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Oldest Benedictine convent in country is closing in Elk Co.

By: WJAC Web Staff

ST. MARYS, Pa. -- After more than 160 years of service in the area, the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County have announced they will close their monastery, the nations oldest Benedictine convent.  

The sisters said the decision was made Monday to move forward with plans to close St. Joseph Monastery, located on Church Street in St. Marys. The sisters said the decision came following three years of prayerful study."

There are currently 17 sisters at the monastery, ranging from 58 to 91-years-old.

Monastery administrator Sister Rita Brink said a number of factors, including aging members, declining membership and facility problems, made it impossible for them to keep the convent open.

The decision to work towards closure has been made, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions that need to be dealt with and processed, Brink said. One of which is what will become of these buildings and this space.

The property is owned by the St. Vincent Arch-abbey, where St. Vincents College in Latrobe, Westmoreland County, is located.

Each of the remaining sisters is looking into other Benedictine communities where they can transfer their vows.

The convent was founded when three Benedictine women from Germany settled in the St Marys area in 1852, and began offering opportunities for faith development and education in the then-newly settled community.

Following a fire in November 1934 that destroyed the towns hospital, the sisters allowed their academy to be used as a temporary hospital. The sisters played a lead role in helping to raise funds to rebuild the hospital.

The sisters said they feel blessed by the generous support, appreciation and friendship of people in the Elk County area where they have shared their lives.

There was no date set for when the monastery would be officially closed.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times