Sister Benita Hassler
“Listen! Listen! St. Benedict speaks. Attend with the ear of your heart.” So begins a poem/hymn by Sister Benita Hassler, who expresses her lifelong devotion to Benedictine values by sharing a wide range of gifts – as poet, musician, artist, missionary and teacher. Her mother was also a teacher, in a one-room country school in Montana, and eventually entered the Monastery of St. Gertrude 16 years after her daughter – as Sister Veronica.
“Hear the Voice of our God – in your hearts, in the Word, in each other, in the world – Calling all to listen and obey.” Sister Benita entered St. Gertrude’s in 1949 when she was just eighteen. Her decision went against the advice of both her best friend and her father, who resisted his daughter going so far away from Montana. But she embraced monastic life and soon began a 55-year teaching career – including 30 years in Idaho Catholic schools – where she could express her love of art, music, and language.
“Put on the Mind of Christ – while you pray, while you serve, growing in love, full of joy – Moving all to be alive in Christ.” Sister Benita credits her mother as her biggest influence. “She showed me by her example many monastic values, especially her seemingly unlimited love for each member of her family and her voluntarily simple lifestyle.”
“Hasten in all Good Works – ardent hearts, humble trust, sharing your lives, full of peace – Spreading harmony to all the world.” In 1963, Sister Benita was among the first to be missioned to Bogotá, Colombia to teach in the newly built Colegio San Carlos. Sister Benita taught art and music in the primary and secondary schools there. Her mother, Sister Veronica, later served alongside her in Colombia for two years. Once back in Idaho, Sister Benita began teaching Spanish and English in the public high schools in Rupert and Caldwell. In 1984 she was named “Most Outstanding Foreign Language Teacher in Idaho” and was celebrated for her contagious enthusiasm and ability to motivate.
In 2000, Sister Benita became a volunteer, teaching English, GED and computer skills to Hispanic families. She and former student John Irwin also initiated a program that provided recycled computers for her students.
“Come, Holy Spirit, come – Freeing Love, Compassion, Path of Justice, Healing Fire – Bringing all to Everlasting Life.” Now Sister Benita rises early to write, compose music or paint. During the day, she helps the sisters in the infirmary email their families and friends. Much of her creative work is focused on tributes to community – including her mother’s legacy. “It is my joy in this present moment to celebrate all creation and cherish the earth,” she writes, “to grow in love in humble gratitude, alert for God’s surprises.”