Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb

‘His Spouses, Small and Well-Loved’ By Donna Sue Berry Within this garden there is the small community of Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb.  The existence of this Order, according to their Prioress is “to allow those who have the ‘last place’ in the world, to hold in the Church the exceptional place of spouses … Read more

Beautiful Irish Lace

How the Church Taught Lace-making to the Irish by Tamara Isabell Irish Lace is famous the world over, but most people have no idea that this industry originated with the Irish Famine and the Catholic Church’s response to the plight of the suffering poor. The industry might never have flourished had it not been for … Read more

“Sister Will See You Now”

by Beverly De Soto

“Sister will see you now,” came the dreaded voice of the School Secretary.

I stood up and swallowed hard. Heart pounding. Sick stomach. Weak knees.

I was six years old, and I was in a lot of trouble.

The Secretary tried to make me feel better by smiling kindly at me, but I was beyond comfort. I set my face grimly for the door of the Principal’s office.

To my eyes, Sister Mary Ruth was immensely old. She was also the Most Important Person I had ever met. Sister regarded me soberly from behind her large oaken desk. She wore a majestic Dominican habit, with huge bell-like sleeves. Her eyes were a watery blue through her wire-frame glasses as she leaned forward and folded her veined hands carefully.

“You were quite late to school this morning,” she stated flatly. “About an hour late.”

I nodded, and swallowed again. I thought hard for some likely explanation for this.

“Y-yes,” I began, nodding. “I’m really sorry, Sister.”

She nodded gravely.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Actually, I did not want to tell her anything. The truth simply could not be told.

“Your mother called. She was upset,” she said carefully. Her blue eyes were watching me closely.

My alarm heightened. At the mention of my mother, hot tears burned my eyes. What could I tell Sister that would get me off the hook?

“I-I lost my rosary beads,” I confessed, finally. “It was r-really stupid of me.”

Sister nodded solemnly.

“You lost your rosaries…so what happened then?”

I nodded again, trying to control myself. But the hot tears started running down my face, unbidden. She pushed a box of Kleenex across her desk to me. I took one and blew my nose.

“Why were you late this morning?” she asked again, a little softer.

I shook my head, unable to speak. The tears were flowing freely now, sliding down my face in big rivulets.

“Now, now,” she said, and stood up. She walked around her desk and put a bony hand on my shoulder. She smelt of soap, and linen.

This was too much. I sobbed aloud, unable to restrain myself.

Sister opened the door and asked the Secretary to come in. They both stood over me, regarding me thoughtfully.

“Honey,” the Secretary said, crouching down beside me. “Tell Sister what happened.”

I had lost my rosary beads. This was the third time, too. I was wearing them knotted around my belt loop, in imitation of the Sister, like the other girls in my first grade class. But I wasn’t very good at tying knots, and the beads must have slipped off on the bus ride home.

At 7:30 the next morning, I couldn’t find them. This set my mother off. I don’t remember much of what happened next, only that she was screaming at me, and beating me wildly on my head and shoulders with a wooden spoon. I ran madly from room to room, trying to escape her. Finally I crouched down hopelessly in a corner in a vain attempt to ward off her stinging blows. She broke the spoon on my back, and when she retreated to look for another weapon, I fled.

In a cold panic, I raced down the street to the bus stop, only to see the bus pulling away. Too frightened to go home, I decided to walk to school, a mile and a half away. To be sure, I was scared to walk all that way alone, but I was more scared to return home to my mother’s certain fury.

So that’s how I came to be so late to school. And that’s why I was sent to the Principal’s office. But I didn’t tell any of this to Sister Mary Ruth.

“Your mother was worried about you,” she ventured, handing me another Kleenex. I shook my head, deeply humiliated. None of what had happened could be explained to other people, especially important people like Sister.

“I-I’m really sorry, Sister,” I tried apologizing abjectly, still crying. “I’m sorry for c-causing trouble.”

Sister Mary Ruth and the Secretary traded glances and then turned back to me. I couldn’t read their faces.

“Now, now,” Sister said again, with some finality. She handed me a glass of water. “Drink some of this. Calm down. You can stay here until you feel better.”

After a few minutes, she looked up from her work and told me I could go back to class. I slipped out, grateful to be off the hook.

Sister Mary Ruth was an Irish Catholic nun – one of a vast legion of such Sisters who ran US Catholic institutions for a hundred years from the late 19th through the end of the 20th Century. She ran a school of almost 400 pupils, in those days when class sizes often ran over 40 students.

Sister was a tough old bird, everyone knew. Her Sisters and her lay teachers all respected her enormously – as did the Catholic parents who scraped and saved to send their offspring to the Dominicans.

My parents were the exceptions. Married late in life, they were well-to-do. I was their only child. That my mother was abusive was something I could not articulate, not even to my father, who worked late most evenings. So I went to school, did my work, played with the other kids and tried to keep from angering her.

All these many years later, of course, I can imagine myself in Sister’s shoes. Old, tired, and faced with the huge administrative burden of running a school – and face to face with a child who showed clear signs of being abused.

In 1963, there were no child protection laws in effect. No agreements to call the police if child abuse was suspected. It would almost certainly be the child’s word against their parent. Sister Mary Ruth had only her prestige and the influence she could wield over my parents and teachers. This is what she did.

My mother received a call from Sister Mary Ruth that day. Though her verbal abuse continued, I cannot recall that she ever used an object to strike me again. Sister Mary Ruth must have made her point.

A few weeks later, it was time to crown the May Queen. We first graders were all excited. The school had two ravishingly beautiful long dresses which two privileged girls would wear as they carried the lovely crown made of flowers in the procession to the statue of the Blessed Virgin.

To my immense joy, Sister Mary Ruth made sure that I was one of the girls.

The next year, she would often come to call for me at the classroom door, and quietly ask me to read aloud for the students in the other classes. The idea was to show the older kids how well a little kid could read. It had the side effect of boosting my confidence immensely.

In the third grade, Sister became my teacher, and I blossomed under her tutelage. She let me read ahead, and rewarded me for finishing assignments early by allowing me to read the ‘Lives of the Saints’ series, pretty yellow books with lovely pictures, perched on the windowsill.

Sister Mary Ruth also had an ingenious system for teaching arithmetic called ‘memorization.’ And if we misbehaved, she put her system to work in earnest. Minor infractions rated writing one’s times tables from the twos to the fives. Major violations of classroom conduct could land you in your seat at recess, writing the times tables all the way up to the tens.

It was simple brilliance. We all learned our times tables and many years later as a young mother, I used it to great effect with my own kids. (They learned to behave – and learned their times tables, all in one fell swoop.)

All these decades later, I remember my year in Sister Mary Ruth’s classroom as a time of great happiness and security. So when she finally retired at the end of that year, I was sorry to see her go.

But like most kids, I was preoccupied with on my own concerns. I never thought of her much after that — until thirty years later when I chanced across a book written about the history of her Order.

Little did we suspect back in those days, but the book revealed how the Dominicans had sustained a body blow to their esprit du corps in the 1960s and 1970s. Radical young nuns had imposed a system whereby hapless older sisters were deprived of their habits and communal prayer. They were forcibly ‘re-educated’ in the ‘Spirit of Vatican II.’

The results were disastrous. Those nuns young enough to choose another life fled the convents. Older nuns like Sister Mary Ruth retreated to the Mother House, which quickly became an old age home. Many of the radical nuns eventually left as well. (The few who remained apostatized in place, using Church property and prestige to promote their ‘new age’ agenda.)

In a few short years the work of generations of dedicated Catholics was carelessly, even vindictively, undone. By the 1970s the schools that had been built for the Dominicans from the donations and hard work of generations of Catholics were shuttered.

