Up In Indiana: The Monks and Sisters of St. Benedict

Hi there internet, long time no post (again…).  So I’m back, no really, I am back this time.  And to get things started off right I’m launching a blog feature that has been in the works for a while now.  If you can’t tell, it’s called “Up in Indiana” which will be a series about our travels and shenanigans.  Also it’s a nod to the Lyle Lovett song of the same title.  Enjoy!

Southern Indiana has to be one of my favorite parts of the Hoosier State that I’ve been to.  There are lots of hills, and intermixed with those typical midwestern towns and farms is Hoosier National Forest.  Absolutely beautiful.  Additionally in the southwestern corner of the state there are two beautiful Benedictine sites: Saint Meinrad Archabbey for the monks back in October and Immaculate Conception Monastery for the sisters last weekend in conjunction with the Christkindlmark.  John Paul and I were really excited to head down to see both as seeing historic and beautiful churches is something that we made a point to do with our travels in and around Germany.  Fun fact – if we’re in a place for more than a couple days we usually have a day of “steeple chasing” and hit up as many churches as we can.  Fun times.  Or does that make us a couple weirdos?  Eh, whatever, we enjoy it 🙂

Like I said, last month we headed down to Saint Meinrad so we could see the Abbey and the area in the beautiful fall foliage.  The drive down took us a little longer than anticipated due to several areas of construction, ripped up roads, and detours but the drive was so SO pretty!  The monks offer a tour at 1:30pm so we were a little stressed as we pulled into the visitor parking lot, we hurried into the retreat center and come to find out that the tour was at 1:30 central time… yeah. For those who don’t know, the Northwestern and Southwestern corners of Indiana are in a different timezone than the rest of the state, a detail that JP and I clearly missed even though it says it right on the Saint Meinrad website.  Oy.  Anyway, this gave us some time to walk around the grounds ourselves, hit up the Saint Meinrad gift shop, and grab a snack.  Anyway, onto the pictures!

The Archabbey Church and Seminary
Inside the church. The inside was redone in the 1990s.


The monk’s cemetery.


Looking back up the hill at the church from the gift shop. The trees were a little greener on this side.


The chapter room with beautiful murals. Br. Morris, our tour guide, is the guy with the grin and rocking the awesome habit on the left.


On our way back we stopped the Winzerwald Winery  tasting room on our way back to Bloomington after the tour at the Archabbey ended, tried a couple things and picked up some early Christmas gifts for family.  I needed another snack when we got a little farther north so we made a pit stop and just happened upon a couple of Amish ladies selling some preserves.  John Paul chose to get a jar of pumpkin butter, and I’m pretty sure the ONLY reason that we still have a bunch of it left is that I just found it in the back of the fridge over the weekend.  Good stuff.

Last weekend we woke up and left for Ferdinand Indiana bright and early to check out Immaculate Conception Monastery and the town’s Christkindlmarkt.  We were excited to see another “old world” style church and get our Christmas market on.  The drive down was uneventful, all of the construction and detour we experienced the month before had been resolved, so no sections of only going 15 mph, Woot!  We arrived in Ferdinand and parked at one of the market locations (it was scattered throughout the little town), and set off to check out the market before trekking up to the monastery.

Now I don’t mean to sound all sour grape-sy here, but the market was NOT all we had hoped it would be.  It had a very distinct feeling of just a bunch of old lady craft and junk tables, and the food options were a little dismal given that the website touted it as being something VERY German.  Eh, not so much.  Granted there were a few really cool booths, like one with super neat wax ornaments and a booth for a German bakery, but really it felt like junk.  Also, I totally get that Indiana sucks insofar as the liquor laws are so selling glühwein on the street would be a hassle, but we couldn’t even find a place to grab a hot chocolate or apple cider.  Meh.  All the more reason for us to host a party soon.

Now the monastery was another story.  Again, it was definitely old world style, and much of the woodwork was original and had been imported by master woodworkers from Germany when it was initially constructed in the early 20th century.  We were fortunate enough to get into the church just as the sisters were assembling for midday prayer and it was really neat to see and hear.  We were also able to attach ourselves to one of the tour groups right after and get the history of why the sisters were in Ferdinand as well as history of the church.  All in all, very happy we went down, even if it was chilly with no warm drinks to be had while wandering.

Yay more pictures:

Walking to the Monastery through the town cemetery. John Paul was really entertained by all the German names on the stones.
Looking out over Ferdinand from the monastery church.



The hallway between the entrance to the monastery and into the church. It’s really pretty, and the lighting was hard to get right in photographs
THIS is what we’re talking about! The interior was also redone in the mid-1990s like Saint Meinrad, but most of the woodwork and a bunch of the windows are original.


Inside the wooden dome of the Eucharistic chapel.






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