Women’s Communities Archives
In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register in the Vatican, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s postulator, Carmelite Father Romano Gambalunga, reflected on why Elizabeth epitomizes holiness, though as a little girl some would have said otherwise.
Moreover, the Carmelite priest shares how her example can inspire young people, especially those considering religious vocations, give peace to those suffering and provide all of the faithful a model on living out holiness in a frenetic and superficial world.
Pope Francis made the 20th-century Carmelite nun a canonized saint, October 16, at the Vatican, and her feast day will be November 8. This March, the Pope paved the way for the mystic and spiritual writer’s canonization, as he acknowledged a miracle worked through Blessed Elizabeth’s intercession.
Born Elizabeth Catez in France in 1880, she grew up in Dijon. Though she felt the call to be a Carmelite very young, Elizabeth obeyed her mother’s wish for her to wait until she became 21 to enter the convent. In the meantime, she lived an active social life, capturing many hearts, was an accomplished musician and contributed to her parish, doing all for Christ and always trying to radiate his light.
In 1901, she entered the Carmel community in Dijon, writing several works while there, including her prayer “O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore.” Only five years later, she died there at age 26 from the adrenal disorder Addison’s disease.
What would you say constituted the sanctity of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity?
Simply because, like all the saints, she believed in the revelation that God is love, is the Father, that Jesus is his son and he gives us his spirit of mercy and love. And if we live by faith, then we experience this Spirit ourselves, this energy that baptism gives us. On the day of first Communion, she already decided that she would totally give herself over to him. Up until that day, she was a terrible child.
Yes! The priest who was preparing her to for her first holy Communion said: “This little one will become an angel or a devil.” She had an incredible character. [She] was a volcano! She was an artist, was very sensitive, played the piano … but could not really go to the convent, when she wished to, because her mother told her to wait. So she lived instead her love of Jesus as she went to parties, through friendships, in trips and in working in the parish. The Lord taught her to live deep communion with him, even in the midst of all this. St. Elizabeth is a beautiful example of a young lay saint because she lived only the last five years of her life in the convent. And there, she radiated Christ’s light, and many drawn to her observed: “We see her, but we feel like we see ‘someone else.’” In fact, this is interesting, given that she said, no matter what stage of her life, “Lord, I wish that when people meet me, they see you.”
Her vocation to the religious life was met with resistance by her mother. It is a situation that happens often today to many considering a vocation.
All young people go through a difficult phase, when they decide to become themselves and demand freedom to do so. So often, even today, conflicts arise with their parents. But when there is a religious vocation, then the conflict is a bit paticular, because the parent understands that the child is not his anymore, and if he does not accept that, it is a problem. Elizabeth, however, teaches us that our freedom comes from hearing the voice of God, not by rebelling or being “against” someone. Elizabeth also teaches young people today what it means to obey their parents, to accept that they may need time, but encourages them to try anyway, together with the Lord, to help them better understand what God wants for us.
How can her life, marked by illness, be an example to those who suffer with illness? How can she teach us to think of Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
There are incredible letters she wrote to people with great suffering. Some to a depressed lady come to mind, in which Elizabeth says that the meeting with the Lord, that is to say our journey of holiness, is a downward path, into an abyss of our misery, of our nothingness. But yet, she explained, at that point, there is the deep impact of another abyss, that of the mercy of God. With this, our misery is no longer an obstacle to our happiness. Physical illness or moral despondency become a blessing. Also, when her sister was pregnant for the first time and had worries, Elizabeth encouraged her to live out her pregnancy as Mary did, with total trust that God would take care of her and help her each step of the way.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity died so young, but was already famous to the people of Dijon. What would you explain as the cause for this?
