Father Z posted a note on his blog where someone had written to him about a vocation as a nun. It reminded me of yesterday walking from the car to Mass. I was with my fourteen-year old son and his friend. We had to stop as we waited for a car to park in one of the spaces reserved for the sisters in the convent attached to the Church. The sister had nothing to identify her as a sister or a nun.
First, it’s a surprise still that my parish has nuns, and only a handful, all well over 65. They are Dominicans and at one time used to teach in the school, which was closed two years ago. The nuns had not taught in years. I don’t really know what they did after they gave up teaching.
Second, I have only seen one of the nuns actually dressed in a habit and looking like, well, a nun. I would see her once in a while at Mass, and she always drew friendly welcomes as people passed her. She was a visible witness. The other nuns did not, and do not.
As we passed the car, I told the boys that the woman parking the car was a nun. They looked at me with smirks. I said flippantly that you can tell either by the haircut or the sensible shoes. “Real nuns wear habits,” I told them. They chuckled and we went to Mass but I kept thinking of the nun and wonder why she doesn’t show she is one these days, and where she probably did when she was younger.
I know it was probably not the nicest thing I could have said. I couldn’t help it though. I do not understand the whole idea of throwing off the habit and all identifying markers that make religious a public witness. What’s the point of being a religious if you’re going to look no different than my mother? I think back to the days when nuns were seen regularly. They transformed any place they entered or passed through, even if only momentarily, just by their presence. They also brought happiness and I saw many times people smile and greet them, or wave, or just watch them. They made people stop and reflect on the Faith, or think of God, or wonder about the Church, or pray. I never saw hostility.
Despite what has happened with sisters and nuns on such a widespread and grand scale over the last forty years, the world needs real sisters and nuns, and there are women who still have vocations. Here and there we get the news that young women are turning to orders where tradition is practiced, in their lives, in the Mass, and in their dress. This is where the vocations are, and not in the drying up orders where these things were cast adrift and forgotten.
Please pray for and assist these thriving orders. We need real nuns and sisters in the world and teaching our children again. Maybe we could even reopen those shuttered schools and have those places again be where children learn and practice their Faith.
Vocation as woman religious? Traditional Carmelites nuns.
I get questions from young women interested in religious life but with a traditional expression. I received this and thought to share it with you.
Hello Fr. Z!
I hope all is going well. When I saw you recently in DC, we spoke about the Carmelites (O.C.D) in Elysburg, PA. You asked that I send you more information on them for you to post as you get asked for suggestions of religious orders by young ladies from time to time. Here we go:
The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was founded in 2009 as an off-shoot of the Nuns in Valparaiso, NE. They are attached to the Extraordinary Form, while in full-communion with Rome and the Bishop of Harrisburg, PA. There are now 21 Nuns in this community with an average age of 30! They chant the old Office in common, wear the habit and are cloistered. They are truly devoted to a life of prayer and penance out of love for the Lord and keeping especially in mind, Priests and Seminarians.
It is this love of praying for Priests and Seminarians (and their outgrowing of their current monastery and its constant, costly maintenance issues) that has aided in the decision to build a newer and larger monastery, closer to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. (Building on would be just as expensive.) They are planning to move to Fairfield, PA which is 23 minutes away from the Mount! It would be greatly appreciated if you would post the fact that they are in need of benefactors to make this happen. They already have the land picked out and the money for its purchase, permission from the Bishop and permits in process. All they need is money to actually build! I am sure there are a few readers who would be able to help, even a little. No amount is too small.
Inquiries from young women and donations can be sent to:
Rev. Mother Stella-Marie of Jesus
Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
430 Monastery Rd.
Elysburg, PA 17824
God reward you Father! And thank you for your blog, which I mentioned when I saw you, greatly helped me in my own vocation discernment.
P.S. The Sisters do not have their own website, but a support group does with some more information: http://www.friendsofcarmeljmj.org