2016 Cistercian and Monastic Studies Annual Report

Summary: In August 2015, Dr. Rozanne Elder retired as Director of CCMS. In October 2015, Dr. Susan Steuer was named Interim Director, assigned to CCMS for seven hours per week until August 2017. The Center’s ongoing existence and its placement within WMU’s administration is in some doubt because its two primary assets, Cistercian Publications and the greater part of the book and manuscript collection (on loan from Gethsemani Abbey), are no longer affiliated with WMU, though a number of small loan collections from other houses remain. Steuer has tried to affirm these relationships and bring CCMS operations in line with WMU procedures and policies, as well as organize the office in a new location.


The International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS) granted six panels to the Conference this year, down from twelve in 2015. An additional three independent panels will be held at the Lee Honors College on Thursday, and the ICMS panels will be held Friday and Saturday. Looking forward, a new model for the CCMS panel planning will be attempted this spring to align procedures more closely with ICMS practices. Because the CCMS panels often discuss issues in monasticism which are chronologically outside of the scope of the ICMS, a day of separate panels may be ongoing. This year, a panel was developed with Dr. Diane Riggs (Comparative Religion) on silence in different monastic traditions.

Liturgical services which have traditionally been offered in conjunction with ICMS are being facilitated through CCMS. Steuer has been approached by Orthodox practitioners about providing options for them as well. This may be explored for 2017. Officiants are organized by the interested groups and CCMS organizes service materials, books and liturgical equipment and supplies.

Advisory Board and Outreach

For several years, CCMS has had an advisory board composed of scholars, and monks and nuns from outside of WMU. This Board has no formal charge or mission and no plans for transition of membership, and these issues will be approached this year. The Board traditionally meets during the CCMS conference. One member has stepped down, Dr. Elizabeth Freeman. Dr. Anne Lester has agreed to join the Board in Dr. Freeman’s place this year and nominations for additional members will be solicited, as needed. The goal is to maintain a balance between academics and religious on this board to reflect the traditional strengths of CCMS.

During the past year, Steuer has visited four monasteries: St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA; St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN (primarily speaking with librarians); Mount St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, MA; and Valley of Our Lady Monastery, Prairie du Sac, WI. This has been primarily to introduce Steuer, discuss loan collections and find out the interests and concerns of these organizations. Steuer has also visited several libraries regarding collaboration and advice on digital projects.

Certificate in Monastic Movements

This certificate, which currently requires 18 hours of coursework and Medieval Latin, is in the process of being reevaluated so that the certificate has broader appeal and can include other historical periods. This has been tabled to some extent while issues with the M.A. in Medieval Studies are addressed. The certificate is envisioned to include both eastern and western monastic traditions. Steuer discussed ways the certificate can work with existing strengths in Buddhist monasticism in Comparative Religion with Dr. Steven Covell and Dr. Diane Riggs. A study abroad course on European monasticism is in development, to complement an existing course which visits monasteries in Japan. There seems to be a need for courses to serve monastic communities for formation (particularly for women’s houses), such as the history of the Bible. Further work on the potential audience and marketing for these courses is planned, and they would most likely be offered as asynchronous distance or hybrid courses.

Research Projects

Monastic (formerly Cistercian) Gazetteer. This semantic-web based project has been supported through a FRACAA during the past academic year. $5000 was transferred to MI, as Research Assistant Mallory Heslinger worked extensively on this project and a graduate student in Computer Engineering, Mitul Patell. She will be employed over the summer. A linked-data ontology has been developed for the project and planning for an NEH submission and a Mellon submission is in development in partnership with the WMU Libraries (Sheila Bair), the Upjohn Center for Geographic Change (Kathleen Baker) and the Department of Computer Science (Ala Al-Fuqaha). Bair and Steuer also met with digital scholarship and geography experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. They discussed ways that the proposed map-based interface can be designed to work smoothly with HMML collections with their staff. An advisory board is being considered and additional meetings will be held regarding the project during the CCMS conference.

Janauschek Portal: This transcription project is currently being developed in a wiki format, but is on hold due to funding issues and because the nineteenth-century German handwriting is outside of the strengths of CCMS. The advisory board for this project (P. Alkuin Schachenmayer, Cornelia Oefelein and Frank Sasama in Germany and Steuer and Elder in the U.S.) has been exploring ways to develop this project using student labor in Germany, where there is more familiarity with the handwriting conventions. The nature of this project links very well with the Gazetteer, so there is an ongoing interest in keeping CCMS involved.

Cistopedia is a website developed by a group in Germany, which is looking for an institutional home for the project. It is a treasure trove of information on the Cistercian Order. Frank Sasama would like WMU to take this over, but it would require financial support for maintenance and updating.

Other projects

Clean up from the Gethsemani deaccession (which was held by WMU by virtue of CCMS) continues. The removal of some 1800+ items from the library occurred in the midst of a transition to a new integrated library system, causing significant problems in removing records. Incorrect records and uncataloged materials were also discovered during this process. CCMS assigned graduate students have evaluated items for cataloging revision in preparation for a major shelving shift following the deaccession, as well as reviewing collections for materials which may have been missed during the process (a handful).
Obrecht Manuscript catalog was submitted to MIP in Fall 2015 and Steuer completed correspondence with the copy editor, who seems to have done a very thorough job, about April 1. A bound mock-up was available during the conference.

Letters of agreement are being developed with monasteries which still have materials on deposit which will be with the WMU Libraries. Additional letters of commitment are being prepared for the Region.

Submitted by Dr. Susan Steuer
May 5, 2016


One comment on “2016 Cistercian and Monastic Studies Annual Report

  1. […] Planning process: 2017 Conference on Cistercian and Monastic Studies […]

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