Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Benedictine Sisters Proclaim Their Vocation

By Kate Bittner The Message Intern
Campers gather at the Monastery Immaculate Conception.


            From the outside world looking in, it might seem strange that the highlight of the summer for some young ladies includes spending three days with religious sisters, sleeping in hot tents, learning about the religious life, celebrating mass outside on the grass, and playing silly games. But there’s just something about the intriguing and, for some, entirely mysterious life of a Benedictine sister that draws them in and makes it a wonderful few days away from their homes – at the dome!

            The Camp Marian retreat with the Sisters of Saint Benedict in Ferdinand, held on the grounds of Monastery Immaculate Conception, started more than a dozen years ago, and it has been booming ever since. Designed for girls only in grades five through eight, many rush to sign up as soon as it is open. However, the past few years, there have been many disappointed young ladies stuck on a waiting list, due to the number of campers who are able to attend. About 50 girls have been in attendance every year, and a waiting list for counselors to help is also in existence.

“Camp Marian is a time to share our Benedictine life with the girls who come to camp,” reflected Sister Jill Reuber, the main director of camp. We can help them to realize that we are just like anyone else. I love that we can share our love of Christ with them. Some of these girls have never met a Benedictine sister before, and Camp Marian allows them to, in a more relaxing atmosphere.”

Campers enjoy a tour of the monastery, delicious meals, archery, swimming, a slip-and-slide, and other exciting activities. Girls also are given a peaceful time to get away from life, and relax with the Lord and meet new friends.

The favorite part of the retreat for many is the bonfire – because of the S’mores and all the fun songs around the campfire. But it’s also an exciting opportunity to meet the many sisters who come down to enjoy the fire. It’s a good opportunity to meet some of the older sisters who have lived the vocation for much longer.

Sister Michelle Sinkhorn, vocations director for the Ferdinand Benedictines and leader of the camp mused, “I consider myself a vocation from the camps. Back in 1995, pre-nun days, I was on the team for the very first camp with Sister Teresa Gunter at Mount Francis. It was eye opening for me then – to see how 'normal' and cool the sisters were. Now it is a joy to watch the same reaction of the campers just from the other side. Thirteen camps later here in Ferdinand, we are still going strong!”

Camp Marian is also a great time for the young girls to be more exposed to the idea of the religious life. In a world where there is not much of a sisterly influence in schools or any aspect of life, it is very important for young girls to understand the options for what God might be calling them to in life. Every day they can see what marriage is like, but many are rarely – if ever – around nuns. The sisters in this camp give witness to a different path of holiness and encourage the youth that their way of life is a beautiful sacrifice for the Lord.