A convent dilemma

I had an e-mail which is both sad and uplifting.

Sad because the obvious decline of religious life.

Uplifting because of the potential and the fact that someone wants to do something about it.

Parishes far and wide are trying to figure out what to do with their schools and convents.

Here is the note I received.  My emphases and comments.

I have recently been appointed to chair a committee to figure out what to do with the 9,000 square foot convent at our parish.  It currently has 3 elderly nuns living their and it also houses the before and after school program for our parochial school.  It originally housed 26 nuns from the daughters of Wisdom who staffed our school up until 1994.  Our committee has come to the conclusion that the best use of the space would be to house a Day Care staffed hopefully by an order of young or younger nuns.  We have the full support of our pastor so long as the nuns are as he put it “real nuns who are in habit”[excellent]

So this is where you come in, do you know of any such nuns that might be interested?  We would have a lot to offer them.  The convent has 4 kitchens (one could be commercial if they wanted to set-up a business of some sort) a beautiful chapel that seats 35-40, a residential neighborhood, 2 garages, one minute walk to the church or school, a very active parish with over 1,600 households and regular weekend attendance of 1,300, a rather youthful and kind pastor in his 50’s, a parish school that has 215 students from PK thru grade 8, and the opportunity to share in the daycare business. 

We conservatively estimate that if we can obtain 30 full time children at $20 a day per child at 5 days per week, year round would bring in over $150,000 in income per year.  The $20 per day would undercut all the other day cares in the area by $18 to $31 per day so we could charge more.  Also, there is a great need for day cares in our area so we believe we would get many more than 30 children.  There would also be opportunities for the nuns to staff the school and other positions in the parish and in the City.

Our parish is Our Lady of Mount Carmel (ethnic Italian) in Waterbury, CT and our city has 5 Catholic Grammar Schools, 2 Catholic High Schools, 19 catholic churches, and a Catholic Hospital St. Mary’s.  The city is 90 minutes from NYC and 2 hours from Boston, and 40 minutes from Bradley Int’l airport.  The city population is about 105,000 of which 2/3’s are Roman Catholic.  So I would think an order of nuns especially younger nuns would have a ton of opportunity here. If you can point me in a direction I would be very grateful.

Anyone who wants to respond can write to me and I will forward it.  Put CT CONVENT in the subject line.

I wish the fictional groups of the Rubricians and the Sacristines actually existed so they could go there.

Teaching rubrics is sort of like day care… right?

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42 Responses to A convent dilemma

  1. Kristen says:

    I wish I had names to pass on.
    I do hope you find the right order!

  2. I think they’ll have a hard time finding “real nuns who are in habit” who also want to cooperate with mothers (and fathers) who want to farm out their children instead of raising them.

  3. Suzie says:

    How about the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. They teach at a couple of schools, run a skilled nursing facility for the elderly and have a child care center. The motherhouse is in Alhambra, CA, but they have sisters in Douglas, AZ; Coral Gables, FL and at Francisan University. They wear a traditional Carmelite habit, complete with white mantle and live a contemplative/active life.

  4. joy says:

    The Sisters of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother seem to be growing. THey’re at Franciscan University too.

  5. Alice says:

    The Franciscans of the Martyr St. George have a daycare near their motherhouse in Alton, Illinois. They’re orthodox, as far as I can tell, and wear habits. Plus, they’re a young order. I think the average age is 35 or 40. When I was a junior in college, several of us visited their motherhouse and felt ancient next to the novices :)

  6. James the Less says:

    The Sisters of Life are based in the Archdiocese of New York. They are growing having just moved into a new convent in the Bronx to accommodate new postulants. I will follow with an e-mail.

  7. Anthony says:

    Nashville Dominicans???

  8. Athelstane says:

    I think they’ll have a hard time finding “real nuns who are in habit” who also want to cooperate with mothers (and fathers) who want to farm out their children instead of raising them.

    I think, in justice, that this is not a charitable attitude.

