The Benedictine life is both ordinary and human, extraordinary and divine. It is ordinary and human because St. Benedict in his Rule encourages us to get on with the business of monastic life; it is extraordinary and divine because it is a response to a call from God and it is a life lived for others. Welcome to St. Scholastica Priory, a community of sisters located in Petersham, Massachusetts.



Sr. Mary Herbert Walsh, OSB

Sr. Mary Herbert Walsh, OSB

Sr. Mary Herbert Walsh, a nun of St. Scholastica Priory, Petersham, Mass., died July 30 at the priory following a brief illness. She was 98 and in her 80th year of profession.

Born on October 31, 1915 on the family farm in Alpine (Connorsville), Ind. to Herbert and Julia (Tieman) Walsh, she received the name Mary Lucille at baptism. She was from a family of six children, all of whom became Benedictine priests or sisters. Their remarkable story is told in her delightful biographical book God Calls the Walsh Family. After completing the eighth grade, she entered the Academy of the Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand, Ind. in 1929, and on Sept 13, 1931 she was invested as a novice of that Benedictine community, taking the name Sr. Mary Herbert in honor of her parents. She professed her simple vows on Oct. 18, 1933 and made her perpetual vows on June 14, 1936.

Sr. Mary Herbert taught at Catholic grammar and high schools throughout southern Indiana, as well as at St. Benedict College, Ferdinand, Ind. By attending classes at Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Tex. and Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., she earned her master’s degree in education and her principal’s licenses. She served as principal and superior at St. Meinrad Public School and at the St. Ferdinand Public School. To her great joy in old age, devoted former students remained in touch with their beloved former teacher.

After serving as subprioress for the Ferdinand community from 1971-1974, Sr. Mary Herbert left Indiana and active Benedictine life to join the contemplative monastery her siblings had founded in Durham, N.C. They later moved to Labadieville, La., and finally to Tickfaw, La. where she was superior of their Our Lady Queen Monastery from 1985-2003. The last surviving member of her immediate family, in 2009 Sr. Mary Herbert and the other members of her monastery moved to Petersham, Mass. to form one community with the nuns of St. Scholastica Priory.

Her nearly forty years of teaching were followed by forty years devoted to prayer, but by her deep faith and cheerful courage and joy in the limitations of old age, she never stopped teaching by example those who knew her. Despite loss of sight and hearing, she remained fully engaged with her community, family and friends. A recipient of Worcester Diocese’s 2011 Retired Religious Award, her fidelity to monastic contemplative life is an enduring legacy. A prayer she composed for Pentecost 2014 captures her own spirit: “Dear Beloved Spirit of Divine Love, please inspire my intellect to think, say and do whatever is the most pleasing to the Blessed Trinity.”

She was preceded in death by her parents and her three brothers and two sisters. Surviving are cousins Regina Mitchell, Regina Leising, numerous other much-loved cousins, her community of St. Scholastica Priory and the monks of St. Mary’s Monastery, and a host of friends.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, August 6, in the Church of St. Scholastica Priory and St. Mary’s Monastery. Visitation is from 3:00-8:00 p.m. Tuesday at the monastery and from 8:00 a.m. Wednesday until the time of the funeral. Memorial contributions may be offered to St. Scholastica Priory, 271 N. Main St., Petersham, MA, 01366.


In 2014 St. Scholastica Priory will host two Monastic Experience Weekends for young women interesting in discerning their vocation by living with the community for a few days to see their life at close hand: from August 8-10 and from October 10-12. For information on the weekends please click here.

If you are a single Catholic woman between the age of 18-40, and would like to discuss and discern a monastic vocation, dates can be arranged outside of the Monastic Weekends.


