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By Bob Kelly
Southsider Voice correspondent
Over six decades ago when the Sisters of St. Benedict from Ferdinand, Ind., approached Archbishop Paul C. Schulte of Indianapolis about founding a monastery in his diocese, his dream of having a home for the elderly became a reality. That dream also blossomed into the formation of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, which not only serves the sisters but the entire Southside.
The Ferdinand community had grown to 500 sisters before 113 of them transferred to Beech Grove and established a monastery and academy for high school girls in addition to a home for the aged.
Our Lady of Grace Academy was a pillar on the Southside for high school girls until declining enrollment forced it to close in 1978. The Benedictine sisters used their faith to rally and change the scope of the secondary education-focused facility to a place that enables many people to energize their faith.
The monastery started out on grounds of 35 acres, and today the sprawling campus covers 50 acres, which is also home to the St. Paul Hermitage and the Benedict Inn & Retreat Conference Center.
For more than 60 years the hermitage has offered 24-hour care to the aged and infirmed. The center, which opened in 1981, hosts spiritual retreats, classes and other programming for people of all ages and faiths looking to deepen their relationship with God.
Sister Mary Luke Jones told The Southsider Voice that the primary work of the monastery is to pray for the people of God. “The sisters join together three times a day to recite the Divine Office, the official prayer of the church,” she said. “In addition, we have sisters working in several other ministries, including teaching, nursing, pharmacy and library work. St. Benedict says all work is holy when done for the honor and glory of God.
“All of us meet thousands of people through our ministries, young and old, Catholic and Protestant. We have sisters from 30 to 90 years old who entered the community from Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Missouri as well as Indiana.
“St. Benedict tells us to receive all people as Christ, from the youth making a high school retreat to those at the St. Paul Hermitage who need special care.”
The hermitage and the inn are undergoing renovations to improve the services offered by the sisters. The improvements have been made possible by the monastery benefactors. The inn has 44 new bedrooms, office space and a new conference room. Renovation at the hermitage is providing new bedrooms, office and reception areas, a beauty shop, rest rooms, a physical therapy lab, enhanced dining, a library and a party room.
Schulte said he had a vision to build a facility that would take care of the elderly. Instead, he planted a seed of faith that has sprouted over many decades to where it now serves many people and will continue to be a pillar in the community he envisioned over six decades ago.