    I am as big an advocate of home schooling as anyone here. But the fact is – not every family is in a position to do so. Either because both parents must work to pay the bills (and I don’t mean to pay for the second Lexus, although many are guilty of that), or because a spouse has died or abandoned the family, or because neither parent feels themselves qualified to do so.

    Of course, we are talking day care here, not school per se. Even so the main concerns apply. The ideal is that one parent (usually the mother) ought to stay home with young children until they reach schooling age. Too many families that could do so don’t because they have the wrong priorities. But some simply are not in a position to do so.

  9. BrAloysius Mary says:

    I can’t help thinking (wistfully) of how much better off we would all be if dedicated, loving parents were as numerous as day schools. There was such a time, you know. Could we not all say a short prayer every day for its return.

  10. supertradmom says:

    Are not religious who are contemplative and in monasteries or closed convents “nuns”, and are not active orders “sisters”? There is a Dominican teaching order out of Ann Arbor with sisters in full habits-Dominican Sisters of Mary of the Eucharist.

    I do not think there are any TLM orders which teach except for the group in Post Falls. Any information on EF orders which teach?

  11. Bailey Walker says:

    The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is an organization of communities which would seem to fit the criteria. Here is the link to their Web site: http://www.cmswr.org/

    There are links to their member communities as well as contact information for the CMSWR which might be helpful in referring this request to the appropriate congregation.

  12. BrAloysius Mary says:

    Seeking to sustain a family is one thing but the reality of American life is the quest for superabundance at the expense of parental responsibility. It all started with in-house day care. It was called TV.

  13. I especially like two thoughts that I believe are relevant to the subject. The first is Mt. 6; 33 and the famous motto of a religious order – Omnia Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam. I think that both of these have universally been relegated to the class of ideas of lesser importance. When the Son of Man returns think ye that He will find ……

  14. Judy Fradl says:

    A community of sisters that are traditional are the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church in Spokane WA. These sisters have a background in teaching. They are the sisters that were with a schimatic group but returned to the church a couple of years ago. As far as I know they are the only trad teaching communiy in the USA.

  15. Bro. AJK says:

    What about men’s orders? Does it have to be women only?

  16. David says:

    Might I suggest the Augustinian Sisters of Divine Love:

    Via Rocci Lorenzo,64
    00151 Roma
    Italy
    Tel.: (+39) 0665740406
    matermundi@tiscalinet.it

    These sisters, who hail from Italy, the Philippines, Peru and Congo-Brazzaville, specialize in early childhood. In addition to convents/schools in Italy, the Philippines and Peru, they recently opened a house in Greece. The Philippina sisters speak English. The majority of the order’s sisters complete their formation in Italy, which could make for an interesting match for an Italian-American parish. The Peruvian sisters Spanish capabilities may also be beneficial for the Catholic Church in the USA. If you’re looking for sisters that look like sisters, radiate God’s love and teach, then look no further!

  17. Corleone says:

    I can’t help thinking (wistfully) of how much better off we would all be if dedicated, loving parents were as numerous as day schools. There was such a time, you know. Could we not all say a short prayer every day for its return.

    Exactly when was this time? Historically, both parents have always worked in anything but the upper classes of society. In agricultural and rural areas, it was a given that both parents worked as well as the children, which left little room for education at all. Typically, families had a bit of a caste system going on: the oldest daughter would take care of the youngest children and household (and often times her parents when they became elderly, meaning she would not be allowed to marry), the oldest son would inherrit the family’s lands, all subsequent children would be apprenticed, schooled, married off or unfortunately neglected. The Brady Bunch/ Ozzie and Harriet image of two parents at home was very much a product of the growing middle-class in the US and seen as the ideal. But it was very much a “blip” in human history, since necessity often demanded that both parents, if not the entire household, needed to work in order to survive.

    I’m definitely not saying this is the ideal. I think it is absolutely the best situation if at least one parent could be at home with the children during their formative years. I just don’t think that has ever been the reality for the vast majority of the human population.

  18. Terry says:

    Dominus Vobiscum has touched upon an important point.

    Our diocese does not provide day care services as it undermines the responsibility of the parents to raise their children rather than farm them out.