This was all so deeply affecting that I could not quite believe it. I rummaged hopelessly through the book, searching for some mention of Sister Mary Ruth.

Against all odds, I found it.

Indeed, the Dominicans remembered Sister Mary Ruth from a time many years before I knew her. In fact, Sister Mary Ruth had made headlines in 1923 when she was a young principal of a newly-built Catholic grade school in rural southern New Jersey.

Catholics were emphatically not welcome there. Violent threats were made against the school. And when the Ku Klux Klan came to set the school on fire, they were met by a 23 year old nun determinedly wielding a rifle.

It was my Sister Mary Ruth.

She held them off until the police arrived.

So this is a belated tribute to a tough, tender Irish-American nun.

Sister Mary Ruth, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. What you did gave me the idea that I was smart and special, an idea which has sustained me in both my career and my family life. Your kindness has paid multiple dividends.

I know that you are with the God you served with such courage, devotion and wisdom.

Sister Mary Ruth, pray for us all. We need your kind among us once again.

The Beautiful Sisters of Kloster Engelport

On December 30, 2013 the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus officially took possession of Kloster Maria Engelport in southwestern Germany. The monastery, which had been in the possession of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, had been threatened with closure, as it was no longer able to be supported by the aging Order which had occupied the buildings for 110 years.

Average age under 30

In sharp contrast, the Sisters Adorers are a young community, based in Gricigliano, in the Provence of Florence, Italy. Today their Sisters are present in Germany, France, Ireland, Sweden, the U.S. and other countries. The average age in the Order is far below thirty; the Sisterhood has many vocations. Their Motto is In Corde Regis (‘In the Heart of the King’).

Kloster Maria Engelport has also been established as a temporary novitiate for the fast-growing Order, where young women can spend time discerning their vocation.

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ADORATION SISTERS KNEELING to receive Holy Communion.

Kloster Maria Engelport has also been established as a temporary novitiate for the fast-growing Order, where young women can spend time discerning their vocation.

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A YOUNG ORDER founded in 2001, the Adoration Sisters’ average age is below thirty.

Celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form

The Sisters’ spiritual needs are attended by a Chaplain from their brother Order, the The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) or in German, Institut Christus Köenig und Hoherpriester.  They are spiritually and materially supported by the Institute and Canon Karl Lenhardt take care of the liturgy and the administration, with oblates of the Institute available for help with practical work.

As of January 2, 2014 the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is being celebrated at Kloster Maria Engelport, and the Mass is open to all. The Sisters also maintain the daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from morning until evening, to which all are invited. The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is sung daily with Lauds (Morning prayers) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) in Latin. With the permission of the Bishop of Trier, the Sisters at the monastery of Maria Engelport will maintain it as a place of worship and pilgrimage.

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Rich history of Engelport

The coming of the Sisters Adorers is another chapter in the rich history of this Monastery. In 1794, it was a refuge for the Premonstratensian Fathers (Norbertines) fleeing before the wrath of Napoleon’s troops.

The Sisters are taking possession of the monastery at a critical juncture in German Catholic history.  At a time when many German monasteries are being closed, without the Sisters Adorers  Engelport had also been threatened with closure. Now the Sisters Adorers are keeping this place of pilgrimage alive for all.

Mother Marie-Caroline Says: “We look forward to working with the people of the Mosel and Hunsrück.” There are already more plans for the future, because the sisters want to be there for the people. (citation?)

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KLOSTER ENGELPORT in Germany

Open to all

Mass times at Engelport remain largely unchanged: Church, church services and holy images are also open in the future for all. Similarly, the monastery shop will remain open.

For inquiries, the telephone number is country code 49, then 02672 / 915 750 and you can view their website here

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ADORATION SISTERS in their characteristic blue-mantled habit, at Mass in Italy.

 

Today’s Singing Nuns

Catholic Chant Tops the Charts for Christmas 2013

Americans are snapping up surprising new Christmas gifts this year, judging by the chart-topping albums of Catholic chant by some new superstars — traditional Catholic sisters!

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in XYZ have released “Advent in Ephesus” to widespread acclaim…

…and the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Dominican Sisters of Mary have produced “Mater Eucharistiae

Both Orders’  albums have raced to the top of the classical Billboard charts. Both are up for Grammy awards.

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Mother Cecilia, prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles and Sr. Joseph Andrew, OP, Vicaress General, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist reveal what it takes to capture the top of the charts – and the hearts of many weary Americans.

Q. Can you tell us about the impetus for the creation of your album?

Mother Cecilia: We were hosting a very dear priest friend of ours here at the Priory, a priest who is now dying. He had recently heard our self-produced CDs. He turned to me and said, ‘You really need to make an Advent CD.’

We had been contemplating the theme for a new CD, and his words sealed it for us. We, too, could perceive a need to restore the lost season of Advent.

Benedictines hold up the Liturgy as the “work of God,” and our primary means of sanctification. Giving attention back to Advent necessarily entails a more spiritual approach to Christmas. Some of the loveliest chants and hymns of the liturgical year appear during the season of Advent.

Sister Joseph Andrew:  Music has always been a large part of our community and our daily prayer and life of praise. When we were approached about releasing the music, which was already such a special part of our community, we took it to prayer.  

On the whole, when it is clear that something is guided by the Holy Spirit, we will, as St. Paul says, “lean forward” and take that act of Faith. We always try to be open to whatever God asks of us.  As is often the case when we give our FIAT, like Our Lady, there are many fruits which we could never have imagined which have resulted.  But our original decision to allow the documentation of the music of our community was only a desire to share whatever gifts God has given to us generously, as He has been so generous with all of us.

Q. How many sisters participated?  Was it fun?

Sister Joseph Andrew:  Oh, my, yes, it was so much fun!  There were 23 sisters who participated in the choir, and then I played the organ and chimes and Sister Maria Miguel played the trumpet.  We had a wonderful producer who helped keep us on track and after 2.5 days we had completed all of the recording for what is now Mater Eucharistiae

Mother Cecilia: Twenty of the twenty-two Sisters sang.  Our dear Sr. Wilhelmina is eighty-nine, and a sister stayed back to take care of her. Sr. Wilhelmina is our professional in prayer, and we could not have made the recording without her spiritual support!

The practices are always especially enjoyable for the sisters, simply because we are always happy to be in each other’s company. Our voices are truly an extension of our hearts, which we strive to keep united to the Heart of Christ. He is the One who takes our very different voices and melds them together so they sound very much as one.

The recording went very, very smoothly. Recording here in our own chapel also kept us very focused. We were still able to chant the Office the eight prescribed times on each of the three recording days. Rather than give our voices a break, we continued with the praises of God, and He Himself renewed them for the next session!

Q. How many sisters do you currently have?  Novices?

Mother Cecilia: We have twenty-two sisters at present. Four of them are novices, with a total of thirteen in formation.

Sister Joseph Andrew:  We currently have 127 sisters, including 18 novices and 20 postulants.  God is generous and continues to send us many wonderful young women!

Q. What is your Order’s charism?

Sister Joseph Andrew:  As Dominicans, our primary apostolate is teaching.  As we engage in the new evangelization, we are open to new forms of handing down the faith, and in particular, the work of catechesis. We are very much formed first in the Chapel and in the cloister as contemplatives; we are able to bring the Truth.

So we very much try to meet the culture and engage the culture through primarily education first and foremost- but when and where possible, and as Pope Francis has been witnessing and encouraging, we always keep an open heart towards answering that call that Bl. Pope John II called “The New Evangelization.” For our community, this music and all of the media and outreach which stems from it would very much be in line with that call.

