A Day in the life of a Benedictine Sister

Hello, my name is Sister Elizabeth Carrillo and I am a Benedictine sister at the monastery of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. I was raised in Arizona, and first heard about the Atchison sisters when I was looking for a place to volunteer. I came in 1998 as a volunteer, then lived in Kansas City for a while and entered the community in 2002. I am a “scholastic,” which means that I have finished my novitiate and made temporary profession, but still have some time of discernment and study before I can make my lifetime profession.

6:00am  The day starts early at our house. Not being a morning person, sometimes that’s an opportunity for extra "penance"’ itself.
6:30am  Prayer is the rhythm that holds the day together in a monastery. We gather several times a day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It is an ancient form of prayer in which we chant psalms from the Old Testament, listen to readings of Scripture and pray for the needs of the world.
7:00am  Between prayers and Mass I get a cup of coffee. Sometimes the sisters I have coffee with engage in a little conversation and sometimes we’re only awake enough to mumble a few words of greeting.
7:15am Next, we have Eucharist which we are very blessed to celebrate every day. When I look around the chapel, especially at the consecration, I am reminded that we are all the Body of Christ for one another. I am awed that these women have pledged to give themselves as body and blood for the world and each other, and I pray I will be able to do the same for them.

Sometimes I have a special role in the liturgies. We take turns with reading and leading the Liturgy of the Hours. I also sing in the small group (called a "schola") and sometimes play an instrument. I'm also a communion minister. These are very special roles because in all these different ways, I'm bringing Christ to my sisters and our guests.

During the school year, I attend classes at Benedictine College. When I came to the community, I had a degree in music performance as a violinist, but now I’m studying theology and psychology so that I can teach high school and be a music teacher.
In the summer I have time to sit and eat breakfast with the community. We eat in a large dining room, but at small tables where we get to share the events of the day with various sisters. We try to think of our meal times as an extension of our sharing at the Eucharistic table.
8:30am I still have to study even in the summer. Statistics class is my challenge this summer, so I have to give it some of my attention every day.
9:45am This summer I am helping our liturgist in the mornings. Right now, we are getting ready for a leadership camp for 65 junior high girls. I’m conducting a handbell choir of the campers. They’re really good, even though with all my planning the smallest camper ended up with the biggest bells.
12:00pm Our dining room is like a cafeteria in that we go through a serving line and get our food. During the meal we have a prayer and a short spiritual reading. We try to take time to attend to one another, gain wisdom from the diversity of sisters and guests, and make our conversations positive. This is part of the Benedictine commitment to hospitality.
12:45pm Midday prayer – We get together in prayer again after our meal. It’s a shorter set of psalms and prayers, but the same format as morning prayer. We have it in a small chapel close to where our infirm and older sisters live so they can pray with us.
After lunch is our study time. I also take some time in the day for my "lectio" which is personal spiritual reading and reflection.
2:30pm In the summer I help in the development office which does fund raising to help the community do more things for women in need, such as our women's center.
4:45pm Once a week, I give a violin lesson to a little girl named Tess who has been studying with me for 3 years. Before I came to the monastery, I had a music studio in Prescott, Arizona, so I enjoy the opportunity to keep teaching.
5:30pm Vespers - We get together to pray again before supper. While morning prayer is getting strength to go forth for the day, vespers feels like coming back to rest in the presence of God.
6:00pm After prayer, we meet for dinner. At noon, because of work schedules we are coming and going. At supper, we can take more time to appreciate the meal and each other. It’s not really what we talk about that’s most important; it’s the interchange. The topics can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Tonight, it’s my turn to help do dishes. Working together is not only a way to serve and get big jobs done, but sometimes it can be as much fun as the meal.
7:00pm In the evening, I like to take a little time for myself. Sometimes I play an instrument or learn something interesting from a magazine or the internet, but whenever I can I like to go outside to our beautiful grounds. Tonight I saw baby foxes, found a very strange but very cool looking fungus growing by a tree, and did some bird and butterfly watching.
8:00pm By this time, people are usually gathering in our community room, which is like the living room of any family home. I live on the fourth floor of the monastery in a living group of 9 sisters. The smaller groups give us a feeling of family. Once a week we meet to have a special discussion or celebration. Other nights, we just relax, watch TV and enjoy each other’s company.
9:30pm After we check the weather on the evening news, we all head off to our own rooms. I often read or study, but this is a beautiful night to go out on the upstairs porch and star-watch.

Vocation Office

12615 Parallel Parkway
Kansas City, Kansas 66109
Phone: 913.647.0303