COTTONWOOD On Thursday, Dec. 8 — Feast of the Immaculate Conception — Karen Martin will make her first monastic profession at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, leaving the novice phase of formation to become a sister of the Benedictine community in Cottonwood. She will make her profession at 1:30 p.m.
She was born in Perham, Minn., to a farming family. She grew up Lutheran and while less-than-enthusiastic about church itself, she loved the organ music. As she grew through a childhood that she calls a “journey of forgiveness,” she began to feel a deep sense of the presence of God.
Several influential teachers helped her overcome difficulties in family and development. By fourth grade, she could play the organ and sing hymns and was memorizing prayers and scriptures — all of which she calls a better alternative to venting her childhood frustrations by “punching the kid next to me.”
She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and went to the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. Within a few weeks she attended Mass at Sacred Heart Convent Chapel.
“At Mass I sensed a transcendence — a meeting of heaven and earth; the inspirational music and beautiful chapel certainly facilitated prayer,” she saud, At the age of 21, she was confirmed Catholic.
During college, she had a job working in central purchasing and worked alongside Sister Geraldine, a Benedictine sister who became a friend and mentor. Karen was first introduced to the Rule of Benedict when she became a caregiver to sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery in St. Cloud, Minn. Here, she experienced a family-like setting and was inspired by how the nursing floor was run according to Benedictine principles.
Martin considered religious life after college graduation but decided to wait. She went to work at St. Mary on the Mount Rehabilitation Hospital and the VA Hospital in St. Louis. After a year, she entered military service as 2nd Lieutenant and was active duty Air Force for more than six years. During this time. she earned a MS in nursing. After her military service, she worked as an RN until she moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2000 and earned a BS in medical technology. She worked as a lab tech and medical biller for the next several years.
Having always heard the call to religious life, at the age of 53 she decided to take action. She did an Internet search for Benedictine communities and discovered St. Gertrude’s. She made her first visit in January 2013, returned for two more visits, and became a postulant in September 2013.
“I have a desire to share a common vision of faith and spirituality with like-minded people,” she says. “I like community life. It is very transforming. I am excited about the ministries that we do and helping behind the scenes with things that need to be done.”