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Monastery Gift Shop: the ministry behind the ministry

Monastery Gift Shop, formerly For Heaven’s Sake, has been meeting the needs of customers in the Southern Indiana area for over 21 years and online for over 17 years. It is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, and serves to help support the needs of the sisters and their ministries.

A variety of items is available in Monastery Gift Shop, including greeting cards, religious jewelry, and monastery-made items such as Trappist jams and jellies, Monastery Scents (soap made by the Clyde Benedictines), Trappistine candies, and cookies and pretzels from Monastery Immaculate Conception’s own bakery, Monastery Baked Goods. A number of Ferdinand Benedictines also craft items to be sold in the gift shop.

Additionally, gift bundles were offered to retail customers and businesses during the Christmas season of 2017. Several gift bundles were available and included Monastery Baked Goods cookies, Trappist jams, and other monastery-made items. Spring bundles are being offered now through the end of March.

The ministry of Monastery Gift Shop extends far beyond the sale of religious goods, delicious cookies, and sister-made items. Perhaps the greatest impact is not in the number of products sold or the amount of money brought in to support the Sisters of St. Benedict, but in the interaction that occurs between Monastery Gift Shop staff and the customers.

Sister Ann Marie Howard, who works part-time as a clerk in the gift shop, sees the major part of her ministry as one of hospitality. She mentions that it is important to “be present and welcome” those who come into the Monastery Gift Shop.

“Sometimes people ask questions about religious life and our monastery. They want to know who we are and what we are about. They ask practical questions too, but they ask a lot about who we are.” Sister Ann Marie understands that she acts as a witness to the community through answering questions and listening.

In addition to sharing the Benedictine charism with visitors, those who work in the gift shop often listen to those who are struggling or in pain. Guests find that being on the monastery grounds and sharing their stories can bring a sense of peace.

Angi Seffernick, director of Monastery Goods and Services, recounts an uplifting story. “About a year ago at the gift shop, Deb (Fleck) and I got to meet a very nice couple – Dave and Becky from Evansville. They hadn’t been here for a few years, so on the way back from a doctor’s visit, they decided to stop by the grounds and walk around. Dave has Parkinson’s. And he’d had a rough 36 hours with lots of shaking. After walking the grounds and then walking in the gift shop, his shaking stopped. He even held his hands up to prove it to us. I told him he could hang around as long as he’d like, and we’d put him to work! He said as long as it’s working with his hands, he was up for it. He was overwhelmed by the fact that just walking in here stopped his shaking. God is good. I asked if I could share his story with the sisters, and he said I definitely could. His words: ‘People should know miracles happen here.'”

Monastery Gift Shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. Ferdinand is on Eastern time. Monastery Gift Shop is always open online at