Dear Esther, you may post this in your blog if choose to do so.
Occasional updates have come to you from me, about the community of five Dominican Nuns enclosed in the Monastery of the Perpetual Rosary, in Union City, New Jersey. When my first attempt at contact happened a couple of months ago, I
found that of the five surviving nuns, the Mother Prioress was confined to bed in a nursing care facility outside of the monastery; one sister needed to be hospitalized for inpatient chemotherapy; and the oldest of the nuns was confined to her cell and had to have even her meals carried to her.
Only two Dominican nuns, including the sub-prioress, reported to the monastery refectory for meals every day. In May (last month), my decision to stop in at the monastery during weekday hours proved successful. With only a handful of women, none of the nuns can act as the portress during office hours; instead, when the monastery opens its gift shop, which helps the community to support itself, Sonia, the genial layperson who staffs the shop, does what a monastery portress would
do, answering the doorbell. So Sonia answered my ring, spoke to me at some
length, and then went to the enclosure to tell the nuns that they had an unplanned visitor. The Sub-Prioress, working in the laundry room, stopped what she was doing, and met me in the small parlor which has no grill, for a few minutes, while I asked after the health and well-being of the nuns and after the future of their endangered community.
I must tell you that the Union City Monastery, familiarly known as the Blue Chapel, left an extraordinary impression on me, even though I was there for less than two hours. This is not a dying house. Perhaps its community must be uprooted, transplanted in another location, and absorbed into another Second Order cloister. Nevertheless, over seventy-five years of perpetual prayer in this building, have built up a sort of invisible architecture, a structure of prayer, and this place has got power. The combination of force with deep serenity and peace is nearly unique in my experience.
So, in early June, here is the latest:
Mother Prioress remains in nursing care, in stable condition.
The oldest of her nuns, her health improved, now uses a walker to go from her cell to prayer and worship -- and to meals in the refectory, no more trays to her room.
The sub-prioress and the youngest of the women had a very happy experience
in the last two weeks. They welcomed back to the enclosure, Sister Charlotte who spent a good four weeks in hospital, and was discharged at the conclusion of her inpatient treatment.
In fact it is Sr. Charlotte who took my phone call early this evening -- you would never know from the sound of her deep, steady, musical, vibrant voice that she has been through a major health crisis. Now that there are once again a grand total of four Dominican nuns in the same enclosure, the Sub-Prioress can get away from the telephone and out of the laundry room, and go to prayer more often than before. And now they are four at table for meals every day.
God is merciful!
Please keep the future of this community as a prayer intention. Yours in Christ, Melanie T. on the East Coast US
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Update: Dominican Nuns in Union City, NJ
My thanks to Melanie for keeping us updated on the nuns. They are in continued need of our prayers.