Mother Cecilia: Our charism is prayer and sacrifice for priests, who are the dispensers of Divine Grace. It is at their hands that the Sacrifice of Calvary is presented once more, and beauty is restored to our souls.

As Benedictines, we strive to enter the very heart of the Church in her prayer, the liturgy. Offering beauty back to God and hidden there, we ask the Lord to strengthen each priest, the alter Christi, so he may labor courageously and perseveringly for the salvation of souls. There is no better exemplar in this than Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, especially in her hidden life at Ephesus. (This is the city in modern-day Turkey to which St. John brought her to live out her last days after the Ascension of her Son.)

We have the privilege of manifesting this charism in a concrete way by making vestments and sacred linens to be used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Q. Mother Cecilia, I see that you have many young women and much interest in your small Community. This seems to be part of a national trend in America. To what do you attribute all of this interest?

Mother Cecilia: Perhaps this is an illustration of what St. Paul says to the Romans, “Where sin abounded, grace did the more abound.” The Lord seems to be seeking hearts to console Him amidst the continuing decline in virtue within our nation.

There is most certainly a new generation of Catholics steadily growing in our country, who are true seekers of truth, goodness and beauty. They realize the culture of death and sin that is foisted on us from all sides is a dead end, and brings about only unhappiness and a false sense of peace.

We see this hopeful trend, especially in our many seminarians and newly ordained priests, and of course the young women who come to visit us as well. We have had around 100 vocation inquiries this year alone. Truly, this is the work of the Holy Spirit!

Q. Mother Cecilia, when young women come to your Community with a vocation, what feelings do they describe?

Nearly all describe their initial shock the first couple of days. They say it takes some time to stop “thinking,” as they get used to the absence of so much noise that is everywhere in this modern world. They see clearly that there is a definite rhythm to our life, and they begin to discern in the silence whether this rhythm will be the underpinning for the Lord to orchestrate their holiness, and their path to Him.

Other things that young women have repeatedly mentioned are their attraction to the traditional liturgy, how intently we follow the Rule of St. Benedict, and our closeness to one another as a religious family.

Q. What do you tell them, to help them to discern?

Firstly they are told to be faithful in their vocations as sisters and daughters in the context of a family. St. Benedict bases a monastery on the structure of a family. If something is wanting in the natural foundation, the spiritual edifice that we strive to build on its foundation will be impaired.

They are also encouraged to become more familiar with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. (The majority of aspirants already are, and feel called to offer themselves back to God through it.) In many ways the beauty of this Mass, at the center of our liturgical spirituality, speaks for itself. The rest of the Divine Office fits into it like spokes in the hub of a wheel.

Time must be set aside for silent prayer alone with God, in order to discern what it is He is asking in the depths of their hearts. Lastly, they must turn with steadfast prayer and fidelity to Our Lady, who always provides maternal strength and love for each vocation. She is our sure guide, as she will always counsel each soul to “do whatever He tells you.”

Q. Sr. Joseph Andrew, you oversaw all of the music and recording on “Mater Eucharistiae.” Your Order seems to garner a great deal of interest from the secular media. To what do you attribute this, in modern America? Is this part of the general thirst for the spiritual that seems so apparent?

We very much have been able to witness the thirst especially coming from the youth, for authenticity and meaning in life.  People want God, they want to have an encounter with Him in their lives.  

The arts through beauty are ways that Our Lord lovingly reveals Himself to souls.  When we recorded our songs, it was in our chapel with Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.  There is something special in that relationship that shines forth from beauty, love and Truth, which evokes peace in any heart.  

We were all made by Him and for Him. Because this is authentically what the Sisters are experiencing as they are singing these songs, it truly has an effect on a world hungry for the contemplative and silence in the midst of all the noise and input.  

People have truly responded with great enthusiasm from all faith backgrounds.  The fact that the secular media has picked it up and covered our community is something only God could plan.  We just try to be as open as we can and always be ready to share our faith when called upon.  We have truly enjoyed these experiences engaging the media and so this music has been another opportunity for us to reach out to the culture.

The Lord seems to be seeking hearts to console Him amidst the continuing decline in virtue within our nation. There is most certainly a new generation of Catholics steadily growing in our country, who are true seekers of truth, goodness and beauty. 

Conversation with a Cloistered Nun

Sister Mary Catharine Tells It Like It Is

In this fascinating, candid interview, Sister Mary Catharine, OP, takes Regina Magazine on an intimate journey through the life of a thriving cloistered community of Dominican nuns.

Q. Where is your Order? How long has it been there?

Our Monastery of our Lady of the Rosary is in Summit, New Jersey, a bedroom community of New York City and a quick 52 minute train ride from the city.

Summit is a very Catholic city with a small town feel. We began our monastery 94 years ago in 1919. Summit was considered a healthy place to live away from New York. It was touted as the “Denver of the East” for its high altitude!

We began our monastery 94 years ago in 1919.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about its founding? About the Dominicans in general — brief history?

The Nuns of the Order of Preachers were founded by St. Dominic and his bishop, Bishop Diego in 1206, ten years before the friars. So, we are their elder sisters!

Actually, St. Dominic never planned to found anything. Stunned by the Albigensian heresy rampant in southern France he began preaching to bring the people back to the truth.

The Albigensian hersey was based on a dualist god: the god of spirit (the “good” god) and the god matter (the “evil” god). Because of their austere way of life the heretics attracted many people. Converting these people back to the Catholic Faith was not easy.

A group of women, used to living the austere life of the heretics, converted to the Faith through the preaching of St. Dominic.  A man of great compassion, St. Dominic saw that he now needed to take care of their physical needs.

Many of these women were disowned by their heretic families and had no place to live. So, he gathered them together at a little abandoned church, Notre Dame du Prouilhe and gave them a habit, rule of life, etc. They were desperately poor and St. Dominic would beg for them. 

From the very beginning these first moniales were associated with the Order through their prayer and penance. In fact, the first monastery itself was called “the Holy Preaching” which is a powerful testimony to the witness of monastic-cloistered life.

The early nuns were called the Sister Preacheresses although they were cloistered and never went out to preach! The vocation of a Nun of the Order of Preachers is unique because we are fully monastic and contemplative but part of an evangelical and apostolic Order. One has to have a deeply apostolic heart yet find its expression not in the apostolate but in a life of hidden prayer.

Many of the first Dominican nuns were disowned by their heretic families and had no place to live. So, he gathered them together at a little abandoned church, Notre Dame du Prouilhe, and gave them a habit, rule of life, etc. They were desperately poor and St. Dominic would beg for them. 

Q. Tell us about the famous St. Dominic.

For the first 10 years St. Dominic preached almost entirely alone in southern France. He had companions for a while but then they left. I’m sure he received great comfort in having the monastery as his “home base.”

St. Dominic would preach all day and pray all night. We know from the testimonies of the early friars that he wasn’t a quiet person when he prayed! He would groan and shed copious tears. He would cry out, “O Lord, what will become of sinners!”

His life of prayer and preaching is lived out in the Order by the Friars and Nuns in a complementary way: the friars go out to preach while the nuns carry within the innermost sanctuary of their compassion all sinners, the downtrodden and the afflicted. Like Esther, they go before the King pleading for the salvation of all. Like Moses, they raise their arms in prayer while the battle rages below.

What is commonly not known is that the friars and the nuns are united not just spiritually but juridically through our profession of obedience to the Master of the Order. Together we form the Order of Preachers. We have distinct but complimentary ways of expressing the Order’s mission to “preach for the salvation of souls”.

Q. What is a contemplative’s life like?


To answer this question fully would take several books and at the same time it can’t really be expressed!

