St. Walburg Monastery

We Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery, faithful to our monastic profession, seek God in community, prayer and work.
We celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ and serve him in all God’s people, the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest.


Oils and brush in hand, Sister Emmanuel Pieper, OSB, St. Walburg Monastery, reflects on community’s experience of COVID-19 (above).



There is inaccurate information circulating regarding our community’s outbreak with COVID-19. We have received requests to clarify on our website what actually occurred.

  • January 25 – One sister had Covid-19 test
  • January 26 – All 35 sisters and eligible employees received first vaccine
  • January 27 – The sister tested on 1/25 was positive
  • January 28 – Sisters and 20 employees were tested; 25 sisters and two employees tested positive for the virus. Later 3 more sisters tested positive. No more employees tested positive.
  • 3 – Two sisters died of complications from Covid-19. Both were well into their 90s and had other significant health problems.
  • Feb 10 – One hospitalized sister died of complications from Covid-19. She had underlying health issues.

Seven sisters who received the vaccine continued to test negative three times over a period of two weeks following receiving the vaccine. They have since received the second dose with no negative effects.

Hindsight indicates Covid-19 was already present in the community at the time we received the vaccine. Several had complaints of sinus problems, coughing and minor gastro-intestinal symptoms. Because no one had the more common symptoms associated with Covid-19; fever, sore throat or complained of loss of smell and taste we did not know virus was present.  The vaccine, therefore, is not seen as the cause. Throughout this process we have worked closely with the medical community. They have been extremely helpful. We are looking forward to our date in May when we are eligible to receive the second dose of the vaccine.

Sister Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Prioress of St. Walburg Monastery

To celebrate National Sisters Week, see collaborative video produced by Benedictine Sisters in the United States

Sister Margaret Mary Gough (1930-221)

     Sister Margaret Mary Gough was born on November 28, 1930 to Francis M. Gough, Sr. and Cather ine Volkering Gough. She was the seventh of thirteen children, seven brothers and five sisters. Her youngest brother died shortly after birth. Her sisters Sr. Denise and Sr. Stella Marie are members of the Benedictine community.

Margaret Mary entered St. Walburg Monastery in 1950. She became a novice in 1951 and received the name Sister Mary Bartholomew. First profession followed in 1952 and perpetual profession in 1955. Sr. Margaret Mary celebrated her silver jubilee in 1977, her golden in 2002 and her diamond in 2012.

Sr. Margaret Mary taught in elementary schools of the Covington diocese from 1952 to 1963. She served as dorm mother in the boarding school at Villa Madonna Academy for four years. Sr. Margaret Mary completed her B.A. from Villa Madonna College in 1964 and received her teaching certificate. Three years later she completed work for a Master’s in Education from Xavier University, and returned for a second Master’s in Theology in 1986.

Sr. Margaret Mary served as Assistant Registrar at Villa Madonna College 1964-67. When the college moved to Crestview Hills and changed its name to Thomas More College (now University), Sr. Margaret Mary was its Registrar from 1968-1976. She served in the same capacity at Edgecliff College from 1976-1981. From 1981-1996 she worked in the Covington diocesan office of Pastoral Planning and Research, serving as its Director for the final 11 years. In 1997 she became Assoc. Dir. of Development for Madonna Manor, the position from which she retired in 2005.

Sr. Margaret Mary made lasting friends at each workplace, and kept her connections active. She valued her friendship with Bishop Hughes, inviting him to the monastery to plays cards in his later years.

On Saturday nights Sr. Margaret Mary hosted a regular card game, with pizza and a drink, for a small group of sisters. They will sorely miss her.

Sisters Mary Anne Wolking and Pauline Rice lived with Margaret Mary for close to 40 years. They were famous for Christmastime bourbon balls, and Derby Day Kentucky specials. Maggie continued the Derby Day tradition after moving to the monastery, and ran the betting table. No one gets rich on the size of sisters’ bets.

In 2009 St. Walburg Monastery celebrated the sesquicentennial of the community’s founding. Sr. Margaret Mary chaired the committee, which provided a succession of varied events throughout the year. Her creat

ivity, drive and hard work sparked equal efforts in committee members.

Margaret Mary worked regularly in the community archives. From this work she provided an entertaining, informative reports to begin community meetings.

sssssNotre Dame and UK football were favorites. She kept up with the news, particularly politics in recent years. Maggie was forthright in her opinions and honest. Her sisters Denise and Stella summed it up: “Maggie was a strong woman, and she was fun!”

Sr. Margaret Mary died peacefully at the age of 90 on February 10, 2021 from complications of the Covid virus. She is survived by her sisters: Sr. Denise Gough, OSB, Sr. Stella Gough, OSB, and Mary Eileen Gough, nieces and nephews, friends and her Benedictine community. Vigil service will be held on Sunday, February 28 and Mass of Christian Burial on Monday, March 1, 2021. Interment will follow in St. Walburg Cemetery.


Sister Rita Bilz (1926-2021)

     Sister Rita Bilz was born on July 6, 1926 to John Lawrence and Margaret Foltz Bilz. Rita Philomena was the fifth of six children, the youngest of whom died as an infant. The family were members of Holy Guardian Angels Church in Sandfordtown, KY where Rita attended the parish school.

While living at home, Rita kept a garden which reflected her love for order. She liked to keep things “neat as a pin”. Always a spiritual person, she had a grotto at home which is now at the home of her nephew, Jim Bilz.