Elizabeth was very well-known because she was a natural leader: great temperament, social skills, vivacity, great ability to love and cultivate friendships. She was beautiful, and one could joke a little flirtatious, if you will, as she loved dressing elegantly and took care of herself. She was fascinating to young people, but friendly, not at all cold or distant. Also, as an artist, she was already famous, having won various awards, and, in the parish, she worked with the choir. She was also very involved in a normal young person’s social life, in festive evenings. … So when she entered the convent, the reaction of many was thinking: “But this is a wasted life! You had all these gifts and go to lock yourself up in a convent? And to do what?” Then came that, as one calls it, “fame of sanctity.” After her life, those in her Carmelite community wrote of this great writer and mystic, and word of her holiness spread more and more.
What does St. Elizabeth teach us today? How can she inspire us?
One of her typical expressions was: “My vocation, now as I go to Heaven, will be to help souls to cling with a simple movement to the soul to God who lives in them.” We live in very superficial world where everyone is always running and pleading for more time. … Elizabeth teaches us that if we understand that God is in us, then we live “from the inside,” with an awareness that gives light to all that we do. Every moment, then, becomes a moment in which we enter a bit more into the mystery of Christ.
The vocation to be a contemplative nun is perhaps best understood in the light of the mystery of the Body of Christ which we, the Church, are. The mystery of the Body of Christ was first introduced by St. Paul and we read of it in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that just as a body of flesh has many parts so it is with Christ’s Body the Church. In just the same way as each body part has a different and necessary role for the body to function (see 1Cor 12:14ff) so also in the Church, there are many different people with many different functions all of which are essential to the vitality of the Church.
Many liken contemplative nuns to the heart of the Church, which gives the power of love and fidelity to the other members through continual prayer and sacrifice. The contemplative nun is an essential part of the life and holiness of the Church. It is to the heart that our Lord speaks and the response of love from the soul begins in the heart. The task of the contemplative nun is to be the heart of the Church in continual dialogue with the Trinity — a continual heart to heart, listening and responding to the Eternal Word of the Father. Our Lord told us, “Abide in me… without me you can do nothing.” The contemplatives abide in Him in a special way as they live hidden in Christ, and through prayer bear fruit in the Church’s apostolic members.
The contemplative life acknowledges in a radical way the ultimate truth that no good we do is ours, but it is all the work of God. It is a life of pure faith which testifies that the “victor is the one who believes” (1 Jn 5:5). We, the Church, are only successful, fruitful, through our faith. Thus it is that a life of pure faith is truly the most fruitful, the most victorious. It is through their hidden lives of faith that the contemplatives serve the Church and help it to grow. (Perfectae Caritatis, 7) Contemplatives give themselves to God alone — He who is most worthy of our entire lives — and are the “glory of the Church and an overflowing fountain of heavenly graces.” (Perfectae Caritatis, no. 7)
A contemplative nun’s life of prayer is a life dedicated to the praise of God. Indeed the life of praise of God is the highest vocation to which all are called. The summit and source of all the activity of the Church is the liturgy, the prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity. In fact, the goal of the apostolic life is to lead all to the praise and worship of God. Thus the contemplative vocation exercises this essential duty of Church that of continuously giving praise to the Father.
For more information visit the Benedictine Nuns of Walburga.
Katie Devitt stood in front of the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Kokomo, Indiana.
She carried her only remaining possessions:
- Two rosaries
- Two Bibles
- A few family photos
Her family waited beside her, fully aware of what this day meant.
Devitt will never touch them or her friends again. She may see her parents just a few times a year, but only through a screen. Mail is limited. Personal phone calls are not permitted. She may only leave the monastery for medical appointments.
When Devitt was ready, she said her goodbyes and then knocked on the door. Behind it, nine cloistered sisters waited.
At a time when few young people enter religious life, Devitt, Arts ’05, chose what some would call one of the most extreme paths: the life of a cloistered contemplative nun.
A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Devitt once dreamed of being a rock critic for the Chicago Tribune. She was raised Ukrainian Greek Catholic, but never gave her faith much thought outside of Sunday Mass.
That changed when she came to Marquette University and discovered Catholic Outreach, a group that meets weekly to reflect on the Scriptures. When the group started singing the hymn “As the Deer,” Devitt felt something move inside her.
“And bam, it just happened,” she says. “I felt Jesus’ presence for the first time. I knew without a doubt that He was real and that He loved me.”