I think the first word that comes to mind is JOY. Not that there aren’t hardships as in any vocation but through it all there is a deep abiding joy because I am totally consecrated to God to love and praise Him. The contemplative vocation is a gift beyond words and one for which I will be thanking God for all eternity!

For Dominican contemplative nuns the Word of God is primary. Our constitutions state that the monastery is to be a place where “the Word of God can dwell abundantly in the monastery.”

So, first we ponder the word through lectio divina and through theological study, we sing Mass and the entire Divine Office; we listen to God’s Word as it is expressed through our sisters.

To answer this question fully would take several books and at the same time it can’t really be expressed! I think the first word that comes to mind is JOY.

Q. How is your Order governed?

Our manner of government is ordered so that our fraternal life can be “one mind and heart in God”.  This means we come together as a chapter to discuss things so we can make a decision that is truly centered in God and not just what I want. This isn’t always easy. It requires that we listen to our sisters and that we be willing to be changed. We have to allow grace to be operative in us. The goal is not majority rule but consensus.

Q. What is your work and daily life like?



Our life is intensely liturgical. Holy Mass and the Office shape our day. Everything else is fitted in around it. So, with liturgical prayer, private prayer and our privileged hours of the “adoring Rosary, which is praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance we have about 5 to 6 hours of prayer each day.

Our work is simple, like that of Our Lady at Nazareth. We do the cooking, cleaning, sacristy, laundry, answer the mail, pay the bills, the garden, soap department, etc. Young women are always surprised at how full our days are. You go to bed tired at night!

During recreation times we like to just be together to talk, play games, go for a walk. There is a lot of laughter. Someone once said that our recreations are “high energy!”

We like to just be together to talk, play games, go for a walk. There is a lot of laughter. Someone once said that our recreations are “high energy!”

Q. Many people, if asked, would probably guess that living in a cloister is very limiting. Is this true? 

The cloister frees us immensely! One of the biggest fears in those discerning a contemplative vocation is that the cloister is seen as squashing freedom but it is just the opposite.

The cloister broadens us. It frees us from so many cares and concerns, even something as simple as not minding a stain on my scapular! This freedom isn’t from things so much as for something, really for Someone!

The enclosure is the ‘Garden Enclosed’ of the Song of Songs. Our life is entirely centered on Christ our Spouse alone.  Papal enclosure is a great gift of the Church that allows us to live our contemplative life well.

When I have to leave the enclosure for something necessary I am always so glad to be back. The world is so noisy, both audibly and visually. I really don’t understand how people stay sane!

The cloister frees us immensely! One of the biggest fears in those discerning a contemplative vocation is that the cloister is seen as squashing freedom but it is just the opposite.

Q. Your Order never gave up their habits. Do you think this has affected your stability, as compared to other orders that did?

I entered long after the upheavals of the 60’s but I have never heard either the nuns or the friars even question whether we should give up the habit. The habit is our Blessed Mother’s gift to us and we treasure it dearly.

Actually Dominicans consider only the scapular as the habit and is the only part blessed. Well, the cloistered nuns also have their veil blessed during a beautiful part of the Solemn Profession rite called the Blessing and Imposition of the Veil. The veil is blessed and then the prioress solemnly veils the newly professed. It’s very beautiful.

Every nun in the world wears the habit! There might be slight variations of hem height, sleeve width, veil style but we all wear the habit. Get a group of nuns together at a meeting and eventually we’ll be asking each other the important question: “Where do you get your fabric from?” The habit is a non-issue.

I entered long after the upheavals of the 60’s but I have never heard either the nuns or the friars even question whether we should give up the habit. The habit is our Blessed Mother’s gift to us and we treasure it dearly.

Q. So where does the stability come from?

I think our Order’s stability comes first from a tremendous gift of God. We are nearly 800 years old and we have never had a division. We’ve come close but it hasn’t happened.  There is only one Order of Preachers. One constitution for the friars: one constitution for the nuns.

Do you realize what a gift of God’s love this is? In his address to the Poor Clare nuns at Assisi, Pope Francis emphasized that the devil wants to destroy a community by causing division. The Order of Preachers from the very beginning has had a great devotion to our Lady and I think it is her protection that has kept us united.

Although St. Dominic died just five years after the Order was founded he left us with such a remarkable charism and form of government that it has shaped the Order these 800 years. Our manner of government is crucial to our stability. And most of all the preaching mission of the Order is perennial for each generation and time. One of the wonderful things about being such an old Order is that we’ve made every mistake in the book but we trust in God’s mercy and that of our sisters and brothers.

One of the wonderful things about being such an old Order is that we’ve made every mistake in the book but we trust in God’s mercy and that of our sisters and brothers.

Q. How are your vocations doing?

In the past eight years we’ve had twelve postulants enter and seven have persevered so far. This is such a blessing. Our young sisters come from several countries and all over the USA. Each sister is so different!

We’ve received more vocations in the past 8 years than in the past 50!

Can you tell us some recent vocation stories?

Our Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Immaculate Conception, O.P. is a native of Kansas and in college was part of the party scene. One night she lay in bed and realized that if she continued along this path she would die. It was a moment of grace when she says she was given the opportunity to choose. Gradually, she began attending Mass at the Newman Center at college that had a holy and dynamic priest.

One day she told him she thought she had a religious vocation; an idea that terrified her. At his suggestion she visited a Carmelite monastery nearby to experience cloistered life which she didn’t even know existed. At the end of her weekend she said, “These nuns are crazy and I think I might be as crazy as they are!”

At the end of her weekend she said, “These nuns are crazy and I think I might be as crazy as they are!”

She began a 54 day rosary novena and made the total consecration to Our Lady according to St. Louis de Monfort which was a source of great grace as well. She wrote to many monasteries and became attracted to the Dominican charism. About the same time the Newman Center at college received the total 10 tickets for the state of Kansas for the Papal Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict at Yankee Stadium, NYC. This was in 2008. Because this was considered the official Mass of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States every diocese in the country received a certain number of tickets. As you can imagine the further west, the fewer tickets!

She wrote to our monastery asking if she could visit and in her less than 24 hour visit and on the 57th Day of her Rosary Novena she knew that this was the place God was calling her. She is now preparing for Solemn Profession next year.

Another of our new sisters is Sr. Mary Cecilia of the Annunciation, O.P. She is an extern sister. The extern sisters have what you might call a vocation within a vocation. Externs are contemplatives but they are not bound by papal enclosure because their vocation is to serve the needs of the monastery in a way that makes it easier for the nuns to live their cloistered vocation. So, externs do the shopping, go to vocation events, represent the community at functions such as funerals or special Masses, fundraisers, etc. In many ways it is a demanding vocation. As much as possible the extern sisters live the same life as the nuns do but still fulfilling their responsibilities.

Sr. Mary Cecilia is from Saskatchewan, Canada and was a lay missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach in Ottawa. She attended some theology classes taught by Dominicans and learned of our monastery. She began emailing intrigued by what seemed a contradiction: fully contemplative yet belonging to an Order whose mission is to preach the Gospel! I had a hunch Janlyn had a vocation and perhaps even to contemplative life.

At one point I contacted her with the excuse that I needed her new address to send our newsletter and she responded telling me that she would be attending two vocation retreats in New York. I immediately invited her to come for a visit since we are a convenient 52 minute train ride from the city. She accepted because she thought it would be nice to meet me and because between retreats she had an extra day and needed a place to stay!

As she shared her lay missionary work with me, Janlyn tried to explain the value of her part of it which was in administration, working behind the scenes and not on campus working directly with students. I kept agreeing, nodding my head affirmatively.

Suddenly she looked at me, burst into tears and said, “Oh, no! I think I have a contemplative vocation!” She left us the next morning wondering why she was even going to the retreat with the Sisters of Life.

Suddenly she looked at me, burst into tears and said, “Oh, no! I think I have a contemplative vocation!”

A few months she was unexpectedly called into the office of the president of Catholic Christian Outreach who invited her to be part of a missionary group going to China during the summer Olympics. She loved everything about that trip but it also confirmed that her part was to be a hidden life of prayer. She has a special love for the Chinese people because of that trip.

 Q. How do you sustain your life, financially?

We are mendicant and dependent on Divine Providence. God always provides and we have many wonderful friends and benefactors. Whenever there is a needed repair the Lord provides with unexpected resources and it can be done! God is so good to His spouses!

We also have a small business selling the soaps, creams, lip balms, room sprays, candles, woodcraft we make and books we publish. Mostly this is through the internet and the monastery’s tiny gift shop although we have some wholesale customers as well, mostly Catholic gift shops, retreat centers, etc.

We also have a small business selling the soaps, creams, lip balms, room sprays, candles, woodcraft we make and books we publish.

Q. How did the idea for a soap and candle business come about?
We have a guild of about 70 volunteers who help us by serving as receptionist, drivers, etc. and every year we make a little Christmas gift for them. For some reason, lost in time, it’s the novice mistress’s responsibility to take care of this and someone suggested soap to me. Seven years ago, one Sunday afternoon in August I spent time searching the internet about how to make soap and learned a lot!

At about the same time our daily offerings were really down—sometimes receiving no more than $5 a day—and we had just received 4 postulants so our healthcare insurance really went up! We began selling our soap in the gift shop. We were going to have only 5 varieties. That lasted about 6 weeks. We now make hand crème and lip balms using our own formula, room sprays and now candles.

We are a relatively young community. I think our average age is about 47, so that means we have a large healthcare insurance expense. Since, unlike the active sisters, we don’t teach or bring in a paycheck, the small income from our Seignadou Soaps has proved to be very helpful toward meeting those costs.

At about the same time our daily offerings were really down—sometimes receiving no more than $5 a day—and we had just received 4 postulants so our healthcare insurance really went up!

Q. Who is your chief soap-maker?

Right now the novitiate sisters are assigned the work of the soap room. When a postulant enters she gradually learns all aspects of it. Although there may be sisters who are more “expert” than others, tomorrow another may be given the assignment of learning the craft while the “expert” is assigned to another job in the monastery.

It works out well because the soap room is only busy at certain times of the year. The sisters in the novitiate have formation classes and that is the priority.

Q. What kind of people come to pray at your chapel?

People from all walks of life come to our chapel. The doors are open from 6AM, when we pray Lauds, until about 7PM at night and everyone is welcome.  All day people come to be with our Lord. Some are regulars who come daily and spend hours. We have several “rosary groups” who use our chapel on certain days. For example, we have mother-daughter group that prays the Rosary every 1st Thursday of the month. Other groups schedule a time to visit our chapel.

 Some people come to our monastery to purchase our Seignadou Soap products and find that we have a chapel open all day long. Amazed, they ask, “You mean I can come and pray here?” We never thought of soap as a means of evangelization!

Q. Why else do they come?

We’re not only a monastery but a shrine, the first shrine in the USA to our Lady of the Rosary. But we’re not a touristy type shrine. The focus is on spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed every day and three nights a week. 

We also have a replica of the Shroud of Turin that dates back to 1624. It was commissioned by the Duchess Maria Magdalena, the wife of Cosmo di Medici. It was laid on the real Shroud and the story goes that the stain on our shroud copy appeared when it was lifted up from the Shroud.

In 1988 a team of scientists did a “dry run” on our shroud copy in preparation for their testing on the real Shroud and they did some tests of the side wound stain on our copy. They said that the DNA was the same on both. Our shroud copy in our chapel is the source of much devotion for many people who visit and that is even more important.

Our replica was laid on the real Shroud and the story goes that the stain on our shroud copy appeared when it was lifted up from the Shroud.

Q. I’ve heard that the beauty of your liturgy is quite a draw.

Our liturgy draws people to our monastery. It’s not unusual for someone to call up to ask the times for when “the nuns do the singing”. Often someone else has told them about the beauty of our chant.

We have a dear friend who is Jewish and an artist. One evening she was worried about some family problems. She decided to visit the chapel on the advice of a Catholic friend. She heard us singing Vespers behind the grille and was so taken by the beauty of the chanting that she contacted us and eventually did a trilogy of books featuring the monastery as seen through her artwork.

Often, at Rosary and Sext at 11:30 PM or Office of Readings and None at 3:00 PM, it’s not unusual to see 10-15 people in the extern chapel. We’re happy they join us for the Office as we believe that this is the most important gift we can give to people—the opportunity to simply BE with Jesus who is here for us 24/7!

Our monastery is situated on a hill in a city called Summit. Like our father, St. Dominic we are meant to radiate the light of Christ. Not in words but in with our life. Eight hundred years later, we are still Sister Preacheresses, still a Holy Preaching!

Our liturgy draws people to our monastery. It’s not unusual for someone to call up to ask the times for when “the nuns do the singing”. Often someone else has told them about the beauty of our chant.

Young Americans Today ‘Know What Emptiness Is’

The Franciscan Sisters Third Order Regular of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother

This growing new Community’s Motherhouse is in Toronto, Ohio. The Sisters also have two houses in Steubenville, Ohio and one in Gaming, Austria. In this exclusive interview, Mother Katherine Caldwell and Sister Della Marie Doyle, Director of Vocations, give Regina Magazine readers an intimate look inside their Community.

August 15th, 2013 is the 25th Anniversary of our founding as a religious community. We are so grateful to the Lord for creating us and sustaining us as a community these past 25 years! This video describes our history and a little bit about our life of prayer, fraternity, and ministry that the Lord has inspired for the Church and the world. It was put together during this 25th year with the help of a dear friend of the community, Stephanie Stewart, who did most of the filming and editing. Thank you Stephanie and thank you to all who have made our life possible! With Our Lady, our “souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior”.

Mother Katherine Caldwell, you are a founding member of this new Community. What is your foundation and mission?

As a Franciscan contemplative-active religious community, established August 15, 1988, we were founded to renew the emphasis of prayer that was so central in the lives of St. Francis and his early followers, and is so essential for the renewal of our Christian culture and Catholic faith today.

From our life of prayer flows the heart of our mission to make known God’s merciful love to the poor, the sick and those in need of evangelization and to renew the fullness of Catholic life through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, thus following the pattern of Christ and His servant Francis in preaching by both word and deed.

Twenty years ago the  youth were formed by the culture of MTV, movies, television, and other distractions. This, coupled with poor faith formation, has led to a crisis of  faith and moral decay.  

Q. Tell us about the founding of your Community.

People often ask me why I was part of starting a new community.  I must admit that if I was not 100% convinced that this was God’s call and will for my life, I would have given up years ago for it would have been much easier to join an existing congregation.

I can still remember when I received this call.  While I had a love and desire to serve the poor, the grace of the contemplative life was so strong that I thought I was called to be a cloistered Poor Clare (given solely to a life of prayer), but God spoke so clearly in my heart that I was called to be a contemplative in the world that I could not doubt His call.

He then drew me to scriptures that confirmed this call.  Later, I realized that these were the same scriptures given to Francis when he was discerning whether to be purely contemplative or to also preach.

THE SISTERS PRAY a minimum of five hours each day.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the Community’s prayer life?

It is the combination of a fervent life of prayer, at least 5 hours of prayer each day, works of mercy and a vibrant and caring fraternal life that makes our life a wonderful gift not only to our sisters, but I believe for the Church and for the world.

While we are blessed to hear about many answered prayers, people being touched by our caring presence or the hope our joyful sisterhood brings, we will only know fully in heaven the difference our consecrated life has made for the salvation of souls, our spiritual children.

I recently had a friend of the community do a little math to point out to me in a concrete way the amount of prayer that we are offering to honor and praise God and to pray for others.  In one day our sisters (31 of us) offer 155 hours of prayer, 1085 hours per week, 4,659 hours per month, and 56,420 hours per year.  All to glorify God and to make known His Merciful love! (Editor’s Note: The sisters have since gained six more members.)

By embracing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience—forsaking the treasures of this world—we strive to give witness to the abundant love of God.

Q. Sister Della Marie, what sort of work do your sisters perform?

Our ministry and work flow from our life of prayer. Prayer itself is an apostolate for us. Some of the ministries we are involved in are: Serving those in need through a thrift shop, emergency food bank and a soup kitchen. We also serve on college campuses in evangelization, women’s ministry, leadership training, retreats, talks, and spiritual direction. Our Sisters also visit residents at a nursing home. Periodically we give talks and retreats at parishes or church groups. Our Vocation outreach consists in giving talks about religious life, discernment retreats, and presence at vocation fairs, local colleges, and high schools.

Q. Mother, can you tell us a little about your Community’s spirituality?

With grateful hearts, we recognize our consecration as the initiative and gift of the Father, our response of love to Christ whose love has captured our hearts and the Holy Spirit who has graced us to give ourselves  to God who has given Himself totally to us.

By embracing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience—forsaking the treasures of this world—we strive to give witness to the abundant love of God in this life, the priority of His kingdom, and the fullness of life and glory that awaits the faithful in heaven, when we will meet Christ our Bridegroom face to face.

Our life, rooted in our Catholic and Franciscan spirituality, flows from the dynamic love relationship within the three Persons of the Trinity, is centered in Christ, is animated and guided by the Holy Spirit, finds its source of strength in the Eucharist, and is modeled after Mary, especially under the title ‘Our Mother of Sorrows.’

"I believe what attracts women to our community is the authentic joy they see in our Sisters." The Community is growing -- and is in four locations, including one in Gaming, Austria.
“I believe what attracts women to our community is the authentic joy they see in our Sisters.” The Community is growing — and is in four locations, including one in Gaming, Austria.

“Despite our  culture that is far from Christian, there is hope.  The youth of our times  know what emptiness is and they long for love, meaning, purpose, and  truth.”

MOTHER KATHERINE CALDWELL: “I must admit that if I was not 100% convinced that this was God’s call and will for my life, I would have given up years ago.”

Q. Sister Della Marie, as Vocations Director, you are best placed to give us some perspective on vocations. What do you think draws  young women to your order?

We are experiencing gradual growth  and we are very grateful to the Lord’s generosity in blessing us with  vocations.  We are becoming more well known through social media especially  Facebook and this has increased vocational interest.  Also, I believe that  the construction of our chapel in our motherhouse has given our community greater  stability and space to welcome vocations.  The size of our candidate classes are beginning to increase.

I believe what attracts women to our  community is the authentic joy they see in our Sisters.  This joy is a  fruit of our life rooted in the Sacraments and in prayer, especially in daily  Eucharistic Adoration.   Our time of communal prayer brings unity and  shared vision to our life in community and from this flows the witness of joy  and the ability to see Christ and uphold the dignity of all those we  serve.

The youth of today with internet available 24/7  on their phones have far greater moral temptation than 20 years ago  especially in regards to pornography. Pornography is an epidemic that  extinguishes the capacity of persons to give of themselves  selflessly.   Therefore, many are incapable of being in relationship  with others; they are incapable of love, and they are incredibly lonely and  lost. 

Q. How would  you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20  years ago? Any reason for hope?

The youth of our times are much more formed by social media than the youth of 20 years ago. There has been poor catechesis for a long time. I think this is changing and this will make a difference for the youth of today. Twenty years ago the youth were formed by the culture of MTV,  movies, television, and other distractions. This, coupled with poor faith formation, has led to a crisis of faith and moral decay. The youth of today with internet available 24/7 on their phones have far greater moral temptation than 20 years ago especially in regards to pornography. Pornography is an epidemic that extinguishes the capacity of persons to give of themselves selflessly. Therefore, many are incapable of being in relationship with others; they are incapable of love, and they are incredibly lonely and lost.

Despite our culture that is far from Christian, there is hope. The youth of our times know what emptiness is and they long for love, meaning, purpose, and truth. There are many who are proclaiming truth to the youth and they are embracing it. The harvest is plenty and we need to continually pray for more laborers. Every Christian is called to be a witness and to labor for souls. The world needs Christians who are in love with Jesus and who are willing to lay down their lives for their neighbors. We need to be constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit, so we will know how to love in every circumstance and give witness to the Truth. The Truth will attract the youth of our times and will form them in Love.  

Q. Mother, how can young women with an interest in your community learn more?

A good first step might be to read about how other sisters found their way to us and of course, Sister Della Marie, our vocations director is always available to speak with! 

You can make a tax deductible donation to the sisters here

It is at the foot of the cross that we fully experience the love and mercy of our God flowing from the pierced Heart of Christ and find the strength to give ourselves totally to Him and His people in love.

 

The Sisters Of Mercy And The Statues In The Attic

by Donna Sue Berry

A Treacherous Journey

Five Sisters of Mercy arrived in the Oklahoma Territory in 1884, a scant five years before the famous Oklahoma Land Run. They had accepted an invitation from the Rev. Isidore Robot, first Prefect Apostolic of the Indian Territory, to work with the Native American tribes at Sacred Heart Mission.

Their long journey to Oklahoma (Choctaw for ‘red people’) began in Lacon, Illinois. The Sisters endured forging rivers, riding in covered wagons, walking endless miles, living through an encounter with outlaws, and even surviving a tornado! Undaunted, the little band overcame the hardships of the long, wearying trip. They did not turn back as other Orders before had.

These Sisters belonged to an Order which was founded in 1831 by Mother Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland. By the grace of God, this Order was established to shelter, feed and educate poor women and children, and to help relieve their sufferings.  Shortly after Mother Catherine’s death just ten years later, the order had grown to 150 sisters. Like many successful Orders before and since, they began to establish Missions, sending small groups of sisters to the east and west coasts of America. So when these five sisters settled down into Potawotami tribal land in July of 1884, they were indeed following the dream of their foundress.

On their way to the Oklahoma Territory, the Sisters endured forging rivers, riding in covered wagons, walking endless miles, living through an encounter with outlaws, and even surviving a tornado!

The Center of Catholicism

Their first order of business was to open a boarding school for Native American girls. Saint Mary’s Academy educated the daughters of Pottawatomie, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes as well as the daughters of white settlers. In the years that followed, the little school would grow into a self-sustaining community, an island of civilization. The Sisters had stables, employees’ houses, a blacksmith shop, a tool shop, a carpenter shop, and a bakery where the sisters baked 500 big French loaves each day. Sacred Heart Monastery, which had been built before the sisters’ arrival, housed the novitiate and a boys’ school run by the Benedictines. The large campus was called Sacred Heart; it became the center of Catholicism in the Territory.

Then, disaster struck. On the night of January 15th, 1901 a fire engulfed the Sacred Heart Mission. It swept through the boys and girls schools and overtook the monastery, convent, and college – everything was burned to the ground. The bakery and a small log cabin are the only buildings remaining today.

In the years that followed, the little school would grow into a self-sustaining community, an island of civilization. Then, disaster struck.

