'Spiritual presence': The nuns of St. Benedict's say goodbye to Utah

Published: Saturday, June 8 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

As a result, Walstrom said, “I feel uplifted here.”

“If I have a day when I don’t run into one of the nuns, I feel it is a day deprived of their spirit,” he said.

Which means Walstrom and others in Ogden are going to be feeling a lot of deprivation in the near future. In an open letter to the community, the current sisters — Sister Danile Knight of Minneapolis; Sister Mary Zenzen of Elrosa, Minn.; Sister Stehanie Mongeon of Thorne, N.D.; Sister Luke Hoschette of St. Paul, Minn.; and Sister Jean Gibson of Price, Utah — said “after much prayerful thought, we have determined that the time has come for us to move back to our original home in Minnesota.”

Adams characterized the decision as a “calling” that the sisters accepted with “total grace and humility.”

“Who could do that?” Adams said, his voice edged with respect and awe. “Most of these sisters have been here for more than 30 years — some for almost 50. But they don’t question the call. Sister Stephanie just told me, ‘I’ll go where God needs me.’ That’s who they are.”

Sister Danile, who has been in Ogden for 49 years, called the move back to Minnesota “bittersweet."

“We’re going home,” she said, “but we are leaving wonderful people we’ve grown to love. It’s difficult.”

Julie Smith, whose parents, Joe and Jane Featherstone, both preceded her in working with the nuns at St. Benedict's, thinks the difficult part is going to be maintaining the nuns’ legacy of compassionate service in their absence.

“They are going to be missed,” Smith said. “But they are our mentors. They’ve been teaching us. They show us how to do this through everything they do at the hospital and everything they do in the community. And now they are urging us to continue the work they have started. We want to carry it on.”

In fact, Adams said, “we are completely committed and focused on continuing their legacy here.”

But, he acknowledges, that won’t be easy.

“They have been tireless, working sunup to sundown providing tender support to patients and families,” Adams said. “We are all inspired — and a little intimidated — as we watch these 70- and 80-year-old sisters work us all under the table.”

He recalled a radio interview Sister Stephanie did recently, during which she outlined the work she and the other sisters do and their total commitment to Christian service. At one point the reporter said, “I don’t understand why anyone would do what you do.” To which Sister Stephanie replied, smiling: “I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t.”

email: jwalker@deseretnews.com

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