She fell to her knees and sobbed. She realized how little she knew about her faith, how desperately she wanted to know more.
Devitt started attending daily Mass and switched her major from journalism to theology. Still, she never thought about a religious vocation.
“I thought I’d get married and have kids like everyone else,” she says.
Sophomore year brought another pivotal moment—the 9 p.m. Sunday Mass at Straz Hall. Rev. William Prospero, S.J., shared the Gospel story of the rich young man who asks Christ how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus responds, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, then come, follow me.”
During the homily, Father Prospero urged students to contemplate what Jesus wants them to do with their lives.
Devitt received Holy Communion. She prayed.
Endless thoughts of the sisterhood started bombarding her mind.
“I didn’t know what a sister looked like, but I could see myself being one. I didn’t know what a sister did, but I could see myself doing it,” she said. “I started crying because I felt such an intense peace and happiness.”
She wiped the tears from her eyes and sprinted upstairs to her three roommates.
“Guys,” she said. “I think I’m supposed to be a nun.”
By the following morning, Devitt wondered if she’d lost her mind. Her next five years of discernment involved a lot of research and internal struggle, wondering whether God was really calling her to this life.
She went on her first “Nun Run,” a whirlwind road trip of different Catholic orders. The first stop was at the Poor Clare monastery in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. The place was a stark difference from the non-cloistered, active orders she later visited. A metal grate separated the Poor Clare sisters from visitors, and a nun in full habit came out to talk.
“I was completely shocked,” Devitt says. “It seemed so archaic in some ways. But the sister was speaking so gently, and you could just see the joy in her life. In a very internal, subtle way, I was like: ‘I want this. I want this in my life.’ It seemed intensely attractive to me, and, on the other hand, it freaked me out that I found it attractive.
After graduating from Marquette, Devitt spent three years teaching high school. Meanwhile, she went on eight more Nun Runs, visiting more than 30 orders. Along the way, she had the support and camaraderie of Maggie Voelker, a college friend, who briefly entered the Carmelites.
“I could always tell she had a very strong faith, and whatever she ended up doing it would be in service of God,” Voelker says of Devitt. “I could see something a little more intense in her spirituality.”
Devitt continued to feel a pull toward the Poor Clares. In addition to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Poor Clare sisters take a vow of enclosure.
“Their purpose is to give their lives totally to Christ and offer prayers and penances for the entire world,” she explains. “They are hidden from the world in order to be accessible to the world. And that’s a very, very beautiful thing, but it scared me a lot to think about the practical things. … It would mean I wouldn’t get to travel, I wouldn’t get to go home, I wouldn’t get to hug my mom again. There was a lot of fear there.”
So, she prayed, telling God, “I know you want me to be a sister, but I won’t be one of those scary contemplative sisters.” But none of the active orders felt right. “I desired to give myself in a more radical, complete way. For me, an active order wasn’t enough,” she says.
Devitt made up her mind after her fourth visit to Kokomo. As she knelt in Mass at the monastery, a warmth and peace came over her. She knew she’d found her home.
“In the light of faith, it makes the most sense in the world,” she says. “We have the unique vocation to be all things to all people by being completely hidden in Christ. A missionary in Africa working with AIDS victims or a teaching sister, they are noble, beautiful and selfless people. If that is what God wanted me to do, I would do it. But you touch a limited amount of people directly. Through prayer you are able to touch the entire world.
She dreaded breaking the news to her family. Her mom called and asked how she liked Kokomo. “I loved it,” Devitt said.
“That’s great — you have to follow Jesus,” her mom told her. “Now’s the time to be brave.”
Christine Devitt recognized something spiritually unique in her daughter years before, although she never envisioned her active, fun-loving Katie joining a cloistered order. But Christine was moved and reassured after hearing about a seriously ill girl in Kokomo who, unable to join the Poor Clares herself, prayed that someone else would take her place.
A few weeks later, Katie asked to join the monastery. “To think of yourself as the answer to someone else’s prayer is kind of humbling,” Devitt’s mother says.
