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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

As congregation mourns, sisters at St. Gertrude’s Monastery look to uncertain future

By Jonah Oaklief

COTTONWOOD, Idaho – On April 26th community members gathered at Saint Gertrude’s monastery in Cottonwood Idaho to celebrate the life of Sister and Prioress Mary Forman.

“She loved her God,” said Sister Megan Sass, following Forman’s funeral, “but didn’t make a show of it.”

“She didn’t wear lots of metals she didn’t you know spend hours in Chapel but everything she did was centered around the God she loved and our blessed mother who led her to Christ, she was just an amazing woman.”

Forman had been a member of the congregation since 1973 but after losing a battle with cancer, she will now be buried alongside her sisters who have passed before her.

The sisters of Saint Gertrude have been buried in a nearby cemetery since 1904. As Sister Mary is laid to rest, her sisters are left to ponder what’s next.

“Community life in the United States is at a turning point because the reasons why religious life appealed to women, especially in the 40s fifties, and 60s are no longer,” said Sass.

The lack of new members and the aging current congregation is causing the sisters to face the reality of what will happen to the monastery when they are all gone.

“We may not have professed sisters here,” said Sass. “In fact, that’s more a probability than a possibility but what I do believe we will have here, and what we’re working very hard to establish is a center for Benedictine life and values.

The focus of building an open place of worship is being taken on by the current leadership as well as Oblates who visit the monastery and tend to its needs.

“This is where the sisters are until there are no more sisters and once that happens a structure will be in place and that’s what we’re actively doing with the Center for Benedictine Life,” said Jane Somerton, Oblate of the Monastery at St. Gertrude’s.

While the sisters are not sure what the future holds for the monastery, they have begun an online Zoom program on how they plan to shift to the new model and sign-up is available on the St. Gertrudes website.



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