True to their calling, the Benedictine Sisters in Ridgely, Maryland, practice their goal of glorifying God in all things every day and in many ways. As their website demonstrates (www.ridgelybenedictines.org), their many programs and services are extensive and effective. One ministry for which they are especially known and admired is their work with children and young adults with developmental disabilities.The Sisters of Saint Benedict have been in that Eastern Shore community since 1891 and had operated a school for “young ladies and little girls” known as St. Gertrude’s Academy. (People in nearby Delaware will recognize this as the Order responsible for St. Elizabeth’s School in Wilmington.) After 60 years because of decreasing enrollment and fewer candidates for the novitiate, St. Gertrude’s was allowed to close. In 1959 the Sisters, recognizing before the rest of society the importance for educating children and young adults with developmental disabilities, opened The Benedictine School for this purpose. The first class had 17 students. Since then the school has grown to accommodate nearly 200 children and adults.
The School is well known in the Wilmington/Baltimore region. In addition to the critical educational skills, parents of young people with learning disabilities are keenly aware of the indispensable role for love in the successful education of their children. The Benedictine School is highly respected in this regard.
The Sisters of Saint Benedict in Ridgely extend their apostolate beyond the educational needs of these young people. They also provide young adults with remedial instruction in reading, language, leisure activities and living skills, including vocational training in various skills. To a limited extent they also offer residential facilities. These programs and services, both for the children and for the young adults, are designed to help the individuals obtain gainful employment, to become self-supporting, and to become contributing members of society.
Beyond the instruction and guidance they bring to their young students fortunate to be under their charge, the Sisters of Saint Benedict in Ridgely enlighten the rest of us by their witness to the Gospel. In Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus says that we should be “perfect” as his heavenly Father is perfect, he is not referring to sinless perfection but to growth into full development. Imagine if, in our efforts to improve ourselves, the “able” among us applied a fraction of the effort and commitment these wonderful Sisters apply to the “disabled,” how accelerated the advance to the Kingdom would be!