Devitt, now Sister Mary Agnes of the Lamb of God, before taking her final vows
After visiting Katie at Christmas, Christine Devitt said her daughter was “positively glowing with enthusiasm and happiness” in her postulant jumper and short brown veil.
Although she knew it would be hard to hug her daughter for the last time, she says it would be harder if Katie were a missionary halfway across the world or in a monastery just up the street.
She is used to Katie living in another state, and she can visit her a few times a year.
Other family and friends had a harder time understanding Devitt’s decision and questioned whether she was “wasting” her life and talents by going into seclusion. Devitt says she understood their feelings but that they eventually came around when they saw her commitment.
“The bottom line is they care about me and support me,” she says. “Even if they don’t think it is right, they trust my decision and support me and my judgment.”
The nuns start their day at 5 a.m. Their activities revolve around Mass and seven sessions of prayer, known as the Liturgy of the Hours. The evening recreation hour is a time for the sisters to talk and laugh together, but most of the day is spent in silence.
“The world is so noisy,” she says. “We are afraid to be quiet. We are worried what we might figure out about ourselves. We are constantly on our cell phones, iPods and computers. The quiet is appealing to me, but it will be a big adjustment.”
After asking to join the Poor Clares, Devitt stopped buying new clothes and wearing makeup and contacts. For Lent she gave up her iPod, once one of her favorite possessions, to help ease her attachment to “stuff.”
But leaving behind the people she loved was infinitely more painful.
“In a weird way, it seems like all the people in my life are dying,” she says. “It hurts a lot. But you have to do it for the vocation. I need to have an undivided heart for Jesus.
“Once I give it all to Him,” she adds, “I can love the world with a divine love.”
On September 8, 2016, Pope Francis received in audience some 250 participants in the congress of Benedictine abbots and abbesses gathered in Rome to reflect on the monastic charism received from St. Benedict and their faithfulness to it in a changing world.
This theme acquires special meaning in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy since, as Francis affirmed, “if it is only in the contemplation of Jesus Christ that we perceive the merciful face of the Father, monastic life constitutes a privileged route to achieve this contemplative experience and to translate it into personal and community witness.”
Today’s world clearly demonstrates the need for a mercy that is the heart of Christian life and “which definitively manifests the authenticity and credibility of the message of which the Church is the depository, and which she proclaims. And in this time and in this Church, called to focus increasingly on the essential, monks and nuns safeguard by vocation a peculiar gift and a special responsibility: that of keeping alive the oases of the spirit, where pastors and faithful can draw from the wellsprings of Divine Mercy.”
With the grace of God and seeking to live mercifully in their communities, monks and nuns “announce evangelical fraternity from all their monasteries spread out in every corner of the globe, and they do so with that purposeful and eloquent silence that lets God speak out in the deafening and distracted life of the world.”
Therefore, although they live separated from the world, their cloistered life “is not barren: on the contrary, an enrichment and not an obstacle to communion.”
Their work, in harmony with prayer, enables them to participate in God’s creative work and shows their “solidarity with the poor who cannot live without work.”
Their hospitality allows them to encounter the hearts of the “most lost and distant, of those who are in a condition of grave human and spiritual poverty,” and their commitment to the formation of the young is highly appreciated. “Students in your schools, through study and your witness of life, can too become experts in that humanity that emanates from the Benedictine Rule. Your contemplative life is also a privileged channel for nurturing communion with the brothers of the Oriental Churches.”
“Your service to the Church is very valuable,” the Holy Father concluded, expressing his hope that the Congress may strengthen the Federation so that it is increasingly at the service of communion and cooperation between monasteries and urging the Benedictines not to be discouraged if their members age or diminish in number. “On the contrary,” he emphasised, “conserve the zeal of your witness, even in those countries that are most difficult today, with faithfulness to your charism and the courage to found new communities.”
Pope Francis has given an update to legislation on contemplative life, since the last apostolic constitution for that “illustrious portion of Christ’s flock” is from 1950, and legislation for cloisters hadn’t been revised since then.
A new apostolic constitution, Vultum Dei Quaerere, was presented today in the Vatican press office by Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.
This “illustrious portion of Christ’s flock,” as St. Cyprian described it, constitutes the beating heart of faith and of the love of the Church for the Lord and for humanity, the archbishop said.
The Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi , which dates from 1950, during the papacy of Pius XII, was the regulation in force for cloisters until now. Vultum Dei Quaerere is therefore valuable inasmuch as it fills the gap of the post-conciliar years, the consequences of which were starting to become evident, the Archbishop indicated.
“This gave rise to the concern of Pope Francis, a pastor attentive to the life of his flock, and his decision to give a new document to all those who in the Church, ‘men and women called by God and in love with Him, [who] have devoted their lives exclusively to seeking His face, longing to find and contemplate God in the heart of the world,’” continued the prelate.
The Holy Father, to underline his esteem for this particular form of consecration mysteriously called to give light to all humanity from silence and from the cloister, gives precise indications regarding the fundamental elements of a life of contemplation that, while not the exclusive prerogative of women, is mostly female.
“Therefore, in outlining the essential elements there is no lack of explicit references to contemplative women, to whom there is presented the icon of Mary as summa contemplatrix, Mary, Virgin, Bride and Mother, who welcomes and treasures the Word in order to give it back to the world … to help to bring Christ to birth and increase in the hearts of men and women.”
The Archbishop focused on the key points of the new Apostolic Constitution, emphasising that not by chance the first of these is formation, a theme which has for many years been of special interest for the Magisterium. “In this regard, the Holy Father on the one hand recalls that the usual place for formation for a contemplative community is the monastery, yet on the other expresses his hope for collaboration between more than one monastery, in various ways: the exchange of materials, the prudent use of digital media, common houses of initial formation, and the willingness of some sisters prepared to help monasteries with fewer resources.”
With reference to the ample space that the document dedicates to prayer, he indicated the Pope’s important clarification that prayer and contemplative life cannot be lived as a form of self-absorption, but must instead enlarge the heart to embrace all humanity, especially those who suffer.
“If it is a profound desire in the heart of Pope Francis to have an outbound Church,” he affirmed, “this is also applicable to those who are called to live out their lives within the walls of the cloister: the attention of the heart, in its maternal care, must continually extend the boundaries of prayer, so that it not only looks upward, to contemplate the holy face of God, but also descends to the depths, to encounter the suffering of man at his loneliest and most marginalized.”
Archbishop Rodríguez Carballo also referred to another two elements that are currently a subject of discernment and reflection for monasteries of contemplative life: autonomy, linked to the role of federations, and cloisters.
All monasteries, except in special cases, judged by the Holy See, are to be grouped in federations, and there is the interesting possibility for membership of federations to be based not only on geographical criteria but also on the basis of affinities of spirit and traditions. Likewise it is hoped that this will lead to the association, also juridical, of corresponding monasteries of men’s Orders, comparable to the formation of the international Confederations and Commissions of the different Orders.
With regard to cloisters, the three types of cloistered life already considered in Vita Consacrata are redefined: that is, the papal, constitutional and monastic cloisters, enabling individual monasteries to carry out careful discernment, respecting their own right to eventually ask the Holy See for permission to embrace a form of cloistered life different from their current one.
Archbishop Rodríguez Carballo concluded by reiterating that in Vultum Dei Quaerere, the Pope has considered all areas of contemplative life.
“With this Apostolic Constitution, his thought is translated into clear guidelines, that will be presented to the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, who will have the task of drafting a new document to substitute the existing one, Verbi sponsa, which contains the legislation regulating the formation, autonomy and cloistered life of monasteries of contemplative or wholly contemplative life.”
For full text of document click here.
The following reflection was written by Rev. Edward Looney, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay, who serves as parochial vicar at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Many people in our world are in need of prayer. All we have to do is turn on the news these days and see how much prayer our world truly needs with terrorism and senseless violence. We know people, or perhaps ourselves, who need prayers for health, employment, or discernment, to name just a few. Fortunately for us, some people dedicate their entire life to prayer, especially interceding for the world, the Church, and priests. The witness of these men and women in religious life who dedicate hours to prayer should inspire all of us to make time each and everyday for prayer.
