Sister Corinne Forsman
In her 60 years as a Benedictine Sister, Sister Corinne Forsman has served as elementary school teacher; pastoral and retreat minister; vocation director; assistant prioress; mission director at St. Mary’s and Clearwater Valley hospitals in Cottonwood and Orofino, Idaho; and now, innkeeper of the Inn at St. Gertrude and vocations co-director. She has also completed Gonzaga University’s spiritual director program.
Sister Corinne witnessed the Council of Renewal (Vatican II, 1962-1965) and the great theological changes it inspired in the Church, individuals, and monastic community. “Vatican II told us to go back to our monastic roots and so we did,” explains Sister Corinne. “We embraced our identity as Benedictine monastics and asked ourselves what could that mean? It means we work, live, and pray together. Praying together is our primary ministry.”
These were her favorite ministry years. After twelve years of teaching elementary school, she began work at the Catholic Education Office in Boise during the implementation years of the Council. The mission was to work with the many catechists throughout the diocese of Boise in the area of the theology of Vatican II and its effects on catechesis and methodology.
“There was such a searching spirit with people, such hope, and such a sense of God’s spirit infusing the Church with new life and vigor. The Church indeed was ‘shaking loose the barnacles and opening the windows’ that kept parts of it stale and rigid.” In the summers, Sister Corinne attended the Seattle University Master of Religious Education program, learning from some of the best theologians in the country. “What grand stepping stones in my life!” exclaims Sister Corinne. “This education gave me such a clarity in understanding the world, the Church and life!”
During these renewal years, Sister Corinne experienced many of her close friends leaving religious life for a multitude of reasons. She worked hard at giving herself permission to leave if need be and in so doing, found “the freedom to stay, the desire to re-choose monastic life at every change.”
Born Mary Kay Forsman in 1938 to Frank and Gertrude Sprute Forsman on the Camas Prairie, Sister Corinne became inspired to enter religious life after seeing a movie about a missionary in China. She entered the Monastery in 1955 when she was 17 and made First Profession two years later.
Sister Corinne was influenced by several generations of sisters before her; some had taught her in elementary school. By 1985 she began to serve the community as assistant prioress and became keenly aware of how the generations shift onward. “I learned so much in caring for the sisters in the infirmary. Sisters Celestine and Ildephonse were teachers of mine and I was able to be present for them while they died. I saw how God often calls people in their dying process to continue to touch lives and be ministers in a new way. Sisters Cyrilla and James taught me similar lessons.”
She was inspired by her parish work in Clarkston, Walla Walla, and Jerome. “I ministered to people of all ages when they were at crucial times in their lives. There is a bond that happens that never goes away,” she says. “As innkeeper, I know parish work helped me a lot in being able to meet the public and share healing hospitality. I often get to encounter former students and others I ministered to years ago.”
She is especially active now as vocation director. “Once a vocation director, always a vocation director,” she laughs as she describes how she is always keeping an eye toward new members. “I love my monastic community and am very proud of it. I see us very much as frontier women. I love how we live out the liturgical life. We are a stable group with a rich tradition and history. Because of that strong foundation we are also a community that is moving forward. We continue learning how to listen to God’s voice to change and grow into the future.”