On nuns and home improvement.

From the Catholic Herald:

A few years ago I gave a child a holy picture of Saint Faustina, explaining that she was a very holy nun. “What’s a nun?” the child asked…”

The complete collapse of religious orders in the west is no surprise to anyone who has at least brainstem function. The Herald continues, citing the Catholic Philly:

“…The number of women religious in the United States has declined from a peak of 181,421 in 1965 to 47,160 in 2016, National Religious Retirement Office statistics show. About 77 percent of women religious are older than 70.

As many as 300 of the 420 religious institutes in the United States are in their last decades of existence because of aging membership and declining vocations, officials said…” (n.b.: If you want a clue regarding the reasons for the vocations collapse, all you need to do is go the Catholic Philly article – TC)

None of my children has ever seen a nun. Although there are a handful of very elderly sisters cloistered around the state of Maine, for practical purposes the “vocation to religious life” that is mindlessly repeated during the “prayers of the faithful” each Sunday has no meaningful, visible corollary. There are no nuns teaching in the schools. There are no nuns working and taking care of patients in the (ostensibly) Catholic hospitals. There are no nuns walking down the street, there are no nuns in the former convent attached to the school. The old convent has, in fact, been “repurposed” to a secular assisted living facility of some sort. For my children, and for all of the children in the State (and all of these United States) “praying for vocations to religious life” is like praying for dinosaurs. Except, they are taught about dinosaurs in their Catholic school.

However, as the Herald article points out (my emphasis),

“…Certain orders are not going to continue, while others are; the orders women still want to join are by and large, for want of a better term, traditional ones. Those facing extinction, not so much…”

Which brings me to some examples I’d like to share with you, because the nuns are out there, slowly, quietly, patiently rebuilding. Brick by brick. You just have to look.

Firstly, The Dominican Nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, New Jersey. What, you may ask, is a “Dominican Nun”? from the website:

Like all contemplatives, our specific mission is unceasing prayer for the entire Church, a spiritual service in the form of praise, adoration, intercession, expiation and thanksgiving…

..Contemplative activity at the service of the Church is the definite pattern set by St. Dominic for the Nuns of the Order, for he founded them ten years before the Brethren to offer their prayers and penances for all “preachers of the word.” From the very beginning of the Order, St. Dominic associated us with “the holy preaching,” through a life of contemplation, liturgical prayer, work, and sacrifice. He founded the nuns before the friars, knowing that the success of his preaching depended upon and was linked intimately with the intercession of his daughters…”

You can explore their website, and learn a great deal about them on your own. However, I’d like to point out their Cloister Shoppe. I’ve been buying stuff from there for a few years now, especially soap and beeswax Advent candles. They sell most of their stuff year ‘round, but you gotta hurry on the Advent candles as they are seasonal, and when they’re gone, they’re gone, until next year!

And, although they are a small group, they are growing, and have a capital campaign (look at the “construction photos” link!)

Dominican Nuns of Summit, NJ.jpg

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Next up, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Gower, Missouri. From their website,

Our community first began under the aegis of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in 1995, in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania…

In March 2006, we accepted the invitation of Bishop Robert W. Finn to transfer to his diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri. We were established as a Public Association of the Faithful with the new name, “Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles”. By the grace of God and through the fatherly solicitude of Bishop Finn, we were raised to the status of Religious Institute of Diocesan Right under the supreme authority of Ecclesia Dei on November 25, 2014.”

Like the Dominicans in NJ, the Benedictines are small but growing, and they had a major milestone in the consecration of the newly built Abbey and the Abbess this past September. Fr. Z covered it in great detail with great photos and great videos here, here and here.

They, too, have a store. The Dominicans have an extensive collection of craft items for sale, while these Benedictine sisters have greeting cards and especially music CDs covering all the Liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and more. Check it out!

Gower, MO Abbey.jpg

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Third, we have Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, founded in 1997 in Ann Arbor, Michigan by four foundresses: Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, O.P., Sr. Mary Samuel Handwerker, O.P., and Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, O.P. Teaching is their primary apostolate. From the Apostolate link (my emphasis):

“…Women religious have been an integral part of the history of Catholic education in the United States. As Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we seek to continue the tradition of educating generations of young people in their Faith and most of all, to bring youth into deeper relationship with Christ…

In our Spiritus Sanctus Academies or in other Catholic schools where our Sisters are involved in the administration or teaching apostolate, we look to foster, flowing from the Dominican charism, the formation of the students, spiritually, intellectually, and physically. We support the growth and excellence of the whole person so that they too can go out and engage the culture with a knowledge of the Truth. We seek to foster the holiness of our students, because holiness and happiness are synonymous in the light of Faith.

At this juncture in the Catholic Church’s history in our country, which is in such great need for the new evangelization spoken of by Saint John Paul II, we serve the Church by deepening the renewal of Catholic education and bringing consecrated women religious back into the schools.”

In addition to the Mother House in Ann Arbor, they are building a new Religious House in Austin, Texas. They also have teaching missions in Michigan (Lansing, Detroit and St. Claire Shores, and of course, Ann Arbor), Chicago, IL, Worthington, OH, Peoria, IL, St. Paul, MN, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Kansas City, MO, Houston, TX, Georgetown, TX, Austin, TX and Buda, TX (what’s up with Texas??). They are also in Phoenix, AZ, Sacramento, CA and San Francisco, CA. Finally, they are also in Rome, serving at the Pontifical North American College.

And, of course, they have a store. Here is the Texas Religious House.

Sisters of Mary Texas.jpg

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Lastly, I offer the Carmelite nuns of the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA. From their website:

The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a papally enclosed Discalced Carmelite community in the farmlands of Elysburg, Pennsylvania. In communion with the Roman Catholic Church and approved by their diocesan bishop, the Most Rev. Ronald Gainer of the Harrisburg Diocese, the cloistered Nuns live lives of solitude, prayer and sacrifice. Their monastery is at full capacity — and their numbers continue to grow.

The primary mission of the Carmelite Order is to pray and offer oblation for the Church and the world. The use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Divine Office sets this monastery apart and their observance of the Rule and Constitutions is part of an unbroken tradition stretching back from Mexico to Spain to Mount Carmel itself in the Holy Land...”

Since moving into the Elysburg monastery (vacated in 2007 by an aging community), the Nuns have experienced a surge in vocations. Here, this new generation has found the perennial ideals of the cloistered Carmelite vocation lived in all its traditional fullness. While this is a blessing, it has also created a challenge. With these new vocations, the Nuns have outgrown their current monastery. Rooms meant for recreation, meals, and work are fast being turned into living quarters to accommodate new postulants.

...Since moving into the Elysburg monastery (vacated in 2007 by an aging community), the Nuns have experienced a surge in vocations. Here, this new generation has found the perennial ideals of the cloistered Carmelite vocation lived in all its traditional fullness. While this is a blessing, it has also created a challenge. With these new vocations, the Nuns have outgrown their current monastery. Rooms meant for recreation, meals, and work are fast being turned into living quarters to accommodate new postulants.

Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Harrisburg Diocese gave the Carmelites permission to branch out and found a new community. With his blessing, the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph began the design process and in 2012 purchased the land on which to build. 

At both Elysburg and the new monastery, the nuns will be able to continually grow, attracting new vocations and providing powerhouses of prayer and sacrifice the world so desperately needs...”

Carmelites of PA.jpg

All of these communities: the Dominicans in New Jersey, the Benedictines in Missouri, the Dominicans in Michigan, the Carmelites of Pennsylvania, are growing. That’s why I’ve posted construction pictures and links. They also have stores and get a fair amount of their income through their stores. They sell beautiful and unique things, and three have music CDs which make wonderful gifts for any priests or seminarians you may happen to know.

Curate, ut valeatis!