In my work as a priest, I have had the privilege to celebrate Mass for a number of cloistered religious communities. Last year I shared “Why I Love Consecrated Religious” and this year I wish to draw attention to a number of these communities. One reason why I love consecrated religious is because they make great sacrifices. This is particularly true for women who join a cloistered community, because once the young postulant knocks on the door, and enters into the cloister, she does not leave except in extreme circumstances. Oftentimes they are separated from those who visit their monastery by a barrier called a grille. They give a radical witness to the world of what it means to love Jesus. It takes a special person whom God has called to join such a community, but their love for Jesus should inspire us. Each day they chant the Divine Office seven times, attend Mass, have times for personal prayer, spiritual reading, and all this is in addition to any other work their community does. They are prayer warriors who seek to be in intimate communion with Jesus their spouse.
Recently in my travels, I visited a monastery of sisters, and had a prayer intention to leave with them. I noticed their basket for prayer requests and wrote mine down. This has been true for every cloistered community I have visited. These nuns want to pray for you. Here are five orders of nuns who will intercede for you if you write and ask.
There are two types of Carmelites, the O.Carm and O.C.D. (Order of Discalced Carmelites). The Discalced Carmelites are cloistered religious who do not wear shoes–the meaning of the word discalced. Their foundation dates back to the great reformer, St. Teresa of Avila. I have had the privilege to get to know one particular monastery located in my diocese–the Holy Name of Jesus Monastery in Denmark, Wisconsin. There are several other Carmelites in the United States. See if you have a monastery in your diocese or in your state. Write them a letter, and ask them to remember you in prayer. The website for the Discalced Carmelites have a listing of all the sisters in the USA. Visit this link.
Poor Clares and Poor Clare Colettines
Many people are familiar with the Poor Clare Nuns because one of the most notable figures of the Poor Clare’s passed away on Easter Sunday this year, namely Mother Angelica. The Poor Clares are associated with St. Clare of Assisi, who worked closely with St. Francis of Assisi and established a community for women. Like other orders, there have been reforms within the Poor Clares. In addition to the OSC (Order of Saint Clare), there is a branch of Poor Clares called “Colettines” named after St. Colette, who in 1406, felt called to reform the Poor Clares and return to a life of poverty and austerity.
Recently, a young cinematographer, sought to capture the life of the Poor Clare Colettines in Rockford, Illinois, with her documentary Chosen, that has yet to be released. Besides Mother Angelica, another popular Poor Clare was Mother Mary Francis, from the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico. She was a prolific writer, authoring many texts, including A Right to be Merry, Anima Christi-Soul of Christ, But I Have Called You Friends, and Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience, in addition to two books focusing on the themes of Advent and Lent.
There are Poor Clare Monasteries all throughout the United States, 26 states to be exact. This Poor Clare website lists all the different types (OSC, PCC, PCPA) of Poor Clare Monasteries. See if your state has a monastery.
Cistercians and Trappistines
The Cistercian order began when several monks left the Benedictine Abbey of Molesme because of a lax following of the Rule of St. Benedict. Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen Harding are the well known founders of the Cistercian order, established the Abbey of Cîteaux. The Trappists, known as Cistercians of the Strict Observance, were a reform of this reform. That’s right, that is a threefold reform of striving to live more faithfully the rule of St. Benedict. To my knowledge, there is one monastery of Cistercian nuns in the United States, located in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. The have two websites, this one (about their life) and another one about their hopes to build a new monastery. In the United States there are five monasteries of Trappist Nuns.
