Annual Nun Banquet provides fellowship while supporting a cause

by TaLeiza Calloway –

For the more than 200 people who attended the eighth annual Nun Banquet in St. Joseph, the event serves as a family tradition, a way to support a good cause and a chance to visit with the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict.

This year’s banquet served as the first of many for novice Tamra Thomas. Thomas is preparing to take her first vows as a nun. She and her family attended the banquet for the first time Feb. 15. Thomas’ parents, Linda and Dave Thomas, have lived in St. Joseph for nearly 20 years and had not heard about the banquet. They were glad they decided to come.

“I was a little leery about trying different foods but it was good,” Linda Thomas said. “It’s nice.”

There were about eight different types of soups prepared by local businesses and the monastery. This is the first year local business helped out, organizers said.

Dave Thomas said he learned one of the keys to enjoying the banquet is dressing for the occasion.

“The secret to coming here is wearing a shirt that blends in with the soup,” he joked about possible spills.

Tamra said she looks forward to future banquets. Before she made the decision to become a nun, the 30-year-old was a special-education teacher and a home-health aide. Deep thought and consideration coupled with encouraging conversations with her parents helped her reach her new path.

The annual Nun Banquet supports Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and raised $1,442 this year. Specifically, nuns support the organization’s Women Build Project, a program that fits nicely with the mission of the Benedictine sisters to support and be involved in the community, Sister Pat Ruether, OSB, said.  Several sisters helped with the Women’s Build last year by assisting with painting, and have assisted with other building projects previously.

Women Build celebrates women working together in building community. It provides women of all ages and abilities the opportunity to come together to build not just homes but friendships and networks, personally and professionally, according to Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity’s website. Those who participate support the building through gifts of cash and volunteering.

Ruether and Sister Dorothy Manuel, OSB, are two of several volunteers who work on the Women Build. Manuel couldn’t say enough positive things about the Women’s Build project experience. Manuel said often it’s believed benefiting families are just given a home.

“You don’t just give them a house,” Manuel said. “You’re enabling them to buy a home.  The nice thing is you’re enabling them to be successful.”

One of the requirements of the building project is the future resident invest sweat equity. They work alongside volunteers on the home they will someday live in. For Cecilia Prokosch, OSB, this is an attractive component of the effort.

“The most wonderful part of building a Habitat home is working with all the people who will live there,” Prokosch said of the 2012 Women Build. “It was a delightful kind of day.”

Friends Louise Theisen and Mary Leisen of St. Cloud have attended the banquet every year.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years,” Leisen said of their annual routine.

“We come because it’s good,” Theisen said of the event. “We used to volunteer and help clear tables.”

Joan VanGrisen, a senior at the College of St. Benedict, volunteered by collecting tickets Feb. 15. She is a member of AKS, a service sorority.

“This group doesn’t get to do a lot with the monastery so it’s nice to make that connection,” VanGrisen said.

[/media-credit] Sister Dorothy Manuel, OSB, (right) shows sister Pat Ruether, OSB, pictures from the 2012 Women Build for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity Feb. 15. Sisters hosted the eighth annual Nun Banquet to support the Women Build program.

[/media-credit] Sister Pat Ruether, OSB, (left) and Sister Dorothy Manuel, OSB, talk about the 2012 Women Build for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity Feb. 15. Sisters hosted the 8th annual Nun Banquet to support the Women Build program.

[/media-credit] Sister Dorothy Manuel, OSB, holds photos from the 2012 Women Build for Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity Feb. 15.

[/media-credit] Joan VanGrisen (left), a senior at the College of St. Benedict, collects Stephanie Hart’s dinner ticket Feb. 16 at the eighth annual Nun Banquet in St. Joseph. Sister Karen Streveler, OSB, looks on in the background.

TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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