“The monks [and the nuns] shall live by the labour of their hands” is what St Benedict laid down in his rule. Our work, therefore, is to support the community on the one hand and on the other it has an important function in spiritual life. “Ora et labora” – prayer and work form an inseparable unity.
First and foremost in a convent of 56 nuns (comprising five generations), 8 employees and an average of 20 guests, there is of course all the necessary work to be done which involves running a household and organizing the daily life of a community: work in kitchen and laundry, growing fruits and vegetables, taking care of the grounds and buildings, sewing and wood working. There’s also the infirmary and the administration office.
Many of our sisters lovingly perform their daily duties in all of these areas with tireless dedication. Especially those tasks, which on the outside seem rather nondescript, are the ones that support the community and profoundly hold it together. In this, a Benedictine community resembles a traditional extended family with all the daily chores and cares. In accordance with the traditions of our abbey there always are some nuns who devote their time to scholarly research on St Hildegard. Sisters of our community critically edited the main works of our convent’s patron saint. Based on these editions, further individual research work is beginning to take shape now.
Some other sisters attend to groups of visitors and Hildegard pilgrims all year round and give talks about Hildegard’s life and work or about our Benedictine life. From its earliest beginnings, monastic life was also associated with apostolic work. Recalling these old traditions, our community was able to respond to inquiries and meet new challenges in recent years. Three of our sisters are now working in pastoral care.
One is in charge of pastoral care at St Josef’s Hospital in Rüdesheim, the second is a spiritual director to Catholic chaplains in the German armed forces, and since July 2002 the third is responsible for the care of pilgrims to the shrine of St Hildegard in the former abbey church which is now the parish church of St Hildegard at Eibingen.