BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA, OBLATE CHAPTER: We Benedictine oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey are Christians united by the holyRule of St. Benedict. We come together in a chapter to support one another and strengthen our spiritual life through prayer and work.

BR. JOEL BLAIZE: Hi, I'm Br. Joel.

BR. KOLBE WOLNIAKOWSKI: And I'm Br. Kolbe. And you're listening to "Echoes from the Bell Tower."

BR. JOEL: Stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live, work and pray in southern Indiana.

BR. KOLBE: The podcast episodes we've been working on all revolve around Saint Meinrad's outreach in the world. Some of the episodes go along with stories in the 2018 Annual Report of Stewardship. Saint Meinrad impacts the world in many ways, from educating men and women for ministry to monks serving in parishes and giving retreats.

BR. JOEL: Today we want to focus on the Benedictine Oblates of Saint Meinrad. Some of our listeners are oblates. Hello, thanks for listening. And some of our listeners have never heard of an oblate before.

BR. KOLBE: We talked to Becky Boyle and Nina Castronova, who are oblates in Bloomington, Indiana, and to Br. Stanley Rother Wagner, who serves as the oblate novice mentor, to find out what it means to be an oblate of Saint Meinrad.

BECKY BOYLE: An oblate is someone who has a heart and a desire to know God in a very unique and special way.

BR. STANLEY ROTHER WAGNER: Oblates are monastics that live in the world.

NINA CASTRONOVA: It's a layperson, someone who has a connection to Saint Meinrad Archabbey and a commitment to Benedictine spirituality.

BR. JOEL: An oblate is all of those things, a man or woman who wants to deepen their relationship with God according to theRule of St. Benedict.

BR. KOLBE: They become affiliated with a specific Benedictine community, like Saint Meinrad, and share a spiritual union and friendship with the monks. Here's Saint Meinrad's oblate director, Janis Dopp.

JANIS: Oblates are not spectacularly holy people. They're just ordinary people who are seeking God and seeking a way to God that is balanced and attainable. It's a way of seeking God that allows for mistakes, and that means everybody can be an oblate.

BR. JOEL: Oblates are many different denominations and don't have to be Roman Catholic. They are just people who want to live their daily lives by the Benedictine traditions of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, reading theRule of St. Benedict, doinglectio divinaor spiritual reading. And by following this lifestyle, oblates become more aware of God's presence in their lives.

JANIS: Being an oblate is, in many ways, very unremarkable. There's no special garb that you wear. You don't put any initials after your name. It's something that's very quiet, and yet it's something that changes your life forever.

BR. KOLBE: Oblates pattern their own lives after the lives of the monks. As you can imagine, there are some elements of the monk's life that are easier to mirror than others.

JANIS: So for me, I'm taking the sense of balance that they have and applying it to my life. I'm taking sensibilities that they have about hospitality, I'm taking the rhythm of having prayer times throughout the day, I'm taking the importance of contemplation,lectio divina, and plugging that into the life I'm leading in the world. I can't do that the way they can do it, but I can take bits and pieces of that life and make it real in my life.

BR. KOLBE: Being an oblate is supposed to enhance the life you have, and to make you a better person in your vocation.

JANIS: When I first came to Saint Meinrad, Fr. Justin said to me, "You are not here to become a little monklet. You are here because you want to be a better wife and a better mother," and that made sense to me.

BR. JOEL: Becoming an oblate is not a light decision. Following the lifestyle of a monk completely changes the balance and pace of life.

BR. KOLBE: People who want to become oblates spend a year as novices. During that year, they read and respond to novice lessons once a month and learn how to apply the Benedictine values to their own lives.

JANIS: We try to make it very clear to people entering the novitiate that they are not just joining a prayer group, that this isn't a club that puts them closer to the monks in the monastery, but that it is, in fact, a way of life.

BR. JOEL: After a year, they decide if the life of an oblate is for them. Some people decide it's not and others go on to make their final oblation and officially become oblates of Saint Meinrad.

BR. KOLBE: At the final oblation ceremony, oblates promise stability of heart, fidelity to the spirit of the monastic life, and obedience to the will of God.

BR. JOEL: After oblation, Saint Meinrad becomes their spiritual home. Being an oblate of Saint Meinrad means they are an extension of our community out in the world.

BR. KOLBE: So, we need the oblates and the oblates need us.

JANIS: I don't think there's any way to overestimate the role of the house that you are affiliated with. We pray for them and for ongoing vocations and they pray for us, and there's nothing that's more important than that in a relationship.

