Bronx Nuns Donate Hosts for Pope's Yankee Stadium Mass

by Elaine Rivera
NEW YORK, NY April 18, 2008 —Sixty thousand communion wafers will be dispensed at the Pope's Mass at Yankee Stadium Sunday. The wafers are a donation from the Corpus Christi Monastery in the South Bronx. WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports:
REPORTER: A magnolia tree is in full bloom in front of the 119-year-old stone monastery located on seven acres of land in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx.
Sister Mary, of the Sacred Hearts, is one of the nine nuns who reside in the 100-room convent. The sisters are part of the Dominican order, founded by Saint Dominic in 1206. It is a contemplative order where they take the vow of poverty and rarely leave the monastery. She says they typically sell the wafers to raise funds.
SISTER MARY: We usually sent out alter breads to 50 different parishes - that's a source of income for our community but this was a donation and we're just so blessed that we're able to do this for our Holy Father's Mass. For us it's a real honor.
REPORTER: Sister Mary says the nuns used to actually make the wafers on the monastery premises but they can't anymore.
SISTER MARY: We used to make our own alter breads in the past. We had our machine and a cutter but it was difficult to find people to fix the machine when they broke.
REPORTER: Now, they order from the Rhode-Island based Cavanagh Company. Andrew Cavanagh, the company's general manager, says they've been making communion wafters for 60 years and they make about 25 million wafers per week.
CAVANAGH: They can only be made from whole wheat flour and water - there's no other additives can me mixed in there or anything like that - like you can't add salt, or sugar or chocolate or anything like that.
REPORTER: The 60,000 donated wafers heading toward Yankee stadium - which cost about $900 - are slightly more than an inch in diameter and have an imprint of a cross on them.
For Roman Catholics, the Eucharist - eating the wafers - known as the host - and drinking wine - which represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ - is one of the most important sacraments. Sister Maria Pia, the Superior of the monastery explains why it was appropriate for their order to donate the wafers.
SISTER MARIA: The Holy Father represents Jesus on Earth - Jesus is present in the Eucharist and that's one of the main reasons why we are here in this Monastery of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi are two Latin words which mean the body of Christ. We adore we are called the nuns of the order of preachers but we are also well known as the Dominican nuns of perpetual adoration of the Eucharist. So the Eucharist is really all of our life.
REPORTER: And the Superior says the Pope's visit is something she always wished for.
SUPERIOR: This was my desire - I had such a great desire to participate in one of the Masses celebrated by the Holy Father.
REPORTER: The order will make a rare collective venture out from the Monastery and be at St. Patrick's Cathedral Mass tomorrow with the Pope. And they also plan to go to Yankee Stadium where they will see thousands - at the high point of the Mass - take in the communion wafers they donated. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera.