(Note that Bishop Rhoades has been recently moved to the diocese of South Bend, IN, so the Harrisburg diocese is waiting for a new bishop)
New set of nuns at home in Elysburg Monastery
BY Rachel Carta (Staff Writerrachel_c@newsitem.com)
Published: August 23, 2009 for "Republicanherald.com"
ELYSBURG - The set of Discalced Carmelite nuns has moved from Nebraska to inhabit the Elysburg Monastery, bringing with them a simple existence and an extreme devotion to prayer.
The monastery previously had been home to a revered group of Carmelite nuns, which moved to Danville in January 2008.
The new nuns held an open house Friday for priests, deacons and religious women. On Saturday, a second open house was held for the public.
On Monday, after the Opening Solemn Mass and Blessing of the Monastery at 10 a.m., the nuns will return to solitude and will no longer be seen by the public.
Only two nuns, Mother Stella Marie of Jesus and Sister Therese of Merciful Love, were available Friday, and both remained "behind the grill," as it's called. They speak to visitors from behind a heavy black metal grill inside one of the "speakrooms."
Mother Stella expressed the nuns' happiness in living in the Elysburg community.
"We are very privileged to be able to come back and open this monastery," she said, noting the close bond the nuns have formed with former Elysburg Carmelites, who are now referred to as the Danville Carmelites.
"It is beautiful here, and we are so welcome," Mother Stella said. "We are so grateful to the surrounding community. All of the sisters are excited to begin our new lives."
At the chapel, an Extraordinary, or Latin Mass, will be celebrated at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Sisters from several area orders toured the monastery Friday afternoon and were thankful for the Carmelite presence there.
When the former Elysburg Carmelites left, the fate of the monastery was unknown. With the work of the Rev. William Waltersheid, secretary for clergy and consecrated life for the Diocese of Harrisburg, the new group arrived in Elysburg in April. By Monday, 11 nuns will live at the monastery.
Nine of those 11 are in their 20s, creating a "young and vibrant group," said Waltersheid, who grew up in Locust Gap and spent time at the Elysburg monastery as a youth.
"Not only are the sisters a tremendous blessing for the diocese and the local area, but they have already been a blessing (in their former location)," Waltersheid said. "It is a reminder of our call to holiness and the gospel and God's goodness."
The new community is founded from the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Neb. Members came to the Diocese of Harrisburg because of a constant increase of vocations to their monastery that caused overcrowding. Their total number is 33, and the maximum desired number of nuns in a Carmelite monastery is about 21.
The Valparaiso, Neb., Carmelites join the Danville Carmelites and the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Lancaster as the third contemplative community of nuns in the 15 counties of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
"Bishop Rhoades (of the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg) is very grateful to the sisters for being courageous enough to come here. He is counting on their prayers for all the needs of the diocese and the world," Waltersheid said.
Extensive renovations were made to the monastery to create the necessary rooms for the religious lifestyle the Nebraska nuns follow.
The new altar in the chapel was taken from St. Casimir's Church in Mahanoy City, and a the new communion rail was taken from St. Lawrence Church in Harrisburg. These traditional pieces are necessary for the Latin Mass, Waltersheid said.
The Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue, which had been given to Divine Redeemer Church in Mount Carmel, was returned to the chapel.
Though the Elysburg Carmelite nuns were a cloistered group, had been visible to the public. By contrast, the new group lives a strictly cloistered life, setting themselves apart from the world in order to dedicate themselves "to God and his saving plan."
The order states that the separation of the cloister attunes the heart of the Carmelite nun to the Heart of Christ and the needs of people: "Freed from noises and distractions, the Carmelite nun becomes more aware of the struggle of people today to know and love God."
No radio, television, newspaper or Internet is permitted.
Likewise, the black grills, which had been removed in 1969, have been reinstalled in the chapel. During Mass each morning, the new group of nuns sits behind the grills, separated from the public.
In the speakrooms, the sisters meet family and friends through the grills as well.
To receive donations or prayer intentions, a wooden turnstyle device is located just inside the front door. Through it, nuns can receive a message. A nun can also speak through the "turn," but is not visible.
"Some of the most in-touch people are those that are enclosed," Waltersheid said.
During Friday's tour of the monastery, the nuns "cells," or rooms, were open. Each includes a small bed with a straw mattress, a desk and dresser. Carmelite nuns leave all things, family, friends, pastimes, pleasures and attachment behind.
Each of the cells is dedicated to a saint, such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Anne of Bartholemew or Saint Mary Magdalene.
Inside the refrectory, or dining room, are three tables with simple settings. At the center table, where the mother, or prioress, sits, is a skull, a reminder of mortality. The nuns eat in silence.
Inside the recreation room, the nuns take two hours a day to talk, laugh and do light handwork. No games are permitted.
A day for a Carmelite nun begins at 4:30 a.m. The sister rises and begins to pray. Latin Mass is held at 7 a.m. and a light breakfast follows. From 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., the nuns begin a work period. Each sister has a job. The day continues with more prayer, recreation, chanting and simple meals. The nuns do not eat red meat. At 10:30 p.m. the sisters retire for the night.
The Carmelite nuns are in need of donations. Gifts can be sent to Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 430 Monastery Road, Elysburg, PA 17824.
Edited by CherieMadame, 31 March 2010 - 07:39 PM.