Mother Catherine of Alexandria Talbot, 73, of our Mother Abbey of Regina Laudis, died January 31, 2013, Feast of Saint John Bosco, after a long illness. She was in charge of the monastery Art Shop for over twenty years and was devoted to the many volunteers who staffed it. A chemist by profession, Mother Catherine brought that training to her work in the Abbey herb gardens and as head of the Abbey herb department, known as La Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba*). She created many herbal preparations and perfumes, including the “St. Cecilia” chrism fragrance.
When I left RL to come back West, Mother Catherine took over my works of herbs, perfumes and beauty products. She was a quiet but very capable nun and I knew I had left things in good hands when she took over. She had the price of every bottle cap inventoried- definitely not my forte!
Mother earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from the Catholic University of America and an MS degree in Colloid Chemistry from the University of Sheffield, England. Her graduate research was on the effect of glycerin on aqueous soap solutions. Mother Mary Aline used to say I had the nose and she had the brains! Mother lost most of her sense of smell due to steroids taken for her asthma, but she knew formulas.
Prior to her coming to the Abbey, she married and had two children, Andrew and Lorraine. They lived in the D.C. area where she was very active in community associations. Even in all her activities she had a long and deep attraction to contemplative life. Her daily reading of the Rule of St. Benedict was a touchstone for her during difficult years that culminated in the annulment of her marriage. Through her association with a priest we knew mutually, she was introduced to Regina Laudis.
With the support of her children, now grown, she entered the Abbey in 1983. With her love of the Divine Office, Mother Catherine was very active as a Mistress of Ceremonies. Her gracious demeanor was appreciated by those she served for many years at St. Joseph’s guest house as well as the numerous guests who worked with her in the herb gardens.
She was buried Feb.2, the Feast of the Presentation.
|Queen of Sheba before King Solomon, German Tapestry 1490|
* When Mother Prisca, came to co-found our monastery here on Shaw, I was given the assignment of the herb department. Since Mother Elizabeth Marie had a degree in science she was given to me as menter. Together we came up with the name La Reine de Saba for our works, as the Queen of Sheba was known to tote perfumes and rare spices in her travels.