Friday, June 1, 2018


The above program title is often abbreviated as SOIL lest its length deter young people from aspiring to become interns who share the rhythm and routine of praying and worshipping daily, working in the garden and grounds of the Convent of the Community of St. Mary at Sewanee, Tennessee, and cultivating a life that typifies the balance of the Benedictine Order. 

Visitors often see the interns weeding the Convent garden, planting lavender, and performing as acolytes and readers on the altar at the Convent of St. Mary. The intern program has been in motion for several years, and recently welcomed Eva Bogino from Maryland, a summer intern who will be living at St. Dorothy’s, a small cottage on the grounds of St. Mary, and following the Benedictine model of prayer, work, study, and rest. I understand she has deactivated all social media for the summer! And she’s plucky to come here during our monsoon season at Sewanee.

Long-term interns are usually college graduates who wish to expand their spiritual life and to discern how to use their gifts, interests, and experiences in service to others while living alongside the Sisters. Their tenure lasts from August 15th to mid-May. Summer interns live on the grounds of the Convent of St. Mary for a shorter period — mid-May to early, August — and may be undergraduates or young people who are at least 19 years of age. 

The two young people pictured above, Nathan Bourne and Eileen Schaeffer, were the convent’s first interns and are well remembered for informal hospitality dinners they cooked and served for members of the larger community of Sewanee during their internship. These two young people were outstanding models of the internship program, actively engaging in planting and harvesting lavender at the Convent of St. Mary for Thistle Farms in Nashville (a program that uses lavender in products made by survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction who are healed and empowered during a residency at the farm). 

Although Nathan and Eileen, like succeeding interns, engaged in agricultural pursuits, they also participated in study beyond the Convent and explored ways in which their faith connected with human communities and the natural world. Past newsletters from the Convent of St. Mary describe their work and their devotion to the Intern program. Copies of these newsletters are housed at the Convent of St. Mary. 

Short term interns in the SOIL program (also called The Organic Prayer Internship Program — TOPIP) have been provided with housing and some meals, and long-term interns are offered the same arrangement, as well as a modest weekly stipend. The "long-termers" sometimes work outside the St. Mary Community to make extra money.

Those of us who are associates and other members of the congregation who worship at the Convent of St. Mary love the engagement with these interns who are following their “Rule of Life” or mission: “Spiritual and personal growth and development and vocational discernment guided by the Benedictine model of prayer, work, study, and rest that is rooted in intentional communal living in harmony with the natural world, the Community of St. Mary, and the greater Sewanee Community.”

Prioress Madeleine Mary says she’s looking for new interns, and we who attend services in the Chapel at St. Mary and function as Associates look forward to welcoming these young people. Readers of this blog who know qualifying applicants, please guide them to the application form at the Community of St. Mary website:, or write to Prioress Madeleine Mary at the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, 1100 St. Mary’s Lane, Sewanee, TN 37375. 

Photograph by Prioress Madeleine Mary

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