BR. STANLEY: The oblates, for us monks, provide a very tangible link to the world. They live in the world and they pray for us in the world. Indeed they're most important role is to pray for our monastic community, but they also, through their good zeal, manifest all the good that we do here.

BR. JOEL: The monastic community serves as models for the oblates on how St. Benedict calls us to live, but that education goes both ways. Here's Br. Stanley.

BR. STANLEY: The thing that I enjoy most about working with our oblates is that I learn from them. I obviously learn from my brothers here in the monastery, but it's interesting to see how a monastic takes on living the Benedictine way of life in the world and I think that that's one of the great things about the oblates; is that they are members of this community and as community we all learn from each other. We all grow in that love in progressing on our way toward Christ.

BR. KOLBE: Some people become oblates because they want to grow in their faith. Some are looking for balance or peace in their lives. Becky Boyle was drawn to the community aspect of being an oblate.

BR. JOEL: There are oblate chapters spread across the United States that provide a community of like-minded people, although you don't have to be a member of a chapter to be an oblate.

BR. KOLBE: Monks are assigned to chapters and attend meetings to teach about different aspects of Benedictine spirituality, like how we just heard Br. James talking about accountability.

BR. JOEL: Becky is a member of the Bloomington, Indiana, chapter and she serves as one of the chapter coordinators.

BECKY: Bloomington chapter, awesome, awesome community. We are a very busy, vibrant and alive chapter. People have lots of ideas. It's a very caring community; it's amazing.

BR. JOEL: Becky has been an oblate for two years. Before becoming an oblate, she always went to Mass and was active in her parish, and she hosted a Bible study in her home for five years, but she still felt that something was missing.

BECKY: I've always had a heart for knowing God in a special way. As I became an adult and I had my own children, something else was clicking in me. And so I tried things like Bible studies, I would go to conferences and conventions just trying to connect with like-minded and like-hearted people. I so desired and I thought God wanted me to be in a community. Small, large, whatever, but he wanted me to connect with other people in that way.

BR. JOEL: One day, Becky was telling her faith story to an oblate, and at this point she didn't know anything about oblates.

BECKY: And so she's like, "Oh, you should try oblates. It's great, it's wonderful." And so I just kind of let that set and resonate for about a year or so, and then I saw this person again and I was like, "So what was that you were talking about?"

BR. KOLBE: Becky was given some information about the program and was invited to one of the chapter meetings at the parish.

BECKY: And just right away, I knew. As soon as I was there, as soon as I was with these other people, some whom I knew from our parish, many who I had never met before. Even that, it felt in a way like I was home. So that's when I knew.

BR. JOEL: Being an oblate has brought a sense of peace and settlement to Becky's heart, that feeling of home.

BECKY: Home to me is at 4:30 in the morning when I'm praying Lauds by myself in my family room. I am at home with my oblate community because I know someone else, somewhere, is also praying what I'm praying. And I don't necessarily have to be physically present with my oblate community to know I have a family in that community.

BR. KOLBE: Being a member of a chapter also creates a support system for Becky. There's a group of like-minded people who can hold her accountable and offer support when she needs it.

BECKY: Sometimes you just don't feel it, you know? Or sometimes you're kind of down and you're low and it's just not clicking for you. Well, you've got this community to go to that helps build you up so that you can get back out there and do what God wants you to do, and that's pretty special.

BR. JOEL: Being an oblate and praying the Liturgy of the Hours also helps Becky support others in her life and work as a public school teacher.

BECKY: I can't tell you how many times a day that word, especially my morning prayers, how that will come back to me in a day in my interactions with my students. Some of my best friends work with me at the school where I teach, not all of them are believers, and even those who are, they're on a journey just like I am and we struggle together. And I feel like I'm a source of support and encouragement for them and I feel like the more that I understand and study and apply theRuleand the more I'm praying and taking the scripture to heart, the more I'm able to be that for other people.

BR. KOLBE: Nina Castronova and her husband, Ted, are both oblates of the Bloomington chapter. Ted is also one of the chapter coordinators with Becky. Here's Nina.

NINA: Yeah, it's really amazing because I think it's helped us grow, both individually in our spiritual life, but I feel like we've grown as a couple spiritually as well. We each do it in our own way. I think he really gravitates towards the prayer, the reflection andlectio divina. I think, for me, I really value the notions of hospitality and humility, and that's sort of the piece that is most meaningful to me.

