“Happy bells” were ringing as we drove through the gate of the grounds of Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, New York. Six Redemptoristines – five Americans and one Canadian – left the monastery at Barrie, Ontario to make the first foundation of the Order in the United States on December 7, 1957.
The students and faculty lined up on the steps of the seminary. Father Provincial James Connolly, CSsR, came forward to lead the sisters into the chapel where solemn Benediction was celebrated. Afterward they were escorted to a temporary home, the Smith House—a beautiful rented home 3 miles south of the Mount overlooking the Hudson River. Father Albert Reisner, CSsR, with help from the seminarians, had prepared the house and adapted it for our use as a cloistered monastery. The next day, they began to live the monastic life of prayer and work as a new community.
During the next two and a half years, a new monastery large enough to accommodate 40 nuns was being built a stone’s throw from the seminary building. By June 19, 1960, the community had grown to eleven members—six finally professed, one novice/transfer Sister of St. Joseph and four postulants. The date for moving had been carefully planned to coincide with the ordination ceremony of the Redemptorist seminarians so that the nuns could attend while “on the way” to their new home. Cardinal Spellman, then Archbishop of New York, and ordaining prelate, visited briefly with the nuns at the entrance to the new monastery.
Vocations continued to be plentiful until the mid-sixties, but with the fresh wind of the Second Vatican Council blowing in the Church, many Sisters began to have second thoughts about their call. Our numbers dropped rapidly with frequent departures and fewer entrances. At the same time, these post-counciliar years were a time of renewal and adaptation, a time of deepening and broadening our knowledge and understanding of the many aspects of our life as contemplatives. To facilitate this we formed a Region with our Redemptoristine sisters in Ontario and Liguori, Missouri and began to build a joyful unity at our meetings.
As the 20th century approached its end, it became clear that we would probably always be a small community compared to that envisioned when the monastery was built to accommodate 40 sisters. With the support and cooperation of the Redemptorists, we began a long discernment process which culminated in a new, smaller building being constructed on the same site. The new monastery accommodated up to fourteen Sisters, was handicapped accessible for the benefit of our elder Sisters, and filled with light from many picture windows which also reveal the beauties of nature on every side.
In 2012 the Redemptoristist Congregation sold Mount St. Alphonsus. We have searched long and hard for a new home and the journey is not over. We remain in transition, appeal to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in an on-going process of discernment.