Spotlight – Cathleen Timberlake

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Taking a Higher Path to Soapmaking

Cathleen Timberlake joined the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild in 2002. Six years later she became one of our Board members and now Chairs the Membership Committee. What’s so special about that, you may be wondering? (After all, lots of Guild members catch the “servant leadership” bug and end up chairing a committee or serving on the Board.) Dig a little deeper though and you’ll quickly learn that Cathleen’s path to soapmaking is about as unique as it gets!
You see, Cathleen Timberlake—Sister Cathleen Marie Timberlake—is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (in Clyde, Missouri — about 100 miles north of Kansas City, MO) and the inspiration behind Monastery Scents, the 134-year-old congregation’s line of handcrafted soaps and lotions.
Founded eight years ago, Monastery Scents began when Sister Cathleen Marie decided to pursue her interest in soapmaking as part of the sisters’ devotion to St. Benedict, a monastic who stressed the importance of work and prayer. Armed with nothing more than a recipe and a photo taken from the Internet, she jumped in and never looked back.
Like so many of us, Sister Cathleen Marie began her business by cooking and mixing soaps in a series of small crock pots found in any kitchen pantry. In just eight short years, Monastery Scents’ production line has expanded to include the use of a steam-jacketed kettle which makes 48 pounds of soap at a time. All totaled, her line of soaps includes more than 40 different scents, all of which are sold in boutiques and gift shops across the U.S., and also available online at
Digging a little deeper, one will learn that Sister Cathleen Marie knew it was important to make a connection between her sisters’ ministry of prayer and the work of their hands. In a moment of inspiration, she realized that by adding a drop of holy water to each batch of soap — combined with a prayer — was the perfect solution. At first, she kept that part of her recipe a secret. But soon word spread and she discovered people enjoyed hearing about the addition of holy water.
Born in Orange, Calif., Sister Cathleen Marie entered the Benedictine Sisters when she was 18-years-old. During her years as a Benedictine Sister, she has served two terms on the congregation’s leadership council and currently chairs the fund-raising committee. For anyone interested in connecting with a Guild member experienced in both wholesale and retail soap vending, Sister Cathleen Marie will show you the path!
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Editor’s Note: This blog entry was authored by Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild member Melissa Romano. If you would like to contribute to the HSMG blog, please contact Maria Gelnett – Chair, Programs and Services, at

2 Comments on “Spotlight – Cathleen Timberlake”

  1. Cathleen is a complete pleasure to work with and a huge asset to the HSMG. I am so happy that I crossed paths with her at the 2006 Conference in Portland, OR. which led to a her speaking at the 2007 Conference in St. Louis, MO.

    Cathleen always has a sunny disposition, a kind word and vital input to our important decisions.

    She’s a very special lady in every sense.

    Leigh O’Donnell
    HSMG Vice President
    HSMG Conference Coordinator

  2. Sister Timberlake is overwhelming!! The inspiration behind Monastery Scents. As a result, the soaps have become a favorite gift for those who are ill or for soldiers serving overseas. Her soaps have also become a popular item for schools and organizations raising funds for worthy projects.

    Vivian Terry
    P&S Committee Member

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