BR. JOEL: For Nina, theRule of St. Benedictand the monastic community have taught her to go through daily tasks without grumbling.

NINA: So that's really helped me, because I might think, oh gosh, I don't want to drive kids around another night for four hours, or cook dinner or do this laundry. Those things, if I think of them more as an offering and a vocation and a prayer, then I tend to grumble less.

BR. KOLBE: TheRule of St. Benedicthelps all of us see the sacredness of ordinary life. All those small little details of everyday life can become a prayer or an offering for God. Here's Janis.

JANIS: If I can invest every moment of every day with an understanding that baking a loaf of bread or making dinner or doing the laundry, making the beds - all of those are holy activities when we look at them through the eyes of obedience and humility. Those are all ways that oblation changes the way you approach life. So I think that it makes the ordinary life that I live something truly beautiful.

BR. JOEL: We've seen how being an oblate can impact individuals. It can also make a positive contribution to the community you live in. The Bloomington oblate chapter is impacting their community in several ways. Here's Becky again.

BECKY: We find a deeper understanding for our faith and a connection with each other through prayer and work. So as oblates, we're a praying community and a working community.

BR. JOEL: They have a special care basket that they put together for oblates who are sick or shut-in. They offer Vespers every Wednesday evening at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.

BR. KOLBE: They also participated in the Saint Meinrad Day of Service back in March. They worked with a local organization to help feed the homeless.

BECKY: What else do we do? We do a lot. This is also a relatively new. So, "One Bread, One Cup" here at Saint Meinrad. Wow, what about we connect youth with oblates?

BR. JOEL: This past summer, Nina brought a group of youth to Saint Meinrad for the "One Bread, One Cup" liturgical leadership conference. The oblate chapter sponsored and covered the tuition costs for one of the high schoolers. Here's Nina again.

NINA: So yeah, we sponsored one and I was very touched by the oblates' generosity and thoughtfulness, yeah, to do this. It was somebody who might not have otherwise been able to come, so it was really a good deed.

BR. KOLBE: Through sponsoring a youth and bringing a group down to OBOC, Nina is hoping young Catholics in the Bloomington community will become connected to Saint Meinrad and to Benedictine spirituality.

NINA: When I think about the Benedictine values in the sort of core ofora et labora, work and pray, I'm seeing these kids in this week, working and praying every day. It's really beautiful to watch.

They're also experiencing true hospitality, which I think is wonderful. It also introduces them to the beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours. A lot of them are hearing chant for the first time, so that's really wonderful, and just getting a glimpse of monastic life. I'm certain that this is an opportunity, a way of life that they had not experienced before.

BR. JOEL: Being an oblate, living the life of a monk out in the secular world, can change a person for the better. People find peace, a spiritual home, happiness and a connectedness to God and his will in their lives. They also find a community of people who share the same values.

BR. KOLBE: If those Benedictine values make us better people, then living them out in a world which does not always share those same values can make it a better place. Then, Saint Meinrad has really done something remarkable for the world.

JANIS: The world needs people who are kind, people who reflect rather than react, people who open their hearts in hospitality. I think that if we can do those things, we become the light of Saint Meinrad wherever we find ourselves. I think our role is to be that. It's to be Saint Meinrad in the world wherever we live, and whomever we're with.

BR. JOEL: Thank you for listening to our episode today about the Benedictine Oblates of Saint Meinrad. If you want to learn more about the oblates, check out their website at

BR. KOLBE: This episode was edited and produced by Krista Hall, with the help of Br. Joel Blaize, Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski, Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Jim Paquette, Tammy Schuetter and Christian Mocek. The music for this podcast was written and produced by Br. Joel.

BR. JOEL: A special thanks goes to Br. Stanley Rother Wagner, Janis Dopp, Becky Boyle, Nina Castronova and all of the oblates of the Bloomington Chapter who let us record audio during one of their recent meetings.

BR. KOLBE: Stay tuned for more episodes about Saint Meinrad's outreach out in the world. If you've enjoyed "Echoes from the Bell Tower," tell your friends and subscribe to it on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

BR. JOEL: And if you want to listen to past episodes or learn more about our podcast, visit If you're looking for another Catholic podcast that focuses on storytelling, check out the USCCB's "Made for Love" podcast. You can find it in iTunes under USCCB Clips.


BR. KOLBE: Janis promised me I could have the chapter that goes to the moon. So, I thought that was pretty nice of her.

BR. JOEL: What? I wanted the moon chapter.

BR. KOLBE: No, you get the Mars chapter.