On April 20, 2013, two public conferences for the Year of Faith were hosted by St. Mary’s Monastery and St. Scholastica Priory. To listen to them click here:

Giving a Reason for the Hope that Is in Us

by Fr.  Robert Imbelli

Does What I Believe In Affect My Life?

by Mother Mary Elizabeth Kloss, OSB


August 10, 2014 —


So much has happened since I last wrote. The most momentous event was Sr Mary Herbert’s death on July 30th, and her wake and funeral. The great blessing for all of us is that we had Sr Mary Herbert engaged in life right up until the end. She had been under the weather a bit but still praying for us, asking us about all the intentions that we had each entrusted to her, enjoying things and looking forward to things ahead. She really had been planning her 100th birthday! She died three months short of her 99th. Our next newsletter will be about her and have some of the things she’d say and had written. She was a joy right until the end. God was so good to us.

Because Sr. Mary Herbert needed quite a bit of help throughout the day we had spread that through the community. We pretty much each had something that we did and therefore had reason to stop in every day if she was up and around, or just up in her room. It was rare that she spent a day in bed. She be up for part of the day in her power chair or lazy boy and usually wanted to change into her habit even if she never left her room. But due to all the going in and out we all had a special relationship with her. Now we realize what a blessing that is for each of us!

Although the brothers had two monks die in 1989 and 1990, we’ve never had a death in the sisters’ community here in Petersham up until now. So we needed to develop the different parts of how to “celebrate a life” for St Scholastica Priory. Two of the sisters were away when Sr. Mary Herbert died and we want to give a chance for anyone who might be able to come, so we planned for her wake here on August 5th. That had a hidden significance. August 5th in the history of Our Lady Queen Monastery was what we called, “Founder’s Day,” the day the monastery began. Sr Mary Herbert’s body arrived here at the Church at 2:45 PM. All the nuns, monks and some guests including Regina, her dear cousin and Rita, a great friend, were there to escort her into the church. Sr Mary Paula carried the processional Cross as the directors guided the coffin to the choir of the church just in front of the altar. We sang a beautiful chant “Subvenite Sancti Dei,” sung since Medieval times. After that we prayed None and then took turns reciting the psalms till Vespers at 6:00 PM. That was so fitting because for over 83 years the psalms were her prayer. We began the Office of the Dead with Vespers through the next day until II Vespers of the Transfiguration.

The Funeral Mass was on August 6th. This was wonderful because it is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. And when you think of Sr Mary Herbert’s life you can’t help but think of a human being responding to God’s grace and becoming fully what He intends – a child of God, a spouse of Christ and holy one! We will soon have Fr. Gregory’s homily to pass on to you. He did a great job.

All the sisters had a part in Sr Mary Herbert’s funeral liturgy: Sr Mary Angela, Sr Mary Clare, Sr Mary Paula, Sr. Christine and Sr Maria all put the pall on and took it off at the end of the Liturgy; Sr. Monica, Sr. Mary Frances, Sr. Gemma, Sr. Mary Emmanuel and I were her pall bearers. We all were so touched to do these things. The day was gorgeous and bright . You couldn’t help think it was a sign of God’s radiant pleasure about Sr. Mary Herbert. At the grave we sang the Suscipe as the coffin was lowered into its final resting place. It is very fitting and moving that this is sung then: Sr. Mary Herbert would have sung this piece when she made her vows in 1933: “Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam et non confundas me in expectatione mea.” “Receive me Lord, according to your word and I shall live, and do not disappoint me in the promise you have given me” (Psalm 118:116). These are the words a nun or monk singsd three times the day they take their vows. After the final prayers and blessing we all sprinkled holy water on the casket and then sang the Salve Regina. I can still recall hearing Sr. Mary Herbert sing that song with all of us. It was all so beautiful but so tough too.

Although we were all pretty tired from such a weighty time we were happy to have ahead of us a Monastic Experience Weekend. We have two women with us who are investigating how to discern a religious vocations, and are trying to learn about the different ways of following the Lord. We have enjoyed having them with us. The Weekend ends today at 4:00.

And then, tomorrow is the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. That is Sr. Mary Clare’s feast day! We can’t let that day pass without celebrating Sr. Mary Clare and thanking God for all she has done for us over the years.

God bless you all! Thank you for all your prayers and love and support. We thank God for it all and pray for you every day. Blessed Week!

Mother Mary Elizabeth and all