Redemptoristines of New York Rejoice in New Home
It has been a long and difficult journey. But now our community (formerly of Esopus) has finally found its way to a proper monastic home in the city of Beacon, New York. We are sharing sacramental and liturgical life, beauty, silence, and spaciousness in the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation. We are making history in this arrangement; two different canonical religious groups living under the same roof. We have received the blessing of our Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the diocesan Vicar for Religious who view this development as a healthy response to the signs of the times. We would like to share with you how we came to this decision for our community.
In January of 2011, we were informed by the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists that they would be leasing the property of Mount St. Alphonsus and that we would have to find a new home within 2 to 3 years. Four months later we learned that we would have only one year to relocate. The decision made by the Redemptorists was a wise and prudent one, but not without difficulties all around. In the end the property was sold. A bit of gold in this story is that the buyers invested a great deal of money in restoring the building and are lovingly caring for the property. The seminary building is now a private Christian high school.
We searched long and hard for a new home; a suitable monastery. We visited over 40 sites in five states and researched many others via the Internet. By the spring of 2012 we were ready to purchase a Franciscan friary in an urban New Jersey parish. At the last minute we had to give up that plan due to environmental contamination problems with the property. Having only 5 weeks to find a place to live we were fortunate to arrange rental of space in a building owned by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart only 5 miles south of Mount St. Alphonsus. We moved on June 25, 2012. All of our furniture was stored in a gymnasium in the same building. It was a crowded and very awkward space for our life but it did offer spectacular views of the Hudson River.
In January of this year the Missionary Sisters informed us that we would have to leave the property by the end of June. We had already hired professional consultants who work with religious communities to create relocation plans. Everyone went full speed ahead to find the right place for us in a very short period of time. Through the months of searching we learned that private homes require too much remodeling for monastic use and local laws can sometimes interfere in that process. We also learned that former convents, novitiates, etc., required a great deal of repair and adaptation to accommodate the elderly and handicapped. We also knew that it would be very difficult to have daily Mass wherever we went. As the process went on we saw our personal resources diminish as sisters aged and required more care. We had to ask ourselves, “Is it realistic for us to buy a property and take care of it into the future?” Our consultants found situations for us in a few continuing care retirement communities which offer independent or assisted living as well as nursing home care at the same location. These facilities offered great care for our sisters needing assistance. However, the rest of us would have been separated into various buildings. In such an arrangement our communal contemplative monastic life would have been destroyed. By April of this year, we were disheartened and very discouraged. We had two months to find a new home and move.
From September of 2012 through 2013 the Carmelite community of Beacon was prudently examining their own future and their ability to remain on their lovely property. Our two communities have enjoyed close friendship since the 1960’s as members of the Metropolitan Association of Contemplative Communities (MACC). In 1985, the Carmel of New York City moved to a former Ursuline Novitiate in Beacon. During the 1990’s they merged with two other Carmels, added a new wing to their building to accommodate a total of 30 nuns and redesigned the chapel. By September of last year there were only 15 sisters living in the monastery. They wondered how long they would be able to stay in a half empty building. Their options were to rent space in the building or move to a smaller place. Neither option was an attractive one. During this time they followed with heavy hearts our story of disappointment and displacement.
At an April community meeting with their professional facilitator present they spontaneously put the planned agenda aside and began talking about what it would be like if they invited us to come and share the house with them. By the end of the meeting they voted unanimously to issue an invitation. Within two weeks the councils of the communities met and the generous invitation was accepted. We had exactly seven weeks to plan the move and make all arrangements.
Two other big decisions were made. Three of our sisters (Sisters Mary McCaffrey, Mary Anne Reed, and Lydia Lojo) would move to Meadowview, an assisted living facility in Mt. Vernon, New York. At Meadowview they receive all the care they need and join many Franciscan and Dominican sisters in residence there. The second decision was to retire from our work producing ceremonial capes for the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. We have done this work since 1985. It was a good monastic work, well organized by Sr. Maria Paz and then passed on to others. But we had to recognize that we no longer had the number of sisters required to produce 200 capes a year.
On June 11 three sisters moved into Meadowview Assisted Living. On June 23-24 six sisters moved to Beacon and received a most loving welcome from Carmelite community. We have lovely bedrooms in their new wing, a community room now called Celeste Hall, and offices for prioress, treasurer and secretary. We are blessed here to have Mass every day provided by a delightful rotation of priest. Only two days after moving in we had a wonderful celebration for the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in a Mass concelebrated by the Redemptorist Provincial, Rev. Kevin Moley, and his Council.
In our decision to accept the Carmelite invitation we were acknowledging the signs of the times; fewer vocations, fewer priests, aging sisters. We were also acknowledging our deep desire to preserve our contemplative vocation. We saw that we could do that by joining forces with another contemplative community and sharing the sacramental, liturgical life already established in their horarium.
This is not the ideal that we had in mind when we set out on our journey in search of a new home. But we came to see that given our circumstances, resources and the limited choices before us this arrangement was the most life-giving for us all. We believe the Holy Spirit worked mightily in the hearts and minds of each sister in both communities. We have had to accept losses but we have also embraced new life and welcomed with grateful hearts the opportunity to live out our Redemptoristine vocation. Jesus Christ is the center of everything in this Monastery of the Incarnation. Could we ask for more?
“It is our desire to create together an environment that fosters the growth and well-being of each Sister’s contemplative life as lived in the Carmelite and Redemptoristine traditions and that has the potential for creating together opportunities for effective outreachto the larger community and Church.”
89 Hiddenbrooke Drive
Beacon, New York 12508