Brief History

A Brief History of the Benedictine Nuns of St. Emma Monastery


On February 25, 1931 (the feast of St. Walburga), Mother Leonarda Fritz, OSB and ten Sisters arrived at St. Vincent Archabbey, Seminary and College, Latrobe,  Pennsylvania.  By 1939, they numbered 40 Sisters.  They came in response to a request to our Motherhouse, Abtei St. Walburg (Eichstaett, Germany) for Sisters to work in the kitchens and dining rooms.  The money the Sisters received during these first years helped support the motherhouse in Germany that was struggling financially because of inflation and the large number of women entering.  The Sisters were a wonderful, prayerful influence on countless monks, seminarians and collegians at St. Vincent through May 1987.

In spring of 1943, the Sisters purchased a house and 10 acres near Greensburg from the John Robertshaw family.  This offered a place where the Sisters could go in the summer and “when they would retire from St. Vincent’s” — 44 years later!.  Already that first year groups asked to come to St. Emma for days of recollection—the beginning of the retreat movement!  The following year the Sisters purchased the adjacent 100 acre farm.  What foresight!

During the 1950s the Fatima Chapel and retreat house were built.  They offered the traditional Benedictine hospitality and provided the community a means of support.

In 1960 the first monastery wing with a small chapel was completed; the first American women entered the community in 1961.  The second monastery wing was completed in 1964.  In 2002, the Cor Jesu Monastic Chapel (with choir stalls) was dedicated giving a visible center to our monastic life of prayer and dedication.

In January 2008, Mother Franziska Kloos, OSB, Abbess of Abtei St. Walburg, began the process to raise our community to the canonical status of an Independent Priory.  With the assistance the Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt, Bishop of Greensburg, and the Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, OSB, Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey, and others, Mother Franziska took care of all the needed and necessary steps.  The Decree of Independence set the date of our independence as January 1, 2010, the beginning of the 1300th anniversary of the Birth of St. Walburga, the patroness of our Motherhouse and a special patroness for our monastic community as well.

On February 10, 2010 the Conventual Chapter elected its first Conventual Prioress (also recognized as a major superior), Mother Mary Anne Noll, OSB.  She had served the community as Prioress since 1993.

On April 18, 2010, we celebrated this event publicly.  The Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt, the Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, OSB together with other priests concelebrated the beautiful Mass.  Mother Franziska Kloos, OSB and many volunteers, friends and benefactors joined us this event that included the formal installation of Mother Mary Anne as Conventual Prioress.

Our small monastic community continues in its established rhythm of ora et labora.  We gather six time each day to chant The Liturgy of the Hours as well as for the daily celebration of the Eucharist.  These prayer times provide the framework for our day.  The labora finds expression in the various tasks necessary to care for each other and to keep the monastery, retreat house, monastic guest house and our Catholic gift and book shop as “the household of the Lord” (Rule of Benedict) with the aid of a very dedicated group of volunteers.

God has so inspired these generous volunteers to assist us in creating and maintaining this spiritual center of monastic life that we have no hired help.  What a miracle of Divine Providence!