August 2, 2019

Benedictine Sister Rachel Best oversaw expansion of St. Paul Hermitage

By Sean Gallagher

Benedictine Sister Rachel BestBenedictine Sister Rachel Best, who served as prioress of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove from 1993‑2001, died on July 23 at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove. She was 86.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on July 30 at the monastery chapel. Burial followed at the sisters’ cemetery.

Benedictine Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner, the current prioress at Our Lady of Grace, described Sister Rachel as “a gentle shepherd whose leadership challenged us to grow more deeply in the way of Christ.

“She had a joyful spirit and loved the Benedictine way of life,” Sister Jennifer Mechtild said. “Sister Rachel loved sharing her vocation and encouraging others to listen to God’s call. After I became prioress, she was always very supportive, lending her wisdom and encouragement. Sister Rachel will be greatly missed.”

Benedictine Sister Mary Luke Jones also praised her former prioress’ leadership of the monastic community.

“Sister Rachel’s years as prioress were marked by her gracious care of the sisters, both young and old, and her wise decision-making,” Sister Mary Luke said. “She did it all with grace.”

During Sister Rachel’s leadership of Our Lady of Grace, she oversaw the construction of the health care wing of St. Paul Hermitage and the capital campaign that funded it.

“To lead a capital campaign to completion is no small task,” Sister Jennifer Mechtild remarked. “Because of her leadership, we were able to construct the health care wing of St. Paul Hermitage. This has been a gift to so many in the archdiocese.”

St. Paul Hermitage is a retirement and nursing facility that is a ministry of Our Lady of Grace. It was in its health care wing, which can house approximately 50 residents, where Sister Rachel was cared for in her final days.

Sister Rachel was born on Feb. 2, 1933, to Charles and Helen Best in Floyds Knobs and grew up as a member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County.

She entered Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese in 1952, professed her first vows in 1953 and perpetual vows in 1957. She was a founding member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

Sister Rachel earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the former St. Benedict College in Ferdinand and a master’s degree in education from Spalding University in Louisville, Ky.

In her 65 years of vowed Benedictine life, Sister Rachel ministered in Catholic schools for 35 years. In the archdiocese, she served at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville from 1956-62 and 1980-93, at St. Bartholomew School in Columbus from 1962-64, and at the former St. Columba School in Columbus from 1964-77.

Sister Rachel ministered as the director of religious education for the former Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Cedar Grove and the former St. John the Baptist Parish in Dover from 1979-80. She served as subprioress of Our Lady of Grace from 1977-79 and was elected prioress in 1993, serving as leader of the monastic community until 2001.

She offered pastoral care at St. Paul Hermitage from 2002-03 and served as the administrator of the former Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia City, Mo., from 2003-04. Her last ministry assignment was as director of spirituality at the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center in Beech Grove from 2005-14. She retired in 2014.

She is survived by sisters Margaret Huber of Floyds Knobs and Rose Lang of Bradenton, Fla.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Retired Sisters’ Fund, in care of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, 1402 Southern Ave., Beech Grove, IN 46107, or online at www.benedictine.com. †

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