph Academy in Shoal Creek. The building was both a home for the sisters and a boarding school for students. Academy students and the sisters lived on the grounds during the school year, and during the summer sisters on missions who taught in other areas of Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas returned to the motherhouse to reside and continue their education until the school term in the fall. As the sisters and school expanded in number, an addition in 1929 was built on the north side of the building. This addition included a chapel, a gym, a swimming pool, and the chaplain’s quarters.
The school served students from the first to the twelfth grade until 1936. Afterward, the lower grades through the eighth were gradually dropped. In 1944, St. Scholastica Academy solely
SHOAL CREEK CONVENT OLD-STYLE HABIT
CHAPEL IN THE EARLY DAYS
Hesychia House of Prayer
St. Scholastica Monastery also sponsors Hesychia House of Prayer on the original site of the first women's monastic foundation in Logan County. Started in 1981, the House of Prayer is for anyone of any religious affiliation who wants a place to be alone with God in prayer. Four hermitages are available. All facilities have a kitchenette and supplies. For information write/call Hesychia House of Prayer, 204 St. Scholastica Road, New Blaine, AR 72851, 479-938-7375.
Sister Louise Sharum has written a two-volume history of St. Scholastica Monastery. The first volume, written for the monastery centennial in 1979, is called Write the Vision Down. The second, Until the Morning Rises, was written for the monastery’s 125th anniversary in 2004, and covers the 25 years from 1979-2004. Both volumes are available at St. Scholastica Gift Shop, now located on the first floor of the monastery.
"Ora et Labora", translated "Pray and Work", is a Benedictine motto. Common prayer, private prayer, and lectio divina or holy reading constituted a significant part of each day along with the monastic work assigned by the Prioress.
The Benedictine way of life is not defined by a form of service, but rather by an environment where members can fulfill the primary purpose of seeking God within a stable community of members. The founders of Benedictine monasticism in Italy--St. Benedict of Nursia, along with his twin sister St. Scholastica--expected the Abbot or the prioress to adjust the Rule according to circumstances of the place and the diversity of personalities and talents among the members.
Today the Sisters continue to renew themselves according to the vision of Benedict and Scholastica. They are also involved in nursing home ministry, prayer ministry, and volunteer work in area service projects.