ROCK ISLAND, Ill. —Using 360-degree photography, drone video and still photography, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery have created a virtual monastery experience. The sisters worked with Mandle Design in Davenport and with support from Big Tech River to create the digital project.
Women discerning a possible call to the Benedictine community and other virtual visitors can visit the monastery from anywhere in the world.
Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB, the monastery’s vocations director, said the project combines aerial footage and 360-degree photography of the monastery with information and resources for women discerning a vocation to religious life and for the general public. The virtual monastery will allow the sisters to share their home and way of life with anyone, anywhere from their website smmsisters.org/virtual-monastery. For the general public, the virtual monastery provides an opportunity to see one of Rock Island’s best-kept secrets, Sr. MacDonald said.
“People use the internet to gather information about a school or a vacation spot. So we thought it is important to offer a virtual tour of our monastery as a helpful guide and for those discerning a vocation. It would provide an excellent word of welcome from St. Mary Monastery,” she said.
Information nodes throughout the building’s interior feature messages from the sisters and provide detailed photography of the monastery’s features. The experience allows users to visit the entryway, chapel, library and dining room. The tour also offers a glimpse of the Benet House Retreat Center, which hosts many events open to the public.
“Many people have an incorrect image of a monastery and doubt they would be allowed to visit. Through a virtual tour we could share the areas of our house that are open to visitors. We hope by offering this virtual participation to women they will be able to experience our hospitality first hand. By using this approach, women will have another way to gain knowledge of the beauty of our home and the peace it brings.” Sr. MacDonald said.