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543 Springfield Ave
Summit, NJ, 07901
United States

908.273.1228

Monastic community of Dominican contemplative nuns.

News & Events

New Growth May Bring New Reconciliation

Dominican Nuns of Summit

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Catholicism. Read other perspectives here.

The monastery is the prophetic place where creation becomes praise of God and the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence; it is where the human being seeks God without limitation or impediment, becoming a reference point for all people, bearing them in his heart and helping them to seek God. ~ St. John Paul II, Orientale Lumen

As I write this, I have just, in my capacity as Novice Mistress of our Dominican community, welcomed two aspirants — women making extended visits within our enclosure. They will spend some time with us, getting a sense of monastic rhythms and what it is like to live within them, and then they will take their leave, continuing their prayerful discernment outside of our walls. Within weeks, I will possibly welcome two more young women, one from Singapore and another from Texas, who will do the same thing.

Meanwhile, we are anticipating several entrances into our novitiate before the end of the year, and perhaps their number will include a woman from Ireland. Aspirants become novices; novices, if the vocation is true, eventually become solemnly professed nuns, living out their whole lives in service to the world, through the offering of incessant intercessory prayer. In our community, we have had the great joy of announcing a solemn profession each year since 2012, and we anticipate further celebrations.

From the cloister, the future looks encouraging. After a vocation dearth that seemed to last for nearly two decades, our community, and many other monastic houses, are being inundated with inquiries from all over the world. These seekers are well-educated young people who may have more career options before them than ever before, but are discovering that the pursuit of titles and material success leaves them feeling emptier, rather than full.

Raised amid the noise and distraction of the internet and the iPhone, and well-acquainted with a culture that promises stability in neither job nor family life, they are discovering the attractions of the silence and prayer, structure and order, study and work and play that makes up a balanced religious life, whether contemplative or active.

But we shouldn't allow this renewal of interest in the religious life, hopeful as it is, to distort our perceptions; this is not a time for triumphalism. Yes, more young men and women are looking at what it means to consecrate one's life to God and the service of the Church, but overall, the numbers are still dwindling, and if our community — thanks be to God — is in the process of raising funds for a much-needed expansion of our living space to accommodate our growth, other monastic houses — larger but with diminished numbers of residents — are sharing living space, and prayers, with communities who have had to close their doors for a lack of members.

I do believe that our Dominican Order, and the other great religious orders that have historically preserved both church and culture in times of social upheaval, has a vital and relevant role to play in today's world and can provide an authentic response to the spiritual and moral crisis of today. Whether cloistered or in the world, our calling is to proclaim the gospel, always, always, in season or out, whether the message is received with enthusiasm or disdain, and it is our joy to do this.

Yes, there needs to be intellectual response to the moral craziness today, but the need for a spiritual response is most urgent. We must offer the Good News, and the Good News must be lived and spoken in a way that makes it clear: the Truth of Christ makes us free. If we cannot effectively do this, as a church — as layfolk, and religious and clerics — we will have served God poorly, and our failures will contribute to the loss of many souls who are truly in need of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus came to save us and to free us from the downward spiral into which today's Cult of the Self inexorably leads us. In Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot, Prince Myskin says "beauty will save the world." This beauty is that of the Suffering Servant, who died and rose for us. If this really makes a difference for those of us who call ourselves Christians, our witness can transform the world.

The prayerful support that takes place behind-the-scenes in a monastic community works like Moses interceding for the battle, and Esther interceding for her people. Our founder, Saint Dominic knew this. I like to say that the nuns image his life of prayer. He would spend his nights in prayer, in tears and prostrations groaning, "My God, my Mercy, what will become of sinners!?"

In times past people understood their sinfulness and were accountable for them; today, so many suffer from such a lack of a sense of sin that others are needed to call down graces of mercy and forgiveness for them. Perhaps this reality — that so much of the world doesn't even accept the concept of sin — is what is further prompting so many new inquiries to our way of life. The Holy Spirit has never ceased to call; lately more seem to be hearing.

This is why we are so excited that the Year of Mercy will coincide with the 800th Jubilee of the Dominican Order, and consider it no by-chance coincidence but all within the plan of Divine Providence. God never leaves his sheep unattended; the need is great; the prayer-warriors will be provided, for the sake of the battle, yes, but also for the healing.

From the very beginning the preaching of the Dominican Order wasn't so much "conversion" but reconciliation. We even acknowledge this in one of the very first paragraphs of our constitutions, "The unanimity of our life, rooted in the love of God, should furnish a living example of that reconciliation of all things in Christ which our brethren proclaim in their preaching of the Word."

How awesome is that? We religious do not sit on a pedestal saying, "Be like us," but rather, "What God has done for us he will do for you if only you let him!"

