Sister Benigna Gerstlacher, 1906-2003
Born January 19, 1906, Zillenberg, Germany
Entered St. Walburg Abbey, Eichstatt, Germany March 25, 1928
Entered St. Walburg Monastery, Covington, Kentucky August 8, 1928
First Profession February 10, 1930
Died October 8, 2003
Sr. Benigna, the oldest of eight children, was born in Germany. She entered St.Walburg Abbey in Eichstatt in the spring of 1928. She joined a group of young postulants who wanted to become missionaries, left for the United States in July, 1928, and entered St. Walburg Monastery in Covington in August.
Although she served the community as a cook and seamstress at St. Henry, Villa Madonna Academy, Holy Cross, Blessed Sacrament, St. Benedict and St. Joseph and Santa Fe Hospitals in Colorado, she never lost her zeal for missionary activity. She sewed vestments, altar linens, First Communion dresses and suits for boys and girls for distribution to the missions in Africa sponsored by the Benedictine Fathers from Schuyler, Nebraska. One of the postal workers at the Fort Mitchell branch knew her by name because of all the packages of clothes she sent.
Sr. Benigna suffered much during the years of World War II. Several of her brothers were in the German Army-one was killed in Russia. She had no real contact with her family during those years. Through the Red Cross, she learned that her mother died on July 29, 1943. I n 1966, 1978 and 1984 Sr. Benigna was able to visit her family in Germany.
Sr. Benigna was a frugal woman who loved to serve a good meal. She had a fierce energy for charity and serving the needs of children. Her early dreams of being a missionary were realized in a way she never imagined. At her death she was the oldest member of St. Walburg Monastery.