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 Mother Benedict Duss

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Mother Benedict Duss

  • Birth 21 Nov 1910 Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Death 2 Oct 2005 Bethlehem, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA
  • Burial Bethlehem, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA
  • Memorial ID 12165840

Founder, Mother Superior first female Benedictine American Monastery, Physician. This Catholic contemplative community of nuns reside on 400 acres of pine forested land in Bethlehem, Connecticut spending most of their time behind the abbey gates, away from public view. Their religious way of life is self supporting raising necessary funds by farming, a dairy, traditional crafts such as weaving bookbinding, ironworking and pottery making. She was born Vera Duss in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Elizabeth Vignier and Attorney John Duss and the granddaughter of John S. Duss, a well-known musician and band leader. When she was three, she and her brother were taken by their mother to France where she grew up. 1936 was a red-letter year for Vera. She earned a medical degree from the University of Paris, then surprised her family by entering Notre Dame de Jouarre, a Benedictine Abbey outside Paris, taking the name Sister Benedict. She became the physician to the nuns at the Abby and also served the village of Jouarre and other surrounding towns. During World War II, the Abbey was occupied by the German Army putting Sister Benedict in great peril as she was an American citizen. She was forced to hide in the bell tower thus curtailing her role as a physician. Liberation came in 1944, as she watched from her high perch, the men under the command of General George S. Patton, Jr. pulled up to the front gate of the Abbey of Jouarre. Her dream to establish the first woman Monastery in her native land was headed to reality. In 1946, she arrived in New York with her co-founder Mother Mary Aline Trilles de Warren, a French nun, aboard the troop transport ship S.S. Argentina with a few dollars in her purse. Met by Connecticut artist Lauren Ford, she gave them shelter at her own Bethlehem, Connecticut home. Soon Robert Leather, an industrialist, a protestant to boot, offered them 50 acres of land and an abandoned factory building, his only claim, that the sisters preserve the heavily forested pine hill. Remodeled, the factory building became the main monastery building and remains that to this day. The community of nuns grew and features were added to insure livelihood. Guesthouses were added, the nuns planted flower and vegetable gardens, orchards, developed beef and dairy herds, a flock of sheep, pursued various crafts, to include carpentry, bookbinding, blacksmithing, pottery and weaving. In 1976, the Vatican elevated the Monastery to an Abbey and it became known as the Abbey of Regina Laudis. The facility has expanded with the establishment of many lay communities and the founding of Our Lady of the Rock Monastery, Shaw Island, Washington and have renewed the Benedictine Abbeys in Bari and San Vincenzo al Volturno in Italy. Today, many people guest at Regina Laudis seeking refuge while participating in the Benedictine rhythm of prayer and with work rediscover their spirituality. Mother Duss retired in 1998 under charges that the Abby was to authoritarian and cult-like. She was given the title retired Abbess Emerita of the Abbey of Regina Laudis and continued to live here as an advisor. In failing health, she died quietly at the Monastery at age 94. A traditional monastic liturgy of burial in Latin was recited in the monasteries simple wooden Church of Jesu Fili Mariae with Hartford Archbishop Henry J Mansell presiding. She lay in an open pine coffin, constructed by the nuns, resting on two stools covered with sheepskins. Legacy...The trials and tribulations of Mother Duss during establishment of the abbey inspired a popular Hollywood movie, "Come to the Stable" with a script by Clare Boothe Luce and starring Loretta Young and Celeste Holm was released in 1949. The Abbey released two recordings on compact disc, "Women in Chant," "Recordare" and a textbook, "A Gregorian Chant Master Class" All which sold well nationally. In a bit of trivia...Upon the death of General George Smith Patton, his father, General George S. Patton Sr., was interred in Arlington National Cemetery in a simple pine box made by the sisters of the Abbey of Regina Laudis from trees grown on the property. His daughter Margaret is the Mother Superior of the Abbey. The insignia of the 2nd Armored Division and the 11th Armored Cavalry are inscribed on the coffin as well as the emblem of the cross.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Donald Greyfield
  • Added: 25 Oct 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 12165840
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mother Benedict Duss (21 Nov 1910–2 Oct 2005), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12165840, citing Abbey of Regina Laudis Cemetery, Bethlehem, Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .