VIDEO & PICS – Pontifical Mass & Consecration of new Abbess, vows, clothing of nuns, revelation of location of new daughter house!

Today I was blessed to attend, at the newly consecrated Abbey Church of Our Lady of Ephesus, the blessing of the new Abbess, Mother Cecilia. Also, we had, in the context of the Pontifical Solemn Mass celebrated by His Excellency Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, the Extraordinary Ordinary and Bishop of Madison, the reception of the temporary vows and reclothing in the black veil of two of the nuns, and, just before the final benediction, the clothing of four novices by the formidable Abbot of Clearcreek.

Yesterday’s video (now complete) is 7:43:00. Today’s is a mere 3:55:39. We got all of that done in under 4 hours!

Booklet HERE

Some pics.

Bp. Morlino addressing himself directly to the present ordinary, Bp. Johnston.

They are happy!

New stuff to iron.

What it’s all about.

After Communion, these gals showed up in their wedding gowns and then got a haircut.

The way my friend described it, as he watched from above in a gallery, it was as if they were going to their beheading.  And, in a sense, they were!   They are called on to die to self and to the world.

After the sheering the Abbesses new sheep, they vamoosed and changed into their tunics so that they could receive the rest of their habits, wimple, veil, cincture.

When the women are first presented, they are asked what they want, as in an ordination.  They respond…

Misericórdiam Dei et societátem sorórum in monastério sub jugo Christi militántium.

The mercy of God and the company of the Sisters serving in the monastery under the yoke of Christ [militantium].

Notice how that “militantium” is translated?  Hint: It wasn’t!  But it is highly significant.

When the bishop admonishes the nuns about what they are going to vow to undertake (or, if they desire they can freely leave before they do this), he says:

Atténte consideráre debétis, fíliæ dilectíssimæ, quali obligatióne vosmetípsos ultro sitis obstrictúræ, qui quidque vobis servándum proponátis. Legem, sub qua militáre de cétero desiderátis, non solum lectióne, sed étiam íntegri anni usu et consuetúdine satis cognovístis. …

Dearly beloved daughters, you must attentively consider the obligations to which you are about to bind yourself and which you are resolved to to keep. You have already sufficiently learned the rule under which you wish to serve, not only by reading, but by a whole year of practice and experience as a novice….

Militare… to serve.

And there is a Collect:

Deus, qui beatíssimum Benedíctum, eléctum fámulum tuum, abstráctum a mundi turbínibus, tibi soli militáre jussísti: tríbue, qu?sumus, his fámulis sub ejúsdem magistério ad tuum servítium festinántibus perseverándi constántiam et perféctam usque in finem victóriam.

O God Who bade the most blessed Benedict, thy chosen servant, to serve thee alone, detached from the turmoil of the world: grant we pray, to these, thy handmaids, hastening to thy service under his direction, constancy in persev- erance and perfect victory unto the end.

Finally, before the blessings, the bishop crowned her with a wreath of flowers and then lead the new Abbess to a throne in the sanctuary.

And then he gave her the instrument of her office, the crozier.

You would not believe the military imagery in the prayers for this rite!

Frankly, I want a MITERED ABBESS in Gower!   That’s the next thing to work on.

Try this prayer on for size… and as you read, think about the reference to St. Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr.

May she receive this day, at thy granting, O Lord, perseverance in good work, constancy in adversities, endurance in tribulations, desire for fasting, mercy for the impious, the first rank in humility, hatred of pride, love in faith, constant vigilance in doctrine, continence in chastity , abstinence from luxury, moderation in vicissitudes, and learning in morals. With thy help, O Lord, may she persevere thus in this ministry, as St. Stephen, chosen deacon by the Apostles, did merit to endure. From this day, may she despise all worldly conversation: thee, O Lord, granting thy blessing, may she despise temporal things, may she love things heavenly, and desire things eternal. May she be an example and ideal of justice, to govern and rule thy Church faithfully, so that amid her colleagues, she may always show necessary vigilance. May she be of great counsel, diligent in judgment, and effective in discipline. Thus, at thy granting, O Lord, may she, keeping a pure heart for thee in all thy commands, so attain to the prize of the heavenly vocation, to thy gifts of heavenly treasures, with the multiplied talents, with the hundredfold fruit and the crown of justice.

They have built this in TEN YEARS my friends.  From a few nuns living in borrowed space near a high school, to consecrating their new church, receiving an ABBESS, and… as a bonus… announcing the location of their new foundation, a daughter house.

It will be in….

The Diocese of Madison.



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  1. mulieribus says:

    Great article and pictures! Thank you Father for posting this and congratulations on the new location. Many thanks to Bishop Morlino for welcoming these nuns into Madison. You will be blest a hundredfold to have a traditional order of nuns praying for you in your diocese, Deo Gratias!

  2. Elizabeth D says:

    To state the obvious, we have Cistercian nuns who have a piece of land and have wanted to build a new monastery. I realize they seem like they have gotten no where with that. Is this group going to build on that piece of land, I wonder? I mean, I understand about this, maybe, but most probably there are going to be some mixed feelings in Madison Diocese.

    [I doubt it. I wouldn’t look for, suggest, or create problems where there aren’t any.]

  3. jbazchicago says:

    Now that they are officially Benedictine “moniales” or nuns , do they assume the title and appellation, “dame” and for Mother Abbess, The Right Reverend Dame.”

  4. jbazchicago says:

    It is tradition for her to hold the crosier veiled.

  5. Gab says:

    Thank you, Fr Z. They are beautiful pictures! You Americans do take your religion far more seriously than what I’ve seen in Australia, sadly. Praise be to God for this new Abbey, the Abbess and the nuns!

    [I guess this is where I should say: GET TO WORK! Why should God not call for this to be also in Australia?]

  6. Legisperitus says:

    Loved seeing the radiant smiles on the faces of the novices. They were as joyful as any brides.

  7. Ellen says:

    What a beautiful crosier! One of my favorite books is In This House of Brede and I always think of Dame Agnes the scholar who was so unhappy when changes