The world must be reconciled to God; our religious brothers and sisters, smaller in number than at any time in the last fifty years, give strong assist in the spiritual battle, on the ground and from the deep prayer-circuitry of monasticism. But the victory will only be apparent in Christ's own time. Our future, in the meantime, is "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer" (Romans 12:12). Amen.

Sr. Mary Catharine of Jesus Perry, OP is the novice mistress of The Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, in Summit, New Jersey.

In Fine Feather

Summit Dominican Nuns

Last week we had a visitor to the chapel. This in itself was not exceptional. Our chapel is kept open from 6am until 7pm every day, visitors welcome. However, this particular visitor outstayed his welcome.

The trouble began when he first arrived. We might have been able to overlook his eccentric choice of seating, even his constant need to change spots could be tolerated. But he took vocal prayer to a whole new extreme! His prayer could be heard not only in the chapel, but also in the nuns' choir and the professed dormitory. To make matters worse, we began to suspect that he had slipped past Sr. Maureen when she locked up the chapel at 7pm as his vociferous devotions could still be heard. 

After Compline Sr. Mary Cecilia and Sr. Maria Teresa tiptoed into the darkened visitors' chapel to see if they could persuade him to leave. He hadn't been heard during Compline, so the sisters hoped he had let himself out. No such luck, they found him asleep...perched on one of the arches no less! Gently rousing him from his slumber, the sisters were about to escort him out when he took a flying leap....and flew to the top of the baldacchino! 

That's right, our visitor had wings, of the feathered variety; and he was no angel.

Incensed at having been woken, or perhaps just enjoying the acoustics above the baldacchino, the juvenile Robin took up his extraordinarily loud devotions. The sisters 'threw in the towel' as neither had yet become accomplished in levitation; they left the bird to his prayers.

The next morning he joined our non-winged visitors for Lauds, raising his voice as no Catholic ever has before. At Mass he resumed his antics, flying from window to arch to baldacchino, until finally, during the post-Communion hymn, he hopped from the baldacchino to the grille of the nuns' choir. We keep the grille open for Mass but the Robin preferred to shimmy and twist his way through the top where the grille meets the wall. Perching happily on top of the grille, now in the nuns' choir, he joined along with the hymn before taking a dive at the only sister in our community who happens to have a fear of birds.  He settled himself on the open window at the end of Mass but, like a good Catholic, was disinclined to leave before spending some time in Thanksgiving. Although he was unfamiliar with the psalms of Terce, that didn't stop him from joining in....loudly. If only he had had as great a regard for enclosure as he had for the Divine Office!

After Terce removal of our visitor became top priority. Gently pushing him out the window with a long pole didn't even ruffle his feathers. Instead of exiting gracefully he flew up to the very top of our life-size crucifix which hangs high above the Eucharistic throne, perching on top of Christ's head. 

A new strategy was needed. This time some of the sisters attempted to provoke him by playing a robin's call in the tribune, hoping he would fly in. The space is on the second floor and connected to the choir by windows that open. It is much smaller, which would have helped with catching him. Provoked he was, but spotting one of the sisters crouched in the tribune, he swung back around and flew wildly....into the overhead ceiling fan...which was on. Thwack! and down he dropped in a shower of feathers. 

One sister ran down to the choir, expecting blood and a dead Robin. Much to her relief, he survived his encounter with the fan and the 50' drop to the floor with just a broken wing. Although we were sad that he was injured, we grudgingly admit that it did make capturing him much easier! One toss of an apron and our visitor was caught. A friend of the community drove over to take the little Robin to the Raptor Trust, a bird rehabilitation center, to tend to his wing.  

We had video of the Robin singing Terce with us, but unfortunately it got lost somewhere between the camera and the computer! One sister offered to bring another Robin into choir to re-enact the scene, but for some reason that idea didn't fly (forgive the pun!).

 

 

Easter In July

Summit Dominican Nuns

Remember all those Easter lilies donated last year to decorate the altar? We thought you might enjoy seeing the new life they've brought to the Resurrection Garden! Besides bringing beauty to the perimeter of our cemetery (where else would you put a Resurrection garden?!), they're also cut by Sister Sacristan to decorate the altars.

Easter Lilies weren't the only flowers donated; we received lots of hydrangeas and tulips as well!  The hydrangeas, besides being planted in some of the little flower gardens, now have their own spot, lovingly called Hydrangea Alley. These also are used by Sister Sacristan to decorate the altars.

When I grow up....

Summit Dominican Nuns

This week a large group of home school girls with their moms and little brothers and sisters visited some of the Sisters to learn about our life as a way of celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life. The sisters showed photos, the girls asked questions and devoured the cookies the Sisters made and everyone had a great time. To end the morning the girls went to the chapel to pray the Office of Sext with the Sisters.

The girls gave us gifts of fruits and vegetables and one girl surprised us with her impression of the visit with this drawing! 

Perhaps one day one or two (or more!) will enter our monastery!