Thank you for 65 years of remarkable work and witness

Mary David Walgenbach, OSB 65th Anniversary, Benedictine Bridge Leave a Comment

Welcome and thank you for being here.

You and all who have gone before us are gems and miners of this place beginning in 1953 when three of our sisters from Sioux City, Iowa, walked to the top of the hill overlooking Lake Mendota and the City of Madison, said a prayer, buried a medal of St. Benedict and whispered to one another, this is the place.

Sixty-five years later, we are celebrating the remarkable work and witness of women and men, like you, who prayed with us, spoke and acted with holy boldness on our behalf and collaborated with us in creating new forms of communities and ministries. This celebration belongs to all of us.

Today we reap the fruits of the past 65 years as we sow fresh seeds of hope. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things you cannot do.”

The relationship between the sisters and this land is part of our history and mission.

I have one story to share with you tonight. In 1985 a developer purchased approximately 600 acres of land near and adjoining our land. Thirty acres of our land separated a large parcel of his land. His plan was to build a 27-hole golf course.

He asked to meet Sister Joanne and me and discuss crossing our driveway and frontage into his land. He laid the plan on our table and I noticed that there were golf holes on our property. I could feel the resistance in my body and it prompted me to tell him a story about my dad, an Iowa farmer, and his neighbor’s bull.

The neighbor’s bull had jumped the fence to be with dad’s Holstein cows. Dad was very concerned and used some buckshot to help the bull jump back over the fence. He talked with his neighbor about adding an electric fence in addition to the existing fence.

Two years of negotiations passed without a resolution. The sisters, Neal Smith and others worked diligently for a win-win solution.  The developer complained to a reporter from the Cap Times of our reluctance to sell the top of the hill to him for his golf course.  The reporter then called me and I gave him our understanding of the negotiations. As a result, the Cap Times printed an article about our differing opinions with the caption “Nuns teed off at golf course.” A consultant added, “only a fool would come between nuns with a vision and this developer.”

In the developer’s lifetime, we did not sell or swap any land and he built his 18-hole golf course. Ironically in 2012, we bought from his estate 52 acres with the generosity of a neighbor and our friends.

Our mission of weaving prayer, hospitality, justice and a shared way of life lives on in you and the many people who find their place at Holy Wisdom.

In conclusion, many people have contributed to this event. I thank each and everyone of you and name especially Janet Neurauter and her team and our past and present coworkers for their dedication and work.

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