"Thank you for who you are and for what you do, for your prayers and sacrifices for me and for the Church and for my co-workesr.  I am very grateful for your Benedictine presence and greatly need to be upheld by your prayers."

~Pope Benedict XVI to the Benedictine Nuns at Mater Ecclesiae


In 2004, Blessed Pope John Paul II invited the Benedictines to occupy the convent in the Vatican Gardens named Mater Ecclesiae.  Two sisters from our community joined 5 other Benedictine nuns from two other countries to serve the Pope at Mater Ecclesiae through hidden lives of prayer. 

Mater Ecclesiae: A Special Service to the Church

Mater_Ecclesiae_convent_copy.jpgMater Ecclesiae is a monastery of contemplative nuns established by Pope John Paul II which resides in Vatican City.  Every five years a different women’s religious order is called to serve a term in Mater Ecclesiae, during which time the nuns of the community's specific task is to pray for the Holy Father and the curia.  

In 2004, when His Holiness John Paul II asked that Benedictine nuns take up the monastery for the next five years, the Abbey of St. Walburga was invited to send two nuns.  The Mater Ecclesiae community would ultimately consist of seven Benedictine nuns: two from our Abbey, three from Italy, and two from France.  

The term of the Benedictine nuns was marked by the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and the subsequent election and installation of our current Holy Father, Benedict XVI.  The sisters were told that the monastery was so important to Pope John Paul II that he would only have to look out his window and see the Mater Ecclesiae convent and would feel greatly comforted knowing that the nuns were there praying for him.

 On this monastery which he founded, Pope John Paul II said: “It is fitting that in Vatican City, at the side of the Successor of Peter, there be a specific expression of life fully consecrated to contemplation and to the penitence of total separation from the world.  On that account, responding to a deep and long-standing desire, I have wanted to establish next to the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles a Community of Nuns with the fundamental contribution of prayer and the joyful witness of fervent charity, to participate in the daily care of the Pope for the whole Church.”

The Grace of Serving the Pope by Sr. Ancilla

"During this five year presence in Vatican City we lived through some astounding historical moments in the history/story of the Church. The death of the great Pope John Paul II, the election of the “Benedictine Pope”, Benedict XVI – this especially was a great source encouragement and a confirmation for me of our call there in the hard times of these five years, knowing that somehow, maybe John Paul II had “foreseen” the election of his successor and had the Benedictine community in place ready to welcome him and sustain him in a not so easy pontifical role.



The World Youth Day in Australia, the Pope’s pilgrimage to the Holy land, joyful moments as well as moments of great tragedy and hardships in the world. We followed the happenings in so many different parts of the world closely and carried them all before the Blessed Sacrament with heartfelt concern in prayer and in love. But my most treasured memory is the days leading up to the death of John Paul II and April 2, 2005 when he “entered the house of the Father”. The fact that this dynamic and most loved man who had always been able to excite and enthuse huge crowds now in his last days was able to bring those same crowds to an awesome state of silent vigil, this was most impressive as we followed his last hours. And it is wonderful to see how Pope Benedict has picked up and carried on this and has introduced time of silence and of adoration before the Holy Eucharist in his encounters with young people. I suppose what pleases me most in this is that gradually he is reintroducing our young to what has become almost a lost art among them – the ability to be still and to listen, to see silence as a value to be jealously treasured, guarded and developed and not something to fear or drown.

What I have learned from this experience is still a little early and a bit difficult to say. I suppose that with the passage of time and looking back it will not only become clearer and more pronounced but I will be able to see how it has enriched not only me but my community and our future as well. "

Sharing My Experience by Sr. Maria-Gabriel

Sr_MG_and_BenXVI_-2_copy.jpg“This special prayer apostolate/mission made me realize even more and in a deeper way the power of prayer. Being a late vocation, I believe it was God’s means of emphasizing His message to me that He has a great plan for my life’s journey and that He is always with me inspite of difficulties, as long as I keep a consistent connection with Him. There’s a great joy and lasting peace in doing something in obedience for the love of God and the Church.
The greatest challenge for me was having to deal with two foreign languages at the same time: Latin for the Holy Mass and the Divine Office; and Italian for communication-- which I had to study both for comprehension and oral expression. It was not easy at all for me to pray without understanding what I was praying, but by God’s grace I was able to overcome it after being counseled that in prayer what counts most is the disposition of the heart. It helped me all the way to the end of our mission!
I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who supported us in one way or another—especially for their prayers during our sojourn at the Vatican. You too have participated in our mission of prayer through your generous loving support. May God reward and bless you all abundantly. Be assured of our continual prayers."