    I think it would be difficult to find a tradition-minded order that would be willing to do this kind of work.

  19. EDG says:

    There is a Spanish religious order, The Home of the Mother (http://www.homeofthemother.org/), where the sisters wear habits, are young and enthusiastic, have a good community life, and work in the field of youth education. We have some in Jacksonville, although one of the problems is that the dying “old” orders are very jealous of them and are hostile to them. They have a number of American and non-Spanish members, by the way, and they don’t work specifically with Hispanic parishes, but they generally do have some Spanish speakers if you need that in your area. They’re great!

  20. Christopher Milton says:

    I second Anthony…. Nashville Dominicans…. they truly are an awesome group!

  21. Corleone says:

    We have some in Jacksonville, although one of the problems is that the dying “old” orders are very jealous of them and are hostile to them.

    EDG, this is so common that it is both pathetic and sad. My aunt is one of those “old” orders, which of course used to wear habbits before Vatican II and was also once very well respected in the field of education. They had immense lands and buildings from patrons around the US (and Europe) who willed these to them for their service to the community. But in the last 20 odd years, this order has sold off most of its lands in the US due to a) dwindling numbers b) mismanagement and c) the “need” for most of the nuns to have their own individual appartments, cars, cell-phones, computer and living expenses. They have I believe 2 real functioning convents left in the US now.

    This is all background info, as when anyone (i.e. yours truly) brings up the fact that there are no new postulants to her order, she (and her other sisters) get very defensive saying, “We’re doing just as well as all the other orders in the US! With the only exception of the orders that wear habbits. And that’s just a gimick!”

    I could tell you so many horror stories about this and other “old” orders. Suffice it to say, may God have mercy on them. I feel indeed very bad for the Saints who founded these orders as I can only speculate that they would be none too pleased on what they have become.

  22. EDG says:

    Corleone, I agree, it’s very sad. I live near a convent of a diocesan order that ran schools all over the state in its heyday. Now there’s just a handful of sisters left, and they run no schools. Not only did they give up their habits immediately after Vatican II, but they gave up their community prayer life, their traditions, and finally even gave up their community life and their mission altogether. It’s the usual nuns in apartments, doing whatever they want, etc. They come back to the convent only when they become elderly or sick. Naturally, young people are not attracted to this. The poor women are very nice people, and not into extremely bizarre things like some orders; the only problem is that there’s really nothing to their religious life anymore. Yet they simply can’t understand – or maybe just won’t admit – that they got on the wrong track 40+ years ago and have to change or die. Instead, they’re just sitting around griping about the new orders and waiting to see who will be the last left to turn out the lights in the convent.

  23. John says:

    Is the concept of a daycare an absolute must?

    If not, the sisters of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal might be an option. They, however, concentrate mostly on out reach tot he poor. Likewise, the Sisters of Life are a growing order and cocentrate solely on a variety of pro-life activities. Both orders have a good presence in New York.

  24. Gloria says:

    The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI. To learn all about them go to http://www.sistersofmary.org They are teachers and run Spiritus Sanctus Academies. One of their recent apostolates is in Granite Bay, Northern California. They are young and the order is growing. They are traditional in Catholic teaching and in the wearing of the habit. The ones I have met in Sacramento show the joy of their vocation in their smiling young faces.

  25. Susan Peterson says:

    I really hate to hear people saying a whole diocese won’t fund day care centers, or that a traditional order wouldn’t want to run a day care center, because mothers should be home with their children. They said parents, but somebody has to make an income, and it is usually the mother who stays home, if it is possible. Most mothers of small children would prefer this. But lets be realistic about the situations that people find themselves in. Husbands die. Husbands desert their wives. Some husbands are so violently abusive that women must leave them for their own and their children’s safety. Despite allegations in a recent issue of Touchstone magazine, this happens also between married spouses. All of those situations leave one spouse, most often a mother but sometimes a father, who has to work to support his children even if they are preschool age.

