Contemplative Communities

A six-part series by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans exploring the depth and diversity of contemplative orders in the United States, published sequentially throughout the week of Oct. 5-9, 2015, plus two columns by contributing authors about contemplative life.

Carmelite hermitage in the Washington woods, where ‘prayer is friendship with God’

Contemplative Communities profile five - Carmelite Sisters of Mary Leslie Lund and Nancy Casale were formed in the monastery, but wanting to lead a less institutional and complicated life, went back to the original expression St. Teresa of Avila had in mind. So they moved to the wilderness and live as hermits.
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Three Dominican nuns formed new community in 2007, pray seven hours a day

Contemplative Communities profile four - Srs. Emmanuela, Mary Grace and Mary Columba, longtime friends now in their 70s and 80s, decided to launch a new community in 2007. Though approved by church leaders, it was in some ways a step into unknown territory, attracting bewilderment from some and support from others. But for Dominicans, whether they be nuns, friars, brothers or sisters in active ministry, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The women draw deeply upon the traditional model of community and individual prayer, but their presence on a campus that also contains a parish church and a school inevitably gives them a more public presence than customary in many monasteries.

Trappistine nuns find home in Lutheran Norway

Column - Although the Reformation in Norway was much more gradual and much less bloody than in England, the last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson, was forced into exile in 1537, and the country became Lutheran. Monks were not permitted to enter Norway until 1897, and Jesuits were not allowed into the country until 1956. It wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a “boom” of religious orders in Norway: Cistercians, Brigittines, Carmelites, Poor Clares, Missionary Servants of the Holy Trinity, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Missionaries of Charity joined Dominicans, Augustinians, and Picpus Fathers who were already there.

Researcher finds something deeper, life-changing within anonymity of the cloister

Contemplative Communities profile three - When independent filmmaker and artist Abbie Reese inaugurated her collaboration with the Clare Colettine nuns at the Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, Illinois, she had a professional goal: nurturing a collaborative relationship that would serve as a backdrop to a young woman’s transition from secular life into an alternative community. Ten years down the road, Reese admits that the time she has spent with the nuns, who practice a form of strict enclosure relatively rare in contemporary culture, has had an effect on her that goes well beyond scholarly objectivity and curiosity.

Visitation Sisters get their agenda from neighbors while living contemplative life

Contemplative Communities profile two - On the north side of Minneapolis, a small but vibrant community of Visitation Sisters practices the discipline of contemplative prayer — and opens their doors to neighbors and visitors who want to do the same. The groundbreaking effort, now just over a quarter-century old, expresses the Visitation mission in an active, practical presence among the vulnerable and marginalized. “Being among these people, the people who come to pray with us, has made such a great difference in the relationships we have with them. We have the privilege of being able to support them in prayer and friendship, sharing our spirituality with them,” said Sr. Katherine Mullin, who moved here 14 years ago.

Establishing contemplative communities in the US: The early history

Column - Although the recent apostolic investigation of sisters focused on active congregations, American bishops have not always been happy to have the non-controversial contemplative congregations located within their dioceses. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, church leaders found themselves in need of religious communities dedicated to active apostolates and willing to establish schools and hospitals in order to meet the material and spiritual needs of the many Catholics who were poor and uneducated. In addition, they worried that contemplative nuns would be forced to depend on contributions from willing Catholics to support themselves, money that could better be spent in other places.

Amid suburban hubbub, cloistered Dominicans embrace the ‘silence of the eternal’

Contemplative Communities profile one - On the Lititz Pike just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, traffic thunders in a constant stream, pouring off one of the highways that merge nearby. In a parking lot set back from the road, a red brick building and 1950s-vintage chapel sit side-by-side, unremarkable in an area still notable for religious observance. Two signs with the word “monastery” on them give the visitor an indication that this is the home of the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, who have been a presence here since 1952. Their mission is not only a special devotion to the rosary, but a commitment to incorporate the needs of the world into their prayers.

A powerful silence: The somewhat hidden witness of American contemplative orders

Contemplative Communities series introduction - They live on islands and in forests, behind churches on busy highways and among working-class homes on urban streets. Obedient to a discipline of prayer almost as old as Christianity itself, contemplative nuns in the United States may seldom visit the world that bustles outside their doors — but are often called first for prayer when there is a personal or global tragedy. Who are contemplatives in the United States? This week, Global Sisters Report takes a closer look at contemplative communities in a six-part series.