History of Holy Wisdom Monastery
Benedictine Women of Madison is an ecumenical monastic community at Holy Wisdom Monastery. We seek God through a life following the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict. We live, pray and work together and welcome other single Christian women to explore life with us. In addition, the oblate community at Holy Wisdom Monastery is an intentional community of women and men who find a practical spirituality in the Rule of Benedict.
In 1953, the Sisters of St. Benedict of Sioux City, Iowa, a member community of the Federation of St. Gertrude, established a motherhouse and a high school for girls in the Madison Diocese. Land was purchased and building construction began. The Academy of St. Benedict opened in fall of 1958 and was staffed by our community, the Sisters of St. Benedict. In 1966, the Academy was closed and we re-opened our buildings as St. Benedict Center, an ecumenical retreat and conference center, offering a place of hospitality to a wide range of individuals and groups.
In 1992, our community began a visioning process in which we invited a variety of ecumenical religious leaders to help us discern our future life and ministries. Out of these conversations, an Ecumenical Board was established in 1994 to help support our vision of becoming an ecumenical women’s community. In 2006 this new community, Benedictine Women of Madison at Holy Wisdom Monastery, received membership as an affiliated ecumenical monastery in our Benedictine federation.
Sunday Assembly, the worship community at Holy Wisdom Monastery, is inclusive and welcoming and currently includes approximately 300 people. In the Sunday Assembly we are formed by the Word of God, the breaking of bread, concerns for social justice and peace, works of charity and care for the earth.
Holy Wisdom Monastery is located on 138 acres of land on the north side of Lake Mendota, just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. The monastery grounds includes approximately 100 acres of restored prairie, a glacial kettle lake, woods, wetlands and Indian mounds. Maintenance of the prairie and oak savannah adds to the communal spirit at the monastery and involves the efforts of the entire community as well as volunteers, co-workers and friends. Monastery grounds provide a sanctuary for wildlife, improve the larger Lake Mendota watershed area, serve as a buffer to urban sprawl, and remain a place where people may connect with nature. The monastery grounds are private property that is joyfully shared with retreatants, visitors and guests of the monastery.
In 2009 we dedicated our new “green” monastery building. Use of the monastery buildings and grounds as an educational resource and example of care for the earth teaches by example the practical and spiritual aspects of reverence for creation.
For more information, contact Mary David Walgenbach, OSB, prioress at (608) 831-9300; Joanne Kollasch, OSB, first councilor at (608) 831-9302 or Lynne Smith, OSB, director of membership and monastic formation at (608) 831-9305.