Mother Richarda Peters
M. Richarda Peters; undated. (Click thumbnail for larger image)
Mother Richarda Peters was born in Minneapolis in 1895. She entered Saint Benedict's Convent on September 3, 1912, was invested in 1913, and pronounced her first vows in 1914, and made her perpetual vows in 1917.
Even before she made her perpetual vows she had begun her long career as an educator. Between 1914 and 1939, living at Holy Angels Convent in St. Cloud, she taught in the parish grade school, then in Cathedral High School, becoming principal of the latter in 1928. She remained in that position until 1939 and returned in 1946.
In the interim, she completed doctoral studies in psychology and psychiatry at the Catholic University of America in 1942 and served as Dean of Residence and as a member of the faculty at the College of Saint Benedict for four years.
Her second term as principal of Cathedral High School ended abruptly on June 18, 1949, when she was elected Prioress of Saint Benedict's Convent. She was re-elected in 1955. For these twelve years her immediate concern was the welfare of the sisters. The same skill in loving, efficient teaching and administration that had won her the admiration and love of several generations of students came into full flower as she met the challenges of her community's expanding apostolates in the Church at home and abroad.
In 1954 Mother Richarda was elected Mother President of the Congregation of Saint Benedict, a position to which she was re-elected in 1960, thus becoming deeply involved in the work of renewal and adaptation within the Church, within the Congregation and within her own community. In 1961 she received a deeply cherished tribute: the Mother Richarda Peters Scholarship, established in her honor by hundreds of those who had been her students and were her friends in appreciation of her care for them.
Her contributions to the College of St. Benedict were many:
- It was her decision to split the duties of the Prioress and the President of the College into separate roles and titles so that both the Convent and the College received the dedicated leadership that each institution needed to maintain their development.
- In 1955 Mother Richarda appointed a committee to raise funds for a new dormitory in 1956, both Mary Commons and Aurora Hall were completed, the first expansion of the campus outside of the Main Building.
- While head of the College, Mother Richarda continued to send future college professors to Catholic universities or universities with a department that was outstanding in its field in order to further their education for CSB students' academic benefit.
- In 1959, Mother Richarda chose a building committee for the Benedicta Arts Center. It was chaired by S. Mary Patrick Murray and included S. Firmin Escher, S. Colman O'Connell, and S. Jacqueline Dubay.
After leaving the Office of Prioress Mother Richarda served as superior of the Saint Cloud Hospital Convent. In 1964, for the jubilee of her religious profession, she was singled out for special tribute by the Most Reverend Peter W. Bartholomew, Bishop of Saint Cloud. He awarded her the Bishop's Medal of Merit, the first sister to be so honored.
Mother Richarda remained in St. Cloud until 1967, and then she returned to St. Benedict's to be directly responsible for the aged and infirm in the Motherhouse. After lung cancer caused her to enter the Saint Cloud Hospital several times as a patient, at her own request she joined her sisters in the Health Care Center on May 13, 1972.
Mother Richarda died on July 5, 1972 at the age of seventy-seven and in the sixtieth year of her religious profession.
For more on M. Richarda:
- Benedictines Here Re-elect Rev. Mother Richarda, C.S.B. President, The Benet, October 1955, pg. 1.
- With Lamps Burning by S. Grace McDonald, pg. 177-178, 196, 210-211.
- "The Story of a Scholarship", The Benet, October 1961, pg. 3.
- In League with the Future: The First Fifty Years by S. Mariella Gable, Spring 1964.
- "Benedicta Arts Center 1963-1988", Saint Benedict's Today, Fall 1988, pg. 12.
- Mother Richarda Peters 1949-1961, "Our Prioresses", Saint Benedict's Monastery.
Special thanks to Megan Girgen '13 and Meghan Flannery '15 for drafting this text.