The ‘Mount’

Two years later, the Sisters moved to Oklahoma City to continue their ministry of education with the opening of Mount Saint Mary’s Academy boarding school (which my great grandfather helped build).  The cornerstone was laid, and soon young ladies began arriving from across the United States to be educated. It was there at ‘the Mount’ during 1910 that local women also began to attend day classes. Mount Saint Mary’s Academy continued as a novitiate until 1929, with at least 32 of their graduates answering the call to a religious vocation.

In 1947 the Sisters of Mercy bought the 85 bed Oklahoma City General Hospital in downtown OKC which they would re-name Mercy Hospital. In 1974 they made the visionary decision to build a new Mercy Hospital in very north Oklahoma City in a cow pasture. Today, it is a huge medical complex. 

 

Mount Saint Mary’s Academy continued as a novitiate until 1929, with at least 32 of their graduates answering the call to a religious vocation.

Three Sisters To Steal Your Heart

Over the years, my family has had many encounters with these sisters, and we have become friends with a few. Less than a decade later, three Sisters of Mercy walked into our small Catholic Bookstore, Our Lady of Fatima.

There they stood in their modified habits: Sister Beatrice Bergman, Sister Boniface Kettner, and Sister Madlyn McCann. Sister Madlyn stole my heart immediately. She was short, round and her smile reminded me my grandmother. As they oohed and ahhed their way through our store, they endeared themselves to us immediately as they excitedly examined  all the Catholic devotional books and items on our shelves. All three began talking about how they loved their life as Sisters of Mercy, their favorite devotions, and their love for all things holy in the Catholic Church.

Our relationship with these Sisters grew over the years. Once, they invited mom and me to Mount Saint Mary’s for a tour. One year the International Statue of Our Lady of Fatima came to Oklahoma for an entire month, and every church, school or organization had a chance to secure a day or night for a visit. Mom and I were thrilled to be asked to be on the committee to host the statue.

Our Sisters were excited, too and immediately asked their pastor to host Our Lady’s statue. His response was an emphatic “NO!”  He did not want that statue visiting, he explained disdainfully, because the Church was past all that nonsense.

Well, those Sisters told me that they would NOT take no for an answer. They would go over the priest’s head — to the Mother of God. They began to pray their rosaries, and fast! They also made a novena.

Just before the final time slot was taken for the statue, their priest suddenly called me. To my utter shock, he asked politely if his parish might have the statue for an evening. Before I could respond, he named the very date we had open.  

Our Sisters immediately asked their pastor to host Our Lady’s statue. His response was an emphatic “NO!”  He did not want that statue visiting, he explained disdainfully, because the Church was past all that nonsense.

A Spooky Old Attic on the Mount

What an incredible evening it was. Snow was falling, and we had been invited to stay all night at the convent at Mount Saint Mary’s. Late in the evening, our three Sisters told us that they had a surprise for us.

We were intrigued, as they beckoned us to follow their flashlights down dimly lit hallways and into an old, old elevator that creaked as it labored to take us to the top floor. We emerged from the lift into a dark space, leading into a staircase into the attic.

Those Sisters fairly flew up those broken old steps. We followed, but at the top of the stairs we stopped abruptly. The attic looked like a scene out of a scary movie – complete with ghosts everywhere!

However, the ghosts turned out to be sheet-covered statues, crucifixes, framed papal blessings, and various other Catholic treasures. We were in awe; all of these holy things were very, very old. The Sisters explained that some of them had survived the fire at Sacred Heart Mission. Others were gifts to Mount Saint Mary’s during the early days.

Those Sisters fairly flew up those broken old steps. We followed, but at the top of the stairs we stopped abruptly. The attic looked like a scene out of a scary movie – complete with ghosts everywhere!

The Sisters’ Secret

Why were these treasures hidden in the attic? The Sisters exchanged glances and lowered their voices. Decades before, the changes in the Church had led to changes within their own convent, they said sadly. They had been worried that some of the younger Sisters would have had the statues destroyed.

They’d made a secret plan, they said. Some of the older boys from the Mount had agreed to help them hide their treasures in the attic, where they had rested undisturbed for decades since.

Oh, how those three Sisters treasured the secret contents of the attic!  This time it was our turn to ooh and awe at the sight of so many sacramentals hidden away. 

After a short time, we started back down the treacherous stairway. When we shut the door to the attic behind us, we never dreamt that we’d see anything like this again.

 

Why were these treasures hidden in the attic? The Sisters exchanged glances and lowered their voices. Decades before, they had been worried that some of the younger Sisters would have had the statues destroyed, they explained.

Five Years Later

Sister Beatrice asked if we would like a few of the treasures from the attic, as they had won permission to give them to someone who would take care of them. They had already given a few things away — a Sacred Heart statue and a Saint Joseph statue went to a church that had gladly taken them.

Of course we said yes, and that’s when Saint Anthony, Saint Jude, Saint Aloysius, Saint Agnes and two altar angels came to live at our home. Today, the angels adorn either side of an altar at St Damien of Molokai church, where the Traditional Latin Mass is said each day.

These statues are all indeed treasures, beautiful sacramentals, and each time we look at them it brings back the sweetest memories of those three very special Sisters of Mercy — gone now, to their heavenly reward.

Requiescat in pace.

Today, the sisters’ angels adorn either side of a beautiful altar at an Oklahoma church where the Traditional Latin Mass is said each day.

Feature Image: https://www.mercy.net/about/building-a-legacy-of-care/oklahoma-city/

Mother Catherine McAuley image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_McAuley

Author own images

Springtime for an American Order of Preachers

The Nashville Dominicans

 

Novice_A
NASHVILLE NOVICES wearing white veils, now number 16 — and growing!
Postulant_A
DOMINICAN POSTULANTS begin their day at Aquinas College where they work toward a college degree and teaching certification. The sisters return home in time for noon prayers and house duties. In the afternoon, they pray the Rosary with the novices as they walk the Motherhouse grounds, and then have a time of recreation. As the end of their postulant year approaches, in preparation for their reception of the habit, the postulants also spend time sewing their Dominican habit.
Lauds_B
THE DIVINE OFFICE marks the sacred and fixed rhythm of the day. Following the monastic custom of praying chorally and in the tradition of our Holy Father St. Dominic, we pray with our entire bodies, standing, sitting, and bowing as we chant the Divine Office.
Student_Sister_A
STUDENT SISTERS: Once they have professed their first vows, the sisters work toward the completion of a degree or teaching certification at Aquinas College. Their time at school is a combination of study, prayer, and recreation. When they return home in the afternoon, the sisters have time for study, prayer, duties or recreation before Vespers.
Teaching_Sister_A
TEACHING SISTERS: After breakfast, the teaching sisters make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament before leaving for school. The day is spent in the apostolate, bringing the truth of the Gospel to students of all ages in various subject areas.
Teaching_Sister_B
TEACHING AFTERNOONS: As sisters return home from school in the afternoon, there is time for prayer, study, schoolwork, or recreation before Vespers.

For more than 150 years, the Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee have exemplified the Dominican charism.

The charism of a community is such that if all written records were destroyed, it could be re-created through the living testimony of its members. 

After Vatican II, the ‘Nashville Dominicans,’ as they are known, elected to continue to follow their charism closely, retaining their religious habits and their life in community. Fast forward 50 years, and the Order has experienced an outpouring of interest on the part of many young American women, bursting the seams of their Motherhouse and prompting an expansion of the Order to other parts of America and beyond.

REGINA: Sister Anne Catherine, O.P, you have just announced a foundation in Scotland. Is this your Order’s first foray outside America? How did this come about?

