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Ogden • Northern Utah's five remaining Benedictine nuns could return to their home monastery in Minnesota by the end of June, but, after decades of service in and around Ogden, the community is reluctant to let them go.
And, for the sisters, the feeling is mutual.
"People have asked me, 'Would you like to go to Rome and see the pope?' " said 87-year-old Sister Luke Hoschette. "And I say, 'No, I'd rather go to southern Utah and see the redrocks.' "
Catholic Community Services celebrated the 69 years of service that the Sisters of St. Benedict have bestowed with Lifetime Achiever Awards given during a Dream Builder's breakfast Thursday at Ogden's Summit Hotel.
"As a community we are deeply saddened by their impending departure," said Marcie Valdez, director of Northern Utah Catholic Community Services. "Who will love us in the way that they have?
"We know who we are today because we knew you," Valdez told the sisters. "You will always be with us like a handprint on our hearts."
It all began in 1944, when three Benedictine sisters hopped off a train at Ogden's Union Station to oversee construction of St. Benedict's Hospital high on the city's east bench.
That facility opened in September 1946 and functioned until 1977, when a larger replacement facility was constructed in nearby Washington Terrace, which has since expanded into what is now Ogden Regional Medical Center. The old St. Benedict's now functions as senior and low-income apartments.
Hoschette has served in Ogden for 40 years, six of those years as administrator of St. Benedict's Hospital. She later worked in various administrative positions at Ogden Regional.
Now she's trading her beloved Beehive State for the Gopher State, but not without some heartache.
"The people and the place are the two things I will miss," she said.
Same goes for Sister Danile Knight, 83, who has lived in Ogden for 48 years, working as a pharmacist at St. Benedict's until 1988, when she switched to materials management.
"Mountains," Knight said without hesitation when asked what she would miss about her decades in Utah. "But more than that we'll miss all the people that we've been associated with out here. They've been a great part of our family and such a support in all we've done and tried to do."
According to Knight, who heads up the group of five nuns in the elected role of prioress, the 18-acre Mount Benedict Monastery in South Ogden has a prospective buyer, but the transaction has not been finalized.
The nuns are corporate members of St. Benedict's Foundation, which, after their departure, will distribute the charity's remaining $4 million in $1 million increments over the next four years, Knight said. A total of 18 northern Utah nonprofits benefit from those dollars, aimed primarily at improving the lives of women, children and families in crisis.
In addition to that financial support, the sisters Knight, Hoschette, Stephanie Mongeon, Mary Zenzen and Jean Gibson will also leave behind a legacy of inspiration.
At age 9, Armani McFarland is evidence of that transfer.
Standing on a storage crate to reach the microphone, the fourth-grader thanked her parents for all the transportation as she accepted the Young Philanthropist Award on Thursday from Catholic Community Services.
Armani's first project was a food drive in which she helped gather close to 1,000 pounds. She also collected more than 150 backpacks, a trailer full of school supplies and 460 coats.
The nuns inspired her, Armani said.
"God wants us to help those who can't help themselves," she said, "and it feels good to help."
For 69 years, the Ogden area has felt the touch of the 135 Benedictine sisters who spent time here. But that tenure soon ends.
"When we leave, that's it. There won't be any more Benedictines sent this way," Knight said. "The young people of today don't seem to be interested in becoming religious, so we have to pray that they listen to the Lord and follow him. He'll provide."
Northern Utah Catholic Community Services honored the following on Thursday at a ceremony in Ogden:
Sisters of St. Benedict • Lifetime Achievers
Armani McFarland • Young Philanthropist
Charles Trentelman (retired Standard-Examiner columnist) • Community Advocate
Mel Gardner and Tim Hjorten (LDS Church) • Community Partner
Weber State University • Corporate Partner