What is Cloistered Life?

Nun Cloistered life is a formal way of life recognized by the Church to invite men and women to find within the hidden life of the monastery a place where they can experience the loving exchange of hearts with Christ Jesus. In this enclosure, they find their true selves and experience a foretaste of Heaven!

Phoenix Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration Install First Abbess

OlmstedPoorClareOn the Solemnity of St. Joseph, with a visit from their bishop, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Arizona, celebrated the installation of their first abbess – Mother Marie Andre, PCPA!

Mother Marie Andre, along with Sr. Mary Fidelis, and Sr. Marie St. Paul, each entered Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Birmingham AL, in the mid ’90s.  During 2004, the Year of the Eucharist, after much deliberation, it was decided that a new foundation of PCPAs would begin in the Diocese of Phoenix, AZ, at the kind invitation of Bishop Olmsted.  This was to be the first contemplative nuns to begin a foundation in the diocese.

On March 2, 2005, the “Desert Nuns” as they have been affectionately called, received the official permission from the Holy See to begin this new Foundation . On May 1, 2005, the Poor Clares left the Alabama Monastery and headed West to begin Our Lady of Solitude Monastery. For the first five years of the Foundation, the community dwelt in Black Canyon City, AZ (North of Phoenix), in a house provided by the Diocese.

Then after a generous gift of land and after a generous gift of funding for the Chapel, they were able to move to our permanent home in Tonopah, AZ (West of Phoenix) in Oct. 2010. Their stunning Eucharistic chapel was dedicated on May 7, 2011.

On December 29, 2015, by decree of the Holy See, Our Lady of Solitude Monastery officially became an autonomous Monastery of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.  Sr. Marie Andre was appointed Abbess and was officially installed as such by Bishop Olmsted on March 19, 2016.

Last June, Mother Marie Andrea reflected upon the calling to the cloistered, contemplative life:

“Some might look upon Jesus’ call as a hiccup in a young woman’s plans for the future for having a family and a career, and this decision is often incomprehensible and viewed as a contradiction because she is denying herself the chance to have children and a career.

But it’s not puzzling or bewildering to the one being called and hearing the Voice of the Lord!

This freedom is the total dedication to God in our daily life, and so we pray always every day of our lives for the grace to understand better how Jesus calls us. “

For more information and photos, click here.

 

 

Oregon Trappists Live Life of Stark Simplicty, Autheniticity and Prayer

The first thing a visitor to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon, notices is the deliberate pace of liturgy. Compared to the way these 30 or so monks savor their psalms and hymns, the average parish Mass runs at squirrel velocity.

This is also a place of work and close community that radiates holiness, but holiness built on utter honesty. “Any time you strive to lead a serious spiritual life, you will be stripped of all pretensions and your ego,” says Father Dominique, the 67-year-old prior.

Living a version of the 4th century Rule of St. Benedict, the Trappists rise before dawn, put on their yeomanly habits and begin with prayer. The day is full of worship in the church, punctuated by labor on the grounds, in the book bindery and in the fruitcake kitchen. Monks offer spiritual direction. They are vegetarians who grow much of their own food and must work side-by-side. No one owns anything.
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After Mass, as the sun rises, the mustachioed Brother Dick hefts the crucifix from in front of the altar to the tabernacle, a journey he makes every morning. All the monks here carry crosses of one kind or another, but they seem glad.

Brother Brian, a 56-year-old native of Ireland, transferred in 2013 from a waning Irish Trappist monastery. He found the Oregon abbey’s website and “something popped.” Our Lady of Guadalupe, he says, is characterized by “an excitement about the interior life.”

As they grow in authenticity, monks feel wobbly in face of God’s faithfulness. When he first became a Trappist, Brother Brian wanted to be a saint. After almost three decades, he rises each day and says to God, “I can’t believe you love me.”

The monk’s task, he says, is to connect with Jesus’ self-emptying love. That begins with refusing to put your brothers to shame. If another monk leaves some dirty dishes, for example, don’t excoriate him; Brother Brian just does the dishes and offers a kind correction later.

“Every time you say, ‘I am glad I am not like that brother,’ God comes along and shows you you are ten times worse. It’s a spiritual kick in the rear end,” Brother Brian concludes with a guffaw.

“Jesus says you’ve got to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself,” says Brother Martin, 90. “The only reason I’m here is because this is the best place for me to do that.” A World War II veteran, Brother Martin was part of the group that came from New Mexico in the mid-1950s to found Oregon’s Trappist abbey.

Over the years, he has become the abbey’s ambassador, able to chat about deep matters with anyone.

“The monastic restrictions free you,” Brother Martin says. “Material intensity kills the spirit. You need time and space. You need stillness.” And, he declares, forget the illusion of perfection. The monastery is a place where the only way to grow is to admit your imperfections.

“Don’t send us any angels or saints,” Brother Martin says. “They aren’t going to make it.”

Brother Chris, a 43-year-old California native, arrived in 1998, a trained forester who had recently re-appropriated his faith. In addition to prayer, he has helped restore a rare oak savannah.