    And then let us consider the situation of intact families. In many parts of the country, housing is very very expensive. Even now after the bursting of the housing bubble, it is very expensive. Many less expensive forms of housing, such as rental “townhouses” around a courtyard, do not allow families of more than two children. Years ago when I had two, one such place would not rent to me because I already had two very small ones, and more than two was prohibited, so unless I could assure them that another child was now medically impossible… Most landlords of apartments will not accept large families. A large family pretty much has to own a house. In parts of the country where housing is less expensive, there is often little work available and wages/salaries are much lower. I have nine children and stayed home with them for 18 years. This involved, at one point, living at less than half of the Federal “poverty level” for the family of 10 that we were then. It involved for a while, heating and cooking with wood and having no hot water that wasn’t heated on the wood stove. Had social services become involved at that point it is not clear that they wouldn’t have removed the children for “neglect” even though 100 years ago the majority of people lived that way. Somehow we escaped their notice. But when the youngest was a year and a half we were in a situation where we were unable to pay our taxes (not paid with the private mortgage.) and might lose our house. I took a job as a nurses aide in a nursing home on the evening shift. My older children filled the gap between when I had to leave and when my husband came back..and were thus responsible not only for watching their younger brothers and sisters, but for keeping three fires going to keep the house warm. I went to nursing school, putting the two year old in the day care at the school, and eventually our financial situation improved. The 7th and 8th children did suffer from my absences during this time. I don’t think the 9th suffered from the day care at the community college, where I could stop in between classes. But the point is, we were a family willing to live at a very basic level and who assumed that I would stay home with the children, and we got in a situation in which I had to produce some income for us to keep our house. Had I not gone to work, if we had lost the house, our children might have ended up in foster care. Had I not had the intelligence to go to nursing school while also working 35 hours a week and taking care of a family, we most likely would have stayed that poor. You have to consider the situations of families in which the father can only work as a clerk, or a cook in a restaurant, or a warehouse laborer. Such an income cannot support a family. There are many people at that level of society and you can’t expect them not to have families. The women in these families have to work, as nurses aides, grocery store or department store cashiers, housekeepers in motels, and so on, all the people who serve you every day. Often their childcare arrangements are tenuous, always falling through, and they are always in danger of losing their jobs because their childcare falls through. They need daycare for the survival of their families. They ought to have good daycare with consistent care for the emotional health of their children. I think this is a fine mission for a diocese, parish, or religious order.
    Susan Peterson

  26. Ken says:

    For the record, none of the above orders of religious women wear the traditional habit and veil. Yes, they have more conservative dress than most orders, but their habit and veil is more like a traditional novice\’s than a professed.

    Traditionally, women religious wear a wimple, with a veil over it. Think Mother Angelica for a visual.

    This is not to begin a debate on the reformed dress of sisters and nuns — but I did want to at least note this distinction, as it seems many comments above indicate those non-traditional-Mass orders of women religious are wearing fully traditional habits and veils.

  27. Missy says:

    Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Lewiston NY would be worth a try. They were founded in Italy and have run a school and daycares in northern NY and Canada http://www.shvilla.org/about/who_are.shtml

  28. Bro. Aloysius Mary says:

    In response to Corleone’s query, “When was that?” When growing up in the northeast I lived in a parish consisting of approximately 1000 families. It was in the early forties to the early sixties. Of all those families with most of which I was very familiar I cannot recall a single mother who worked outside the home. For what it’s worth – they were mostly Irish. My sense of history is probably quite as keen as Corleone’s.

  29. Jane M says:

    I also think we should note that on a farm where the father, mother, and children are working the kids are still with their parents and maybe learning from them.

  30. therese b says:

    Susan

    You are an admirable woman, and my own resentments about needing to be a working mother melt away in comparison with your case.

    Bro A-M

    Widows in the 40′s to 60s lived on small pensions, and their children were generally helped out by family. Deserted wives (I can well remember several among the Liverpool Irish in the 60s-70s) were in desperate straits, as they got very little, and the children suffered badly. Although some families did help – there was often an attitude of “I don’t see why I should be paying for his kids, when he’s only away in London…”

    There was one in our family, and I met several who worked in little cleaning jobs for friends and family. They had hard lives. Daycare would have let them get a proper job with a decent pension, and their families would have been more secure. Not ideal – but better than living from hand to mouth.