Rita Bilz entered St. Walburg Monastery in 1959. She became a novice in 1960 and received the name Sister Pius Marie. First profession followed in 1961 and perpetual profession in 1966. Sister Rita celebrated her silver jubilee in 1986 and her golden in 2011.

In 1962 Sister Rita began a lifelong ministry of culinary artistry in the monastery kitchen. She trained novices as they

took 6-week tours of duty in the kitchen. Her “honey-dear…” was preparatory to a correction. Sr. Rita welcomed Sr. Veronica Weibel to the kitchen in 1968. They enjoyed many years working together.

In the early kitchen years, Sr. Rita traveled to several cooking workshops at Stonehill College and the University of Notre Dame. She was an avid reader of Southern Living and relied on a variety of cookbooks.

Sr. Rita liked to try new things. She was more a classic cook than a trendy one, not going in for food fads. When the days of tablewaiting gave way to buffet style, Sr. Rita was quite particular about the appearance of the table. A delicious meal relies on color and texture as well as taste. Monastery photo albums attest to that.

Wednesday was pie night. Rita served at least three kinds, all in her own pie crust. Wednesday was the evening the sisters invited guests.

Sr. Rita retired at year’s end, 2005, after 43 years of service to St. Walburg Monastery. She was now freer to indulge in special interests, particularly listening to “real” bluegrass music. Rita had her standards. She was well known to local radio station personnel, calling in her opinions, her appreciation, and making requests. When co-workers and sisters took her to bluegrass concerts, she insisted on the front row. She bought their CDs, too. On her 90th birthday, who should come to the party but a bluegrass band in which Rita’s own great-niece performed. She was totally surprised and delighted.

At age 94 Sr. Rita’s life began winding down. She died peacefully in the evening of February 3, 2021. Nieces Charlotte Decker and Barbara Blackwell preceded her in death. She is survived by her nieces and nephews, Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock OSB, Bob Kordenbrock. Ben Kordenbrock, John Bilz, Jill Heink, Jim Bilz, many great-nieces and nephews, six great-great nieces and nephew and her Benedictine community.

Vigil service will be held on Sunday, February 21 a 4:30 pm and will be live streamed at and Mass of Christian Burialat 5 pm on will be lived streamed at the same link on Monday, February 22. Interment will follow in St. Walburg Cemetery.

Sister Charles Wolking (1924-2021)

    Sister Charles Wolking was born on December 10, 1924 to Charles and Antoinette Mueller Wolking and named Jeanne Therese. She was the fourth of six girls, all of whom became Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery.

Jeanne Wolking entered the monastery in 1942. She became a novice in 1943 and received the name Sister Charles. First profession followed in 1944 and perpetual profession in 1947. Sister Charles celebrated her silver jubilee in 1969, her golden in 1994, and her diamond in 2004.

Sister Charles taught elementary grades in schools of the Covington diocese for about ten years. In 1955 she graduated with a B.A. in Occupational Therapy from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN. She worked at the United Cerebral Palsy Center (now Redwood) with pre-school and elementary students. She received an M.Ed. from Xavier University in 1965.

Sister Mary Rabe’s recent Leaven article on Sr. Charles gives a loving tribute to her skills at Redwood: “Sr. Charles’ gentle and effective approach to handling difficult situations…made her a most respected member of the team.”

She continues: “Her loving and caring, gentle but firm, warm and sympathetic personality led her to her next ministry as administrator of Madonna Manor. Her successful career lasted 33 years during which time she endeared herself to the residents with their many wishes and needs.” During these years Sr. Charles kept her Nursing Home Administrator’s License renewed by attending numerous workshops.

Sr. Charles retired to the monastery in 1999 and assisted where needed. She volunteered at the Manor as sacristan and continued to visit the residents.

Until very recently Sister Charles made the rounds with her rollator every day, getting her exercise, sharing her wit, and sometimes trying to go out the front door to go “home” to the Manor.

Sister Charles was preceded in death by her five sisters, Sisters Mary Anne, Teresa, Amelia, Mercedes and Consolata. What a reunion they are having!

Sr. Charles died peacefully on the morning of February 3, 2021. She is survived by her cousins, friends, and her Benedictine community. Vigil service will be held on Sunday, February 21 at 4 pm and will be live streamed and Mass of Christian Burial on Monday, February 22. Interment will follow in St. Walburg Cemetery.

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery invite you to join us on Saturday afternoons at 5 pm for  Evening Prayer. We will be live-streaming it. Link: Or search Facebook for St. Walburg Monastery Special Events to find the link.

We, as a Benedictine community, stand united in our response to the racial injustices in our country against people of color, particularly African Americans.  We pray for the nation’s healing.  We dedicate ourselves to shaping a community based on understanding, acceptance, equality, and compassion.  We pledge to listen, learn, pray, and seek solutions that result in a world where the dignity and diversity of all people are cherished. Villa Madonna Academy and the Benedictine Sisters express our unity and commitment to transformational change in our world. 

The Benedictine Sisters have initiated

a new live-in service program.


To read the 2017 statement on Racism from the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses, click here.

Arcadia Press has published
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery.

To order a copy, email Sr. Deborah Harmeling at
or call her at

Proceeds from the book go to
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery.

You can review the first chapter of the book at or at


We have a  St. Walburg Monastery blog entitled Reflections from the School for the Lord’s Service. It is a multi-voice blog with different sisters posting every week. New posts will go up on Wednesdays. Click here to read.

St. Walburg Monastery Community Members

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