A Story 136 Years in the Making
The Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel have a long history of service to the Church and the people of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Queen of Angels Monastery was founded in 1882 by Mother Bernardine Wachter, OSB, (pictured below) who led a group of Sisters and postulants from Switzerland to Oregon. The Sisters initially settled in Gervais, staying for awhile in an abandoned saloon. In 1887 the community acquired land in Mt. Angel and, with help from local folks, began building their permanent home, which would serve as a motherhouse and boarding school. The original building (pictured left) was completed in 1888.
In the early years, perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was a major focus of the Sisters. To meet the need for Catholic schools in western Oregon, teaching also became a primary ministry for the Sisters. Mt. Angel Academy was established as a boarding school for grade and high school students. Mt. Angel College specialized in teacher education, and later became a co-educational liberal arts college. Benedictine Sisters served in and operated parish schools throughout Oregon, as well as schools for Native American children in Oregon and British Columbia. They also did domestic work in the kitchen and laundry, and worked in the printing press at Mount Angel Abbey.
In partnership with the local community, the Sisters built and operated the Benedictine Nursing Center in 1957 to care for the elderly. During the 1960s and 1970s Mt. Angel Academy and Mt. Angel College closed, and fewer teachers were available for parish schools. Shalom Prayer Center, a retreat and spiritual renewal ministry operated by the Sisters, began in 1973, and continues as Shalom at the Monastery, using space for the retreat ministry in Agatha Hall, the Hospitality Center and the monastery.
The Sisters' long-standing commitment to the poor became a formal program in 1988 when the community established St. Joseph Shelter, which serves homeless families and individuals. Mission Benedict, operated in collaboration with Mount Angel Abbey and St. Mary Parish, also serves those in need in the local area with food boxes, clothing, and other emergency assistance. One of the college dorms, Bede Hall, was renovated as Casa Adele, for migrant farm laborers and their families. Due to fewer sisters available to administer the ministry to the homeless, in July, 2017, the Benedictine Sisters transferred the ministry to Catholic Community Services of Salem, Oregon.
A 1993 earthquake centered just a few miles east of Mt. Angel caused extensive damage to the Monastery, the former Academy building and the Sisters' Chapel. As a result, the latter two buildings were razed. A new, smaller Chapel and a hospitality center were built and were dedicated in 1998. At the same time, major improvements to the monastery buildings were completed.
Changes in health care prompted the Sisters' decision to transfer the Benedictine Nursing Center to the Providence Health System in 1998. Though the community no longer operates a school or nursing center, some Sisters are active in education and in parish work. A number of Sisters presently serve at Shalom at the Monastery and the Sisters’ hospitality ministries, as well as in the operation and administration of the Monastery.