Sister Anne Catherine: This fall four of our sisters went to the Diocese of Aberdeen.  This is our first mission house in the UK, although we also have sisters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sydney, Australia, and Rome.

The story of how the sisters got to Scotland is referenced in the homily of Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen at the welcome Mass:  Bishop Hugh Gilbert, a Benedictine and former abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, has so kindly prepared for the sisters’ arrival and is a great advocate for the presence of Dominican life in the local Church.

“Over 60 sisters are currently in formation in our novitiate, with 27 young women entering our community this August.”

REGINA: Can you characterize your order’s growth for us in any way? Percentage growth over the last ten or twenty years, for example?

Sister Anne Catherine: Our Congregation has grown 46% in the past 14 years, and currently, at 300, we are the largest we have ever been.  Since I entered the convent in 1998, over 150 sisters have followed me.  Over 60 sisters are currently in formation in our novitiate, with 27 young women entering our community this August.  While the numbers vary, I think the underlying fact is that the Lord continues to call young women to religious life, and they are responding with generosity.

REGINA: Many -in fact most – people don’t yet realize that the traditional orders are meeting with such success. Do you find that people are surprised that you exist — and that you are thriving?

Sister Anne Catherine: Sometimes we are met with surprised expressions–in airports, at grocery stores, on the street–and a person may come up to us and say he or she was taught by sisters in grade school and is glad to see we are still around.

People who are not Catholic or who have never seen a sister are not always quite sure who we are, but so often we find that they want to talk to us, ask us questions, or ask our prayers for something.  Very often they are surprised to learn that there are people around who have chosen to give their lives totally to Christ, and yet I have found that our presence is a sign of hope to people, even when they cannot quite understand exactly what our life means.

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“People who are not Catholic or who have never seen a sister are not always quite sure who we are, but so often we find that they want to talk to us, ask us questions, or ask our prayers for something.  Very often they are surprised to learn that there are people around who have chosen to give their lives totally to Christ.”

REGINA: Can you relate some anecdotes about how young girls find your order? How they come to understand that they have a vocation?

Sister Anne Catherine: Young women find out about our order in various ways–through our website, through a priest or friends who know us, through meeting one of our sisters at a retreat or on a college campus, through seeing one of our brochures.  I am always amazed how God’s Providence works so uniquely in the life of each young woman to draw her to Himself in the way He knows best.  While some young women know clearly and early on in their lives that God is calling them, I would say for most of us the call emerges gradually over a period of time.

In my own case, I had a friend from college who had decided to enter our community, and she was my initial reason for coming to visit.  For most girls considering a religious vocation, they need to visit a convent in order to see what the life is actually like and to ask themselves, “Can I see myself being happy here?”  Talking to the sisters, asking them questions, learning more about the life–all of this is important in the discernment process.

But most important of all is to develop a deeper friendship with Christ through prayer and the sacraments.  In a world surrounded by noise, we have to learn to hear the Lord’s voice speaking to us in the depths of our hearts and revealing Himself in the ordinary events of every day.

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A SCOTTISH BISHOP WELCOMES AMERICAN SISTERS: “What is happening today? I’m old enough to remember Westerns. And here we are, wagons drawn close, feeling our last days have come and our scalps about to be removed, when – lo and behold – the US 7th Cavalry appears over the hill. Here they are, armed not with carbines but rosaries. And we can breathe again.”
“This Fall four of our sisters went to the Diocese of Aberdeen.  This is our first mission house in the UK, although we also have sisters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sydney, Australia, and Rome.”

REGINA: What do you see as the Order’s next challenge(s)?

Sister Anne Catherine: We have a number of young sisters, and going forward we want to make sure we have room for all of them to flourish!  We also want to continue to provide the best formation and support we can for all of our sisters, and this takes ongoing thoughtful consideration.  I think any person who takes seriously the call to follow the Lord, and not just one called to religious life, is going to meet with many challenges in this culture, for there are a lot of forces acting against the Gospel message.

Therefore, we need to be well-formed and equipped to see the needs of the new evangelization in the situations in which we find ourselves, and be ready to respond with energy and creativity in preaching the truth of Christ.  There are many good and necessary things we can and must do to spread the Gospel in a world that so desperately needs to hear it, especially in our apostolate of education, but we also have to remember that if we are not first faithful to our primary relationship with Christ, then we will have little of value to give to the world.

As the Dominican motto says, “Contemplate and give to others the fruits of your contemplation.”

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“We have a number of young sisters, and going forward we want to make sure we have room for all of them to flourish!”

The Sisters can be reached at Here

How You Can Help

You can assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia by participating in their life and mission through a financial gift. Your gift would be used for daily living expenses as well as larger areas of need, including education and formation, maintaining the Motherhouse and building endowments for the future.

The Order With Vocations ‘from the least expected places’

Mother Maria Aeiparthenos is the Mistress of Novices for the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Novitiate for the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Her Order, which wears a traditional habit, is one of many experiencing a significant uptick in interest on the part of young, American Catholic women. Now, Mother shares her joyful experience in this exclusive interview with Regina Magazine:

Q. What is your Order’s charism?

The Religious Family of the Incarnate Word is missionary and Marian. We are comprised of both a male branch, the Priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, and a female branch, the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará.

Our mission is to commit all our strength to inculturate the Gospel, that is to say, “to prolong the Incarnation” of Jesus Christ. Following the call of Blessed John Paul II, our goal is to evangelize the culture in the most difficult places. Our evangelization takes many forms: homes of mercy for children, the elderly, and the sick, parish work, Catholic education, popular missions (in which we go door-to-door in the neighborhood of the parish and invite people to the parish mission), providing the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. We also have contemplative sisters who sustain the mission through their prayers and sacrifices.

We entrust the missions and our entire lives to Christ, our Spouse, through the hands of his mother; we take a fourth vow of consecration to the Virgin Mary according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort.

The Servants of the Lord was founded by Father Carlos Miguel Buela in Argentina on March 19, 1988.

Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your Order doing in this regard?

 The Servants of the Lord was founded by Father Carlos Miguel Buela in Argentina on March 19, 1988. Now the Servants of the Lord have over 1000 members who serve in 35 countries. By the grace of God, generous souls continue to come; around the world, there are currently more than 90 novices and 90 aspirants.

Now the Servants of the Lord have over 1000 members who serve in 35 countries. By the grace of God, generous souls continue to come; around the world, there are currently more than 90 novices and 90 aspirants.

Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?

There is always hope! Men naturally desire truth. In a world plagued with increasing violence, youth have an ever greater urge to give themselves to God – to live for eternity while we’re here on earth. The generation that has grown up with Blessed John Paul II, a strong and vibrant witness of hope, thirsts for Truth, and they have received many answers through the fruits of the Second Vatican Council: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Theology of the Body, and many World Youth Days.

Young Catholics are the leaders of the New Evangelization. Youth from the most difficult or least Christian cultures joyfully pick up the Cross of Christ; for example, we have many vocations from some of the least expected places: Tajikistan, Egypt, and Holland!

“In a world plagued with increasing violence, youth have an ever greater urge to give themselves to God – to live for eternity while we’re here on earth.”

There is always hope! Men naturally desire truth.

Support

 

In addition to direct monetary donations, anyone wishing to contribute through donations of food, household products, office supplies, old furniture, or services (auto repair, plumbing, etc.) is invited to contact the convent closest to them by consulting the Order’s Province-wide directory.

Some of their missions  have special needs. Read about the missions on their website to learn more about their apostolates and how you can share in their work through prayers and material support. It is now easier to help online using PayPal.

Click here to make a tax free donation

Our evangelization takes many forms: homes of mercy for children, the elderly, and the sick, parish work, Catholic education, popular missions and providing the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises.