Benedictine Sisters of Florida


A look at our university’s forefathers and foremothers

While many of us with strong connections to Saint Leo may know that the university was founded by monks from the Order of Saint Benedict, what may be lesser known are the particulars of what it means to be a Benedictine community.

Benedictines are known for lives of prayer, work, and study, as prescribed by the founding monk, Saint Benedict (480-547) of Italy. Also, the work of Benedictines is often practical and tied to the community. Historically, some Benedictine monasteries in Europe were centers for learning and teaching. These factors help explain why Benedictines became involved in starting and running universities in the United States.

Benedictines, from their founding days, have also been known for their hospitality, which at the time literally meant sheltering people who had nowhere else to go whether because of economic need or dangerous political upheaval. That persists now as a tradition of providing a welcoming environment for prayer and learning for everyone, no matter what background or affiliation.

The Saint Leo Abbey Church is an integral part of the campus community.

The Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey

Spiritual support of Saint Leo enjoys a long history, as a Benedictine abbot founded Saint Leo as a college in 1889.

A physical representation of this is the beautiful white Abbey Church, surrounded by University Campus. The church remains in the care and ownership of the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey. While many community and university events take place there each year, the Mass of the Holy Spirit is one of the most celebrated events, led by Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, ’95, for the benefit of the university community at the start of a new academic year. Everyone is welcome in the tradition of Saint Benedict.

“We believe that every student at the university has the same dignity that God has given to us, as we claim that he is the creator of us all,” explained Abbot Isaac.

The abbot and the monastic community also pray daily for all those who work and study at the university, in keeping with being a Benedictine community.

“It is only when we have peace that we can share with others what we are and have,” shared Abbot Isaac. “That is why we pray for all in our Saint Leo community. This is the importance of a Benedictine community—to care for each other, to respect all because they are the image of Christ, to grow in wisdom in the eyes of men and God as we embrace our personal development. This can be done with integrity. As we live in this community and as we depart, we become responsible stewards in the fields that we have come to embrace. Excellence is our goal.”

Volunteers help prepare a Thanksgiving dinner with the Benedictine Sisters by peeling potatoes, among other tasks.

Benedictine Sisters are visible in community service

Today the Benedictine Sisters of Florida have “a different kind of day-to-day involvement” with Saint Leo than in the days when they housed and fed students and occupied other roles at the college level, explained Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, ’57, prioress.

The sisters are involved in a variety of community works, true to their commitment of responding “with the compassion of Christ” to the needs of people. Students sometimes become engaged with the sisters in community projects. A classic example is a community Thanksgiving dinner that the Benedictine Sisters host with nearby Saint Anthony Parish. Undergraduates in the Social Work Club take part annually in preparations and fundraising.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is that we serve real mashed potatoes, so we have to peel 100 pounds of potatoes,” said Sister Roberta. More than 250 meals are served with just more than 100 delivered to people who are homebound. One of the sisters runs Daystar Hope Center in Dade City, where students can volunteer in the clothing thrift shop and food distribution center. Helpers are always welcome in the sisters’ aquaponics project, a self-sustaining fish farm with indoor and outdoor gardens.

The Benedictine Sisters are sometimes asked to help with the temporary hospitality needs of graduate international students. And last summer, they provided short-term lodging for a graduate student from out-of-state so that she could attend a weekend academic conference. Her stay affected her greatly.

The Cross of Saint Benedict is found on buildings throughout campus as a way to call for God’s blessings and protection.

“The sisters were incredibly nurturing and service-oriented. Though not Catholic, I even decided to attend prayers and Mass,” the student wrote. “It was definitely God’s plan for me to be here … Being cared for and cared about by the sisters, prayer, time to be introspective, walks in the gardens, talking to God, and sleeping soundly, have [all] brought me back to what is important.”

Sister M. Dorothy Neuhofer ’49, OSB, passed away on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. She was a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. Sister Dorothy, as she liked to be called, was the university archivist and special collections librarian at the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library, and she held the rank of professor. She worked for the university for a remarkable 50 years, and was honored for that special milestone in August 2015. Sister Dorothy resided at Holy Name Monastery among the other Benedictine Sisters of Florida, including her sibling Sister Mary Clare Neuhofer. At the time of her passing, Sister Dorothy held the role of archivist of the monastery. She had served as prioress of the community at an earlier time.

Bullard,-MarcianMarcian Bullard, a University Campus sophomore who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, was involved in a fatal automobile accident on December 27, 2015.

Dennis,-JackieJackie Dennis, a student majoring in human services at the Gwinnett Education Center, passed away on January 17, 2016. She is survived by numerous family members, including
a son and daughter.

John Fiengo ’69, onetime director of Alumni Relations and vice president of Development for Saint Leo College, passed away June 19, 2015. After earning his BA in English, he aspired to be a teacher, but that was not to be fulfilled until later in life. His interest in helping others led him to various positions with the United Methodist Church, the Children’s Cancer Center, and Volunteers of America, where he served as the director of Development and Public Relations. His altruistic career eventually culminated at Wharton High School in Tampa where he helped students with criminal convictions obtain their GED—a job he found very demanding, but also very rewarding. He was a lifelong friend to his former Saint Leo classmates and could always be counted on for support in their endeavors.

Foley,-BillBill Foley, an associate professor of accounting and professor emeritus, passed away on September 23, 2015.

Timothy R. Giampavolo, a student studying psychology at the Pasco-Hernando State College-New Port Richey Education Office, passed away November 24, 2015.

Osborne,-GaryGary Richard Osborne II, a Lakeland Education Center student, passed away September 22, 2015. He was studying for his associate degree in liberal arts and was awarded the degree from Saint Leo posthumously. A talented musician and songwriter, he had plans to attend Belmont University in Nashville to pursue his commercial music degree.

Sams,-FredFred A. Sams ’82, a graduate of Saint Leo College and adjunct professor in the Graduate Criminal Justice program, passed away on November 19, 2015. His career in law and criminal justice began when he was accepted as a member of the FBI in 1967. Over the years he served with multiple police and sheriff departments and as the director of forensics and crime labs for two agencies. He was a regionally prominent forensic investigator and consulted on many homicides and major death cases. Sams served in the U.S. Army in Special Forces, Army Criminal Investigation, and S-2 Intelligence. The American College of Forensic Examiners awarded him the distinction of Fellow, as well as Diplomate in Law Enforcement Expert and Diplomate in Homeland Security.

ZimmermanAshley (Henderson) Zimmerman ’10 passed away on December 22, 2015. She had been an administrator in the MBA program from 2006 to 2011 and was instrumental in the buildup of the online MBA during Saint Leo’s transition from its partnership with Bisk in 2007.




Hugh “Mickey” McLinden ’47
January 21, 2016

J. Kenny DesRosier ’48
October 9, 2015

Raymond O. Howd ’49
September 10, 2014

Dorothy Neuhofer ’49
October 14, 2015

William “Bill” McKeown ’54
September 16, 2015

Robert “Bob” Parkinson ’61
August 14, 2014

Samuel Meo ’63
November 11, 2014

Francis P. Neuhofer ’63
November 29, 2015

Brodie Rowe III ’64
November 13, 2012

Constance (Dawe) Snell ’64
September 17, 2013

Frank C. Mikusi, Sr. ’68
July 27, 2015

Frank J. Seeley ’68
August 17, 2015

John F. Fiengo ’69
June 19, 2015

Edward J. Tancig ’70
August 3, 2015

Charles M. Durian ’73
November 6, 2015

Lucille B. Emberton ’78
May 7, 2015

Stanley P. Morrison ’78
November 11, 2015

Rupert D. Cobb ’79
January 8, 2015

Claude C. Huffman ’79
January 27, 2012

Fredrick Hendrick ’80
May 11, 2015

Carolyn Kiehl ’81
June 11, 2015

Lyle Everett Thomas ’81
August 21, 2015

Richard “Rusty” Ross ’82
September 11, 2014

Fred A. Sams ’82
November 19, 2015

Jenine Jezek ’83
June 16, 2015

Miles H. Prewitt ’85
March 25, 2011

Thomas “Tommy” Lee ’86
August 21, 2015

Donald D. Parker ’87
October 31, 2015

Billie Dodds Schache ’87
December 9, 2007

Samuel William Brightbill ’88
October 8, 2015

Gale LaFountain ’91
January 7, 2016

Sandra (Bradford) Mordoh ’01
September 9, 2010

Clarence Peacock ’02
August 5, 2015

Aubrey Vigneault ’05
April 9, 2015

Carolyn Steward ’07
October 9, 2010

Harold L. Nelson ’08
April 4, 2015

Melanie Bancroft Richeson ’08
May 25, 2015

Victoria L. Walker ’10
November 27, 2015

Ashley (Henderson) Zimmerman ’10
December 22, 2015