The Evolution of Benedictine Congregations

from a Feminine Viewpoint


Mother Franziska Lukas, OSB

Abbess of Dinklage (Germany)


The Congregations, from a female point of view –"new and old”: This is what I was asked to speak on this morning. When I read this proposed title, I thought you might be most interested to hear about the experiences that I and we had as we set out on the path of erecting the European Benedictine Congregation of the Resurrection. It is of course the view of a Benedictine, and does not directly address the situation of the Trappists, Cistercians or other orders.

You are all certainly familiar with the general history of Cor Orans:

In 2014, a questionnaire from the CCLSAL in Rome was sent out to all monasteries of moniales. However, many received it only after a long delay and some never received it at all. This was especially true for us Benedictine moniales. Fortunately, that year we were together for the CIB Symposium. At this Symposium a papal audience was scheduled, which was cancelled from the Vatican at very short notice. This gave us the time and opportunity to talk and communicate about the questionnaire. To our surprise, we realized that we were/are in agreement in our answer on most of the basic questions.

In 2016, the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere was published: we still cannot tell if, or to what extent, our responses and / or the responses from other moniales to the questionnaire were incorporated into this document.

As a follow up in 2018, the Instruction Cor Orans was published; this set out the new norms that we are expected to take on in obedience. Some of the norms increased the responsibility of moniales; others are not compatible with our life today.

Cor Orans was the catalyst for three movements:

1. Collaboration and communication at different levels, especially with regard to the generally felt irritation caused by the length of the formation period.

2. Contact with the Congregation for Religious (CCLSAL) at the international, European and national – in our case, German – level.

3. Ongoing developments and shifts among the communities and moniales themselves, for instance:

• In Spain, where the communities of the moniales were already in the process of forming one monastic congregation to replace the four existing Federations and in the Philippines, where the three communities of moniales started to form a monastic congregation, and under the monasteries of the new European Congregation. The constitutions for all of these congregations have meanwhile been approved.

• For individual monasteries who decided to join already existing federations or congregations.

• Federations making adjustments to their norms - in some cases considering asking for dispensations (e.g. from the extended formation time).

These few references should suffice in relation to the general developments at this point.


Concerning the new European Benedictine Congregation of the Resurrection.

CongENI can describe it from two perspectives:

A. The process that our community in Dinklage went through: Each monastery of our congregation had to go through their own version of the process and had to come to decide how they wanted Cor Orans to influence their future. For us in Dinklage we had different reasons that led us to prefer creating a new monastic congregation like the one we did. For us, it seemed that to build something new “only” in Germany was too narrow, because we have different nationalities in the community, but that to build a truly global congregation seemed too wide. Secondly, we see a monastic congregation of “women” as a sign that is asked from us at this moment in the church, when Rome has given us the power to do exactly this.

B. Process of developing the group of communities that now belongs to the newly erected congregation.

The initiative was taken by two monasteries in Belgium:

• They asked other monasteries if they were interested.

• Those who were drew collectively on existing networks that have grown up over the last decades [UBB, ADSUM; CIB].

The target from the beginning was:

• To develop a monastic Congregation, not a Federation. We all agreed that this was the preferred route because we wanted to be juridically independent from the bishop.

• We do this because we think it is good for us, not because Rome asked for it (even if Rome ultimately gave the impetus). Our experience: we discovered immediately that taking this risk and opening ourselves up to this adventure sets energy free. We see advantages in building a new and bigger community in this way.

• Preserve diversity: that was and still is an important point for all of us because each of the communities has such a different history, lifestyle, tradition and culture.

• The idea of living in a common “Europe” is shared.


Regarding the elaboration of the Constitutions, the following steps were taken:

At the very first meeting in October 2018 we decided to have a juridical commission with 4 superiors and Sr. Scholastika Häring, Dinklage as the coordinator.

This commission made different drafts as they moved forward step by step. We discussed each of these in the conference of superiors. Each draft that came from the commission was sent to the superiors who discussed and adjusted it. Afterwards the text went to each of the communities. Each time we (superiors) brought with us the questions and commentaries that were discussed in our communities and then made further decisions based on all of this in the next conference of the superiors.

This went on step by step for several drafts.

Before presenting the final text we asked two canonists, a woman/a man to read the whole text in English/French. After receiving their comments, we had a last superior meeting to discuss it. The final text went to each of the communities who then voted on it.


As for the content of the Constitutions, perhaps the following is of interest:

We have written a Preamble as our "common identity"; in that we emphasize, that we live our life according to Perfectae Caritatis 9 (monastic).

We have drafted the Constitutions on the principle of

• as much as necessary, as little as possible,

• we point to the importance of monastic norms (e.g. term of office of the abbess, term and composition of the seniorate, period of visitation)

• we avoid standardisation; these are not possible or desired in the areas of liturgy, habit or apostolates. All live according to their place and tradition.

We began the process in October 2018 and by spring 2020 the Constitutions were nearly done. Then came the lockdown during which we could meet only via zoom. We were able to make this work, however, and managed to finish writing our constitutions. In November 2020 we had a virtual meeting of superiors during which we passed the Constitutions and then sent them along to the communities for them to vote.

Even at this point, it remained impossible for the superiors to meet in person so we gathered virtually and made the decision to get everything ready for Rome and then send it.

In addition to the constitutions themselves, we had to send in chapter minutes of the vote for joining the congregation, the chapter minutes about the vote for the constitutions, the decree from every monastery about the erection of it and a short description of every monastery. One of the superiors was authorised to speak in the name of all of us.

After waiting for a few months, we were granted a miracle: The erection of the congregation and approval of the Constitutions for 5 years ad experimentum.

So here we are! In November 2021 we prepare the general chapter that will be held in February in our community in Sweden. There we will elect the president, the council and so on and of course, we will celebrate that we have made it to this point!


Monasteries of the new Congregation are

Alexanderdorf (Germany)

Dinklage (Germany)

Egmond (Netherlands)

Hurtebise (Belgium)

Kaunas (Lithuania)

Liège (Belgium)

Montserrat (Spain)

Oosterhout (Netherlands)

Simiane-Collongue (France)

Steinfeld/Bonn (Germany)

Vadsena (Sweden)