  31. Joe says:

    perhaps if a community of Sisters such as those desired for this scenario were concerned about day-care versus at-home-care, part of their mandate could be to encourage ‘stay-at-home’ moms, and to help others learn to find strategies to change their lifestyles to include this as well.

  32. cordelia says:

    don’t laugh, i know this sounds archane…but would the Sisters of Life like to open a home for “unwed mothers.” i’ve often thought this is an option that is not available to women in crisis pregnancies anymore. Maybe this is one reason abortion is seen as “their only choice” for so many women.

  33. avecrux says:

    Excellent post, Susan Peterson.
    In Peoria, Illinois, the Missionaries of Charity ran a daycare within walking distance of the Cathedral.

  34. RBrown says:

    I can’t help thinking (wistfully) of how much better off we would all be if dedicated, loving parents were as numerous as day schools. There was such a time, you know. Could we not all say a short prayer every day for its return.

    Exactly when was this time? Historically, both parents have always worked in anything but the upper classes of society.
    Comment by Corleone

    That has not been my experience. My mother didn’t work until all my siblings were at least in high school. And I can’t think of anyone I went to school with whose mother did work. The only exception I can think of is that one of my best friends, whose father was a surgeon, one day told me that his mother was going to work. When I asked where, he said at the hospital–my mother’s also a doctor (hematologist). I hadn’t known.

    What is happening now in American society is of economic pressures and careerism (a lot of women don’t find the non working mother role fulfilling).

  35. berenike says:

    There were sisters wearing, by design, secular clothing, in the nineteenth century , and sisters with habits but without wimples. Poor old Pius XII tried to get female religious to update their habits – it’s one thing if you’re a Carmelite or Poor Clare, but another if you are an order designed to be “in the world”. The Little Sisters of the Poor, for example, wore a plain version of the local peasant costume in boring colours. (maybe the original was in boring colours too).

    Some of the comments about The Objective Truth About How Other People Should Run Their Lives are rather cheeky, to say the least. The number of women I know who are supporting their children and a drunkard husband, sometimes a grown daughter with a drunken husband and small children of her own … a good cheap nursery school would be a godsend for both the children and the women involved. That’s quite apart from questions of housing cost, etc as already raised above.

  36. Margie Moran says:

    Have you thought to go to The sisters Of Grace. They are growing. I am not sure if this would be for them. But could be worth a shot.
    I do have their personal e-mail if you would like to contact me

  37. Holly says:

    Ken is NOT correct that none of the traditional orders listed above do not wear traditional garb. And what of it? Any sister who wears any kind of “garb” that visually identifies her as a nun (as opposed to street clothes) should be THANKED and honored for doing so.

    Again, here is that “traditional” word. Some comments above discuss this matter as if the only orders that would be qualified are those who use the Latin mass, etc. What a shame. I guess the rest of us out here in Catholicism – including religious orders such as with Mother Angelica and the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother Eucharist – are just useless, neo-con junk.

    Brick-by-brick? But what if the mortar inbetween has no holding power because there is no love?

  38. Allow me to second the recommendation of Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI. They are young, fully habited and education is their ministry.

  39. Fr. Z: I would also like to recommend The “Ann Arbor” Dominicans. I have come to know some of them well in their convents in Tucson, AZ and near Sacramento, CA. I think that the way they live the Holy Preaching via the Dominican Life would be perfect for OLMC in Waterbury, CT. I know the parish from when I was a Seminarian at Holy Apostles in Cromwell, CT. Knowing the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and knowing that parish and area I think that it would be a good fit.

    Veritas!

  40. Hi – why not ask the Salesian Sisters? Some of the Diocese in which we work are closing our schools and the provincial and her council might be happy to open a place in Connecticut. We just opened two houses this year – one in Hawthorne, NJ and another in Pensacola, FL.