6. sept. 2015
A contemplative order in New Jersey, where sisters live in cloister and
practice a life of prayer, is attracting eager, college-educated women.
Penelope Green, New York Times, skriver bl.a:
SUMMIT, N.J. — It’s been a rough year for the mechanicals at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary. The lawn mower died, along with the chaplain’s car, the compressor for the kitchen refrigerator and one of the “new” washers (that is, a machine bought sometime in the mid ’80s).
But the 19 sisters who live here are sanguine about these and other expenses, which include more than $94,000 a year for health insurance. “Oy,” is how Sister Mary Catharine, the gregarious 46-year-old novice mistress, shrugged off the recent breakdowns.
On a recent summer morning, the sisters stood in their chapel and sang the daytime prayer in high, clear voices. Dominican monasteries are essentially engines of prayer; singing, which the nuns do seven times a day, is a deeper, fuller way of praying, Sister Mary Catharine said, “because we are using our whole person.”
Outside the choir door, a bulletin board was layered with a collage of cards, printed emails and letters, flags of hope and despair, asking the sisters for an intercession.
“We get them from all over the world every week,” said Sister Mary Catharine. “We have regulars. If you don’t hear from someone, you notice and worry.”
A woman fighting depression phoned most mornings and evenings. “We tell her, ‘It’s O.K. We’re praying for you,’ ” Sister Mary Catharine said (now she calls less often). “Sometimes I don’t know what to say. Some sisters are better at this than others.”
On a table, a handful of LG Tracfones were charging, as backup in case a sister on an errand has a breakdown (the monastery owns two 10-year-old Subaru Foresters) or an item needs to be added to her shopping list. Of course, said Sister Mary Catharine, nuns are notorious for not turning the ringer on.
While the number of women entering religious life has been in a steep decline since the mid-1960s, it is notable and even startling that a contemplative order like the Dominican Nuns of Summit — where the sisters live in cloister and practice a life of prayer — would be able to attract young, college-educated millennials.
In the last decade, 15 aspirants have entered this tiny order, nine of whom stayed and are on track to take their final vows or have already done so. Two more will join the community before the end of the year.
Built in the 1920s and ’30s on a busy street in this bedroom community of Manhattan, the monastery was imagined as four-winged cloister until the Depression curtailed its scope.
What surrounds the brick and stone chapel is a kind of architectural afterthought, a ring of rooms housing the sisters’ bright, spare cells and their kitchen, dining room, offices and choir.
Underneath, a warren of spaces includes the woodworking and soap making shops — sales of their products help defray the sisters’ growing expenses. In a windowless storeroom, a few donated exercise machines huddle together (one sister’s mother works at a Y.M.C.A).
The Dominican sisters of Summit have finally outgrown their home.
Some context comes from a study published last fall by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (or CARA), charting the decrease in the population of women’s religious orders, to less than 50,000 today, from their peak of 181,421 sisters in 1966.
In postwar America, “a vocation to a religious life was one of the few ways for Catholics without resources to get an education and to exercise leadership,” said Mary Gautier, a senior research associate at CARA.
Sister Mary Cecilia, the extern, is now 31 and still in her first vows, the formative period that follows the two-year novitiate program.
After six years here, Sister Mary Cecilia, a native of Canada, remains mystified by certain United State rituals.
“I still don’t get the Electoral College,” she said.
“Nobody does,” said Sister Mary Catharine. (Cloistered nuns do vote, by mail-in ballot.)
The contemplative life, Sister Mary Cecilia said, ”has been more than I could ever have imagined. God surprises you.”
Hele artiklen er <her>
Relateret artikel: Inside a Cloistered - Monastery: Joy and Love <her>
Website: Dominican Monastery Of Our Lady Of The Rosary <her>