Passing on the Benedictine tradition
By Mary Garrigan
Julia O’Neil-King became the first lay director of the St. Martin Monastery Oblates during a “Passing on the Tradition” ceremony on May 21, 2022, that honored the group’s past and looked to its future.
Ever since the late Sr. Marmion Howe, OSB, began the oblate program in the 1980s, it has been led by a professed Benedictine sister, including Sr. Lorane Coffin, OSB, and outgoing Oblate Director Sr. Therese Marie Furois, OSB. Under her leadership, the group began a months-long process of discernment and discussion last year after the sisters decided that due to their age and declining numbers they were no longer able to provide the necessary leadership.
Sister Jennifer Kehrwald, OSB, the monastery’s administrator, told the group that while the change to lay leadership was an important and historic moment for the oblates, it should be viewed as just one of many moments in the long history of Benedictines in the Black Hills. The sisters and oblates are part of 133 years of Benedictine presence in western South Dakota.
“There have been many transitions of one sort or another in the 1,500 years of Benedictine life,” said Sr. Therese Marie. “God has always spoken to us in circumstances and if you are listening, we need to follow these promptings.”
O’Neil-King led the group in remembrances of gifts and gratitude for the oblate program before being installed for a two-year term. During the installation, she promised to “strive to be faithful to God and to lead our Oblates in the way of St. Benedict.”
The St. Martin oblates have 16 active members and novices who will continue to meet monthly at the monastery for the foreseeable future. “We know that things are changing … but as oblates we look forward to that new and changing relationship, but not an ending of our relationship, with the sisters,” O’Neil-King said.
(Writer’s note: Benedictine oblates are lay men and women who promise to live their lives according to values found in the Rule of St. Benedictine, a 1,500-year-old guide to religious life in community.)