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.
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


Seminarian Matthew said...

I've been posting these updates on Holy Vocations. Keep me updated, please.

Esther said...

Sure thing Matthew. I hope Melanie sees this comment so she can add you to her contact list.

Anonymous said...

My great aunt entered this convent when she was 16 and died there after celebrating her golden jubilee some 70 years later. Her name was Mother Mary Agnes. I will never forget the feelings of peace and deep spiriuality I felt on visits. Back then, we would meet with her behind the grill and hand presents through a dumb waiter. Always, the sounds of the choir resonated softly from behind the walls and the sounds of silence were like no other I have ever heard. I wish I could find out if I can visit the Blue Chapel now with my children but am not sure if it is still in existence after reading this blog. sincerely, Kathleen My e-mail is should anyone wish to reply. said...

There were some 40 nuns there when I was an altar boy, serving from nearby St. Joseph's in the 1960's. Fr. Richard Kugelman, CP, a renowned Scripture scholar from the St. Michael's Monastery was their chaplain. They were always wonderful and affirming to me and inspired me to try religious life for a while - now a deacon. I agree with everything I have read. This is "Holy Ground".

Esther said...

Kathleen, thanks for sharing. I emailed privately.

Thank you for sharing too Deacon.

God bless you both.

Anonymous said...

I have often thought of "The Blue hapel" and the Sisters. My family lived about 1 to 2 miles away and would often go there to buy Mass Cards and even Vestments to donate when my Grandmother passed away. I was in a procession in Sept or Oct of 1962 in which we were measured and had to be of a certain height and the nuns made Dominican Habits for us. Mine was a Novice I just wanted that white veil. Anyway, the entire neighborhood and even miles around processed around the block while reciting the Rosary. I am 57 years old and still have vivid memories of this Sacred Place. I have always felt the palpable sense of God there. In my last visit in July of 1989 to buy a Mass Card for a dear cousin of mine who had passed at age 47 of cancer, when I went in to the gift shop I was immediately transported back some 40 years , the same smells the same PEACE. At age 15 went and spoke with Mother Claire about entering. I was told "we want you to experience life and get an education" I was discouraged of course, but never felt as if I was wasting Mother's time. She was very kind and I always rembered that. I am sorry to hear of the decline in the number of Sisters and of course, of their health. Please update me. Pax Christi, Mary

Esther G. said...

Thank you for sharing your memories Mary. I used to get updates from Melanie but I haven't had updates in quite a while.

Carmen Vasquez said...

I grew up on 14th between Kennedy Blvd and Patterson Plank and have always loved that place even though I knew nothing about it or even if someone lived there. Just this Tuesday I was walking past it with my dog and the gates were open and I stoped and marveled at how beautiful just the outside of it is. I am soooooooo sad to hear that these nuns are all by themselves and in poor health. I am going to see my parish priest at nearby Saint Anthony and will definiltey be speaking to him about them to see if he can offer them any help with anything as well as my help. Please keep me informed about anything.


Carmen Vasquez

Carmen Vasquez said...

I would like to send my email for any information.


Carmen Vasquez