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Meet Our Sisters
Sr. Miriam Schmitt
Sister Miriam Schmitt was born in 1925 in St. Martin, MN, a rural area which offered few educational opportunities beyond that of elementary education. She recalls the very limited availability of secondary schooling and those which surrounded it.
Sister Miriam also remembers entertaining the idea of becoming a missionary sister in her teens. But her vocation took a different turn when she went to work as a housekeeper at St. Benedict’s in Minnesota, following her twin siblings who had done the same. Sister Miriam became an aspirant there and attended their high school for one year. St. Benedict’s was a very large community, and there was a call for some sisters to join the newly forming community in Bismarck, ND, to help meet the religious, pastoral and educational needs of the Catholic community there. At first, Sister Miriam did not intend to go to Bismarck. She was influenced by the fact that she knew several of the sisters going, and eventually found herself attracted to the idea of a smaller community where the sisters knew each other in a more personal way. Accordingly, Sister Miriam did make the decision to go to Bismarck, and completed her last year of high school and graduated from St. Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck. She became a postulant of Annunciation Priory during her last year of high school.
After completing her novitiate, Sister Miriam began her years of ministry with training in education, followed by teaching in the upper elementary and junior high school grades. Having an aptitude for accounting, business, and financial management, she had the opportunity to study, receiving a bachelor’s degree in commerce and finance from St. Louis University, and a master of science in administration from the University of Notre Dame. Additionally, she also received “hands-on” experience while serving as an “understudy” in the area of business and finance at Annunciation Priory as well as at St. Alexius Hospital, including significant responsibility in overseeing the funding for the building projects of both Mary College and Annunciation Priory. While involved in numerous financial, building, and business projects, she also served as postulant director at Annunciation Priory, taught at Mary College, and lectured in Bismarck’s diocesan permanent diaconate program. Sister Miriam was elected and served as prioress of Annunciation Priory from 1980-1984, challenging years in the wake of numerous changes that occurred in religious life as a result of Vatican II.
Following her years as prioress, Sister Miriam’s interest and ministry shifted from financial management to liturgy, spirituality, monastic studies, and medieval women’s mysticism. Subsequent to obtaining a Master of Arts degree in liturgical studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, she was a resident scholar in the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John’s Abbey, for a semester in 1986. The focus of her research was Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth century German Benedictine mystic. She continued her research on the German medieval women mystics at St. Bede’s Priory, Eau Claire, WI from 1986-1988. As a visiting instructor, Sister Miriam served in the School of Theology at St. John’s University, Collegeville, for five subsequent summer sessions and twice as a substitute faculty member during academic years.
For the next twenty years, Sister Miriam served as adjunct faculty for the five-days United Methodist Spiritual Formation Academies sponsored by the Upper Room, Nashville, TN, throughout the U.S., lecturing on various aspects of Christian spirituality. During this same period, she presented numerous workshops, seminars and retreats throughout the U.S. and Canada on Christian and monastic spirituality, liturgy, and the German Benedictine mystics of the medieval era.
In 1996 Sister Miriam co-edited the book, Medieval Women Monastics: Women’s Wellsprings, published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville. The focus of her articles published in various magazines or books centered primarily on the spirituality of the German Benedictine medieval women mystics, Hildegard of Bingen and Gertrude of Helfta, and on liturgy and Christian spirituality. Her study, research and spirituality interests brought her to Europe, Egypt and Israel. She was involved with lecturing, teaching, editing, publishing, spiritual direction, the labyrinth as a form of prayer, and liturgy preparation at Annunciation Monastery. Most recently the Medieval Women Monastics Project, involving the cataloging of her extensive collection of books, magazine articles, published papers, notes, writings, and artifacts has been completed, thereby making the research accessible to researchers and interested others.
Now retired, Sister Miriam resides with her community at Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, ND. Her interest in monastic spirituality continues through personal prayer, lectio, reading, study, and correspondence.