September 19, 2016
Canyon—Benedictine Sister Marcella Schmalz will celebrate her 70
th year of Monastic Profession Saturday, Oct. 1 during a 10:30am Mass celebrated by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek at St. Benedict Monastery, 17825 South Western.
The public is invited to the Mass and to a reception Sunday, Oct. 2 from 1:30pm to 4:00pm, also at the Monastery.
Sister Marcella made her profession on June 24, 1946 at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Ark. She is one of the founding members of St. Benedict Monastery, which began as a mission house of St. Scholastica Monastery in 1971, then a dependent house in 1986 and an autonomous Monastery in 2006. Sister Marcella has been a member of the Canyon monastery for all 45 years of its existence.
The fourth of six children born to Edwin Schmalz and Helen Blunck, Marcella Carolyn Schmalz was born July 5, 1920. She was born and grew up on the family farm near Paris, Ark., and received her early schooling under the Benedictine Sisters of Fort Smith.
In her late teens, Schmalz took a detour on her way to the convent by following two of her older sisters to California, where she worked in a variety of fields, including domestic work, child care and after certification, as a beauty shop operator. But her desire for the religious life did not dissipate and in 1943, she left California for Fort Smith and the beginning of her life as a Benedictine Monastic.
When Sister Marcella made her profession in 1946, she took the religious name of Benoit, but returned to her baptismal name after Vatican II when religious were given that option. As a member of St. Scholastica Monastery, Sister Marcella served as house coordinator in the missions and in food service in various institutions operated by the Monastery. After earning certification as a dietician, she served in that capacity in two of the hospitals staffed by the Fort Smith community.
After coming to Canyon, Sister Marcella worked for 12 years as a nurses aide and nurse technician at Neblett and Palo Duro Hospitals. She also worked in Pastoral Care for 14 years at St. Anthony’s Hospital and one year at BSA. During that time she also served the Monastery as Oblate Director, Vocation Director and assistant Formation Director. Sister Marcella retired in 2001, but took over Food Service for the Monastery while keeping her other monastic positions. In 2014 she reduced her involvement with the Monastery Food Service, but still continues to serve in the other monastic positions.
Sister Marcella sat down with
The West Texas Catholic and with some help from her fellow Benedictine Sisters, answered a handful of questions:
The West Texas Catholic: What are some of the high points of your religious life and some of the challenges you faced?
Sister Marcella Schmalz: The day I came to Fort Smith to enter St. Scholastica Monastery, and my clothing as a novice, and first and final monastic profession were times of great anticipation and joy. Our monastery at Fort Smith, began singing the monastic Liturgy of the Hours in 1950. Before that we had used a substitute called the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, which had a very limited number of Psalms and Readings. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours has been a daily joy.
The year 1971 was a high point, a challenge and a joy, when we started the monastery in Canyon. We had permission to come, but only one of us had a job and we had no place to live. Father Jack Gist (then-pastor at St. Ann’s Church, Canyon) provided housing until we could find a suitable house to rent. I soon got a job as a nurse’s aide, my first time for this kind of work. The welcome we received from Father Gist and the St. Ann’s Faith Community was a joy to us.
WTC: You often say you count your years as a religious from the day you arrived at St. Scholastica Monastery on Aug. 11, 1943? Why is that?
Sister Marcella: I say that because in my heart I considered myself there for life. This was a high point, and I never changed that commitment.
WTC: How has your prayer life changed over the years?
Sister Marcella: It has become more and more interior as well as based on Scripture and the Psalms. I have found much joy and peace in both the communal and private prayer.
WTC: What did you find hard about religious life?
Sister Marcella: It was some of the assignments. During my years in Arkansas and Missouri, I served the Monastery as house coordinator on the missions, domestic service for the Bishop of Little Rock and food service in the various hospitals and institutions staffed by St. Scholastica Monastery. Some of these were challenging, but all were a service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Once I was assigned to be local superior for the 20 sisters at one of the hospitals our community staffed. I felt I had no preparation or talent for this job. But I kept the job for four years.
WTC: What advice do you have for someone discerning a vocation in religious life?
Sister Marcella: Be convinced this is God’s will for you and be prepared to accept any challenges that come your way. Come seeking God, rather than self-satisfaction. Be prepared to share your life, it will no longer be just yours. Trust God that you will find great joy as well as difficulties.