Brother Chris invites men — single or married — to consider a 30-day retreat in which the guest lives as a monk in the cloister. “It’s a transformative experience and a time of growing in self knowledge,” he says. “A vocation as a monk lets all your gifts flower.”

He values the intergenerational community, where he considers men in their 90s as brothers. Many monks here recall Trappist life before the Second Vatican Council, when silence was strict. Silence is still the rule much of the time, but there are periods for conversation, which has enhanced fellowship.

“It’s not just me and God, it’s me and the community, too,” Brother Chris says.

Father Todd, ordained last March, has been a Trappist since 2004. At 39, he considers himself a monk first, then a priest to serve his brothers.

Monastic life, he says, tends to shine God’s light into a person, increasing self knowledge, including awareness of wounds. The exposure leads to healing. As for him, he is more joyous.

The life is full and active, not just sitting and meditating. Father Todd, who grew up north of Spokane, works in the bindery and the kitchen and like everyone here needs to put out the garbage.

“If your whole life is blissed out poetry, it wouldn’t have any meaning or foundation,” he says.

31064bCritics accuse monks of escaping from the world. Father Todd knows better, saying that the life is indeed a separation, but one that allows the monk to be united with everyone. “People who come on retreat are trying to get into that,” he explains. “The monastery is a different kind of immersion into human experience. There is a human need for silence and acknowledgement of the divine and we hold space open for that here.”

Father Dominique, the lighthearted prior, walks into the guest house and embraces several volunteers. A piano prodigy and scholar before entering the abbey, Father Dominique as a child knew he wanted to be the kind of priest who kept God company all day.

At 14, he read “The Seven Storey Mountain” by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton and immediately called the Oregon abbey. Advised to continue his education, he attended UCLA and developed his music, along with Latin, French, history and English literature. His vocation persisted and he came to Oregon.

“I know I am not running away from anything,” says Father Dominique. “I am running toward Jesus.” The monks’ prayer, he says, does not stay at the abbey, but “redounds around the world.” Contemplative life, he insists, is the heart that pumps life through the whole church.

Steve Bernards, who grew up in nearby Carleton, comes to 6:30 a.m. Mass with the Trappists every day. He recalls making the trip as a boy with his father in the 1960s, listening to the beautiful chant. After Mass, he often chats with the gregarious Brother Martin, who works in the guest house. He always walks away with some wisdom, often resolved to slow down and notice God’s presence in his life.

“People are so tied up and they go, go, go,” says Bernards. “They don’t take time. I have been very blessed to be with the monks.”

When Pope Francis was named and showed himself to be so extroverted, the Trappist abbot wondered what the Holy Father might say about monasticism. But the pope quickly made it known that he considers contemplatives “wombs of mercy” to the local church.

“The reality of who you really are, that reality is the one God is totally in love with,” says Abbot Peter, 68. “When we touch our real selves, immediately we touch mercy. God wants you, not who you want to be. This is at the heart of contemplative life.”

The need for spiritual sanctuary will never go away, says Abbot Peter, who wears a fishing vest over his habit. He was elected by his brothers as their leader 22 years ago. Back then, it seemed like the worst day of his life. He was not a scholar and did not think of himself as a very good monk. But he knew he loved his brothers and has found that is enough.

“This community lifts me,” he says. “They are my way. Monasteries and marriage both take work, but make you a better person.”

For more information visit here.

 

Former Villanova Basketball Star Embraces Life as a Poor Clare Nun

Once upon a lifetime ago, Shelly Pennefather was the sweetest of shooting stars, an All-American at Villanova and the 1987 national player of the year. Since 1991, she has lived here, in the Poor Clare Monastery, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a very modest middle-class Virginia neighborhood.

Pennefather has taken her vows and the name Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels. She renounced her worldly life, including a six-figure salary as a professional basketball star in Japan, to answer her true calling: To serve God as a cloistered Poor Clare nun.

The Colettine Poor Clares are one of Catholicism’s most austere orders. They sleep no longer than four hours at a time, eat one full meal a day and don’t use phones, TVs, radios or any publications except religious texts. They sleep on a bed of straw; they’re barefoot except for an hour each day, when they don sandals to walk into the courtyard, where they’re allowed to converse with each other.Pennefather

When Harry Perrett, her former coach at Villanova first met Shelly, he had a full head of hair, not a comb-over. She had a heavenly jumpshot, one honed by her late father, Mike, a jumper so pure and accurate, it helped make Pennefather one of the top five high school prospects in the country. By the time she graduated from college, Pennefather had scored 2,408 points (still the school record for male or female players) and grabbed 1,171 rebounds (still the women’s mark).

“She could play guard, forward, center,” Perretta said of his 6-foot-1 star. “She was intelligent, could shoot, handle the ball, everything. She wasn’t the best forward, or center, or guard. But she was the best all-around player.”

At Villanova, Pennefather attended Mass daily and was very spiritual. “She didn’t hide that at all,” Villanova associate athletics director and former teammate Lynn Tighe said. “It didn’t surprise any of us that she was going to be a nun. It just took us all aback that she was going into a cloister.”

Pennefather’s faith was evident at the 1987 Kodak All-America team banquet in Austin, Texas. As a publicity shot for her senior season, Villanova had Pennefather pose in a white tuxedo, with top hat and cane, standing beside a limousine and beneath a theater marquee bearing her name. In Austin, she wore a simple navy blue suit and told her fellow All-Americans, “I only hope that with the talent each one of us has received, that we never shame the God who gave it to us. . . . Thank you, and God bless you.”

Her decision to quit basketball followed three seasons of stardom in Japan. With no WNBA in 1987, Pennefather signed with the Nippon Express. She spent much time alone in Japan, time for reading and introspection, and studying Japanese. She went to daily 6 a.m. Mass. “That was where she got the calling to the cloister,” Perretta said.

By 1991, Pennefather was earning $100,000 a season and could have signed a new contract worth nearly $200,000 a year. Yet during each of her three offseasons, she had returned to the United States and honored a personal vow by working for a month with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order of nuns. For parts of three summers, Pennefather worked in a soup kitchen in Norristown, Pa. She even met Mother Teresa and Mother Teresa’s personal confessor, Father John Hardon.

It was Father Hardon’s name that Pennefather uttered when she rang the doorbell at the monastery in 1991. The door opened. As Pennefather’s late father told Alex Wolff in 1997, “It was as if someone asked you, ‘Who said you could play basketball?’ And you could answer, ‘John Wooden.'”pennefather2

Pennefather became a novice at the cloister. Her friends and Villanova teammates struggled with her decision. At first, many wept.

Tighe asked Pennefather, “Why are you doing that? I’m glad you’re becoming a nun. But there’s so many opportunities out there to teach and coach and influence kids’ lives.”

“She said, ‘Lynn, I would never choose this for myself. This is what I was called to do,'” Tighe recalled. “You can’t argue with that. I don’t know the strength of that calling. You say, ‘OK, good luck to you.'”

On June 6, 1997, six years after entering the monastery as a novice and shortly before the WNBA’s birth, Sister Rose took her vows as a Poor Clare nun. A crown of thorns was placed on her head, a band bearing the likeness of Jesus Christ slipped on her finger. For just the second time since she’d come to the monastery, her family was allowed to embrace Sister Rose on the altar in the small, painted-cinderblock public chapel. Their next embrace will come in 2019, when she celebrates her vows.

Shelly’s mother, Mary Jane Pennefather and her siblings including Therese, who played at Villanova from 1997-2000 attend Mass periodically at the monastery. As Sister Rose receives Holy Communion they catch a brief glimpse of her through a Dutch door, which opens to the nuns’ choir behind the altar. Because Sister Rose is 6-foot-1, the wall behind the altar was topped by several panels of beveled glass. The “Pennefather clouds,” as they’re called in the cloister, shield Sister Rose from public view.

“I believe she’s really happy, and she’s doing what she was called to do. We should all be so happy,” said Tighe, who occasionally has feelings of personal loss. “Some days, I feel like I’ve lost my good friend because you can’t pick up the phone and call her. But there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s my friend, because she prays for me each day. I don’t know that my other friends do that!” She laughed. “But I’m absolutely certain she does, and there’s something pretty special about that.”

What has most impressed Perretta about Sister Rose and her fellow Poor Clares is “how witty they are. How intelligent, how they laugh,” he said. “I feel like all my buddies are in there. They know me, they know my children’s names. The place has an aura, where people are doing things and ask nothing of anybody.

“When I leave there, I feel like I was in the presence of great people,” Perretta said. “It rejuvenates me every year. It makes me feel like there’s a better place.”

There is, of course, a place as heavenly as the jumpers Shelly Pennefather once launched, a place Sister Rose can only imagine.

 

Cloistered Communities Count Blessings As They Pray for More Vocations

Featured in National Catholic Register— BY BRIAN O’NEELPassionistSisters-255x350

On Feb. 2, Pope Francis ended the Year of Consecrated Life with a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. But what fruits has the year delivered, in terms of highlighting cloistered religious communities and fostering more vocations there?

When the Holy Father, himself a consecrated religious, opened the special year on Nov. 30, 2014, he said he was doing so because he hoped the “shining witness of [the consecrated] life will be as a lamp,” placed where it can “give light and warmth to all of God’s people.”

As reported by the Register, His Holiness urged religious to “‘wake up the world,’ illuminating it with their ‘prophetic and countercurrent witness.’”

And yesterday, he praised the joyful witness of consecrated men and women: “How beautiful is it when we encounter the happy face of consecrated persons.”

By all accounts, religious’ response to the Pope’s call has led to a greater awareness of consecrated life.

Most of that attention was understandably focused on active religious, through congregations engaged in works such as teaching, outreach to the poor and health care.

The narrative of the last few decades tells of orthodox religious orders whose members wear habits as a distinct witness, reaping a great harvest of new members. Witness the phenomenal success of such congregations as the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor Dominicans), the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans), the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) Sisters and even Mother Angelica’s cloistered Poor Clares.

Cloistered communities, however, didn’t get as much exposure.

As Mike Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life, put it, “They oftentimes seem to be forgotten,” adding that this stems from the “nature of their vocation.”

To read the entire article click here.

 

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