Handmaids of the Precious Blood
During my seminary years I had the opportunity to become acquainted with this community because they had a monastery several miles from the seminary. That monastery in Illinois has relocated to their motherhouse in Knoxville, Tennassee. The Handmaids were introduced to me in this way: they were lover of priests and most especially prayed for priests. They pray for priests beginning from the womb, praying for those who will be called, and pray for more vocations to the priesthood and for the sanctity of those who serve the Church. The spirit of their order is Pro Christo in Sacerdote Suo, For Christ in His Priest. I’m sure the Handmaids of the Precious Blood would love to pray for your personal intentions, but if you write these sisters, I’d recommend sending them the name of some priests to remember in prayer. You can submit a priest’s name for spiritual adoption on their website.
Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters
Founded by St. Arnold Janssen in 1896, today they have xx of monasteries in the United States and have 22 houses in the world (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, India, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, Togo, and the United States). They are better known as the Pink Sisters on account of their habit color, but they actual name of their community is Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. They are an order that prays perpetually before the Blessed Sacrament, praying especially for priests, the success of evangelization and missionary efforts. I am sure these sisters are holding in prayer our current efforts of the new evangelization. Other communities listed pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, but the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters spend their time before the exposed presence of Jesus in the monstrance. In the United States, they live in Lincoln, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.
Why ask the Nuns to pray for you?
Truth be told, anyone could pray for your special intentions, a priest, an active religious sister, monks, and lay people, but there is something special about asking cloistered nuns to pray for you. I know for a fact that their prayers will not be a one time occurrence but that they will continually time and again remember you in prayer. I met a cloistered sister once at a conference (she had permission to be outside the cloister) and she wrote my name down in her book of prayer. When I went to the monastery to celebrate Mass several years later, she showed me my name in prayer book from years ago and told me she prayed for me daily. Cloistered nuns pray for people everyday, this is what they have dedicated their lives to do, and they want to pray for you.
As you can imagine, living behind a grille is a little old fashioned. Many orders have updated technology, and communicate via phone and email, generally speaking, their preferred communication is through the mail, so as to avoid the distractions of the world. If you need prayers, consider writing a letter, addressing an envelope, placing a stamp in the right hand corner, and dropping it off in a mailbox.
Lastly, I acknowledge this list is not exhaustive, so if you have an order of sisters to recommend, send me a message at my website.
A group of 61 cloistered nuns from six monasteries in Santiago, Chile, recently made an historic visit to a local Women’s Prison Center to spend time with the inmates and to attend Mass with them.
“I don’t know if in the 400 years of the history of Santiago, there has been another occasion when contemplative sisters from several monasteries joined together to celebrate the Eucharist with a group of women who are incarcerated, but who are sisters in the faith,” said Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who celebrated the Mass.
The nuns made the trip to the facility on May 23 to celebrate as the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Ezzati said that the nuns made the request to visit with the inmates “so the sisters who contemplate the face of God every day in prayer could contemplate him in the face of people who are suffering, going through a hard time in their lives.”
“The dear cloistered nuns are the city’s uplifted arms to intercede before God for all of us, especially those who are suffering the most,” he said.
After the Mass, the religious sang a traditional Chilean song to honor the Virgin Mary, and to everyone’s surprise, four of them got up to dance. They then went to the prison courtyard where they continued visiting with the inmates.
For Sister Maria Rosa of the Discalced Carmelites from the San José monastery, the day was “a grace to share with them, to really feel like a sister with them, to feel their sorrow, their joy and to become one with them.”
“It strikes me that this encounter would be on the feast of the Holy Trinity. That means that God dwells in every soul,” she told the archdiocesan communications office.
Railín, one of the inmates, said that “it was good that they came and prayed for us. The sisters and bishops coming helped support us, we need a lot of people to come and see us.”
Ana Chacón, another inmate, said that the religious “give us the spirit of the Lord, it’s a blessing to have them here. Seeing the dear cloistered nuns doing the traditional dance and swinging the kerchiefs was something new.”
This Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis runs from December 2015 to November of 2016, with the aim of encouraging Catholics to experience God’s mercy – both in the Sacrament of Confession and being concrete signs of this mercy in charitable work.
On 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.
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.
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.'”
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.
Featured in National Catholic Register— BY BRIAN O’NEEL
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.