With the Rule of Benedict and the Gospel as their guide, the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia (BSV) follow a 1500-year-old tradition. Benedictine life is centered by three core doctrines:
- Living in community;
- Daily individual prayer and communal prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours; and
- Service to others.
Since 1901, the monastery in Bristow, VA has served as the motherhouse of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia. However, the sisters’ service to Catholic families in the commonwealth can be traced back to 1868—the year they came to Richmond, Virginia from St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. When the Sisters first arrived in Virginia, their primary work was educating young students, and they began with teaching the children of German immigrants in Richmond. Later they expanded their educational ministry 100 miles north with the establishment of a girls’ school in Bristow.
In 1894, Sister Mary Baptista, Order of Visitation (formerly Sarah Eliot Linton), donated her family estate, Lintonsford (located in Bristow), to the Benedictine Monks for the purpose of opening two schools to serve disadvantaged children—one for boys and one for girls. The monks opened St. Joseph’s and invited the Benedictine Sisters to open and operate the girls’ school. Led by Mother Edith, several sisters left Richmond in May 1894 to establish St. Edith’s Academy, which opened that September.
St. Edith’s Academy quickly became an excellent school and served young girls in the Bristow area for 28 years. In 1922, the rural location of the school became less attractive to the parents of young women, but continued to draw young men. Adapting to the community’s needs, the Sisters relocated the girls’ school, now called Saint Gertrude High School, to Richmond. The boys’ educational needs were met when the Sisters established Linton Hall Military Academy after the Benedictine Monks left the area to attend missions elsewhere and St. Joseph’s was closed. Saint Gertrude continues to graduate well-educated and self-aware young women and is currently the only all-girls Catholic high school in Virginia. As the western end of Prince William County continued to grow and boarding schools became less popular, the Sisters recognized the community’s need for a co-ed, Catholic school to educate pre-K through 8th grade students and made the changeover to Linton Hall School in 1988.
While opening and operating their own schools, the Sisters also devoted much time to help the parochial schools in both the Richmond and Arlington dioceses—starting a few schools at the Bishops’ requests and teaching in numerous others. In the late 1970s, the sisters expanded their focus beyond education, leaving the parochial schools and working in pastoral and social ministries and health services, and caring for the needs of others whenever they were called. Over the years, several corporate ministries began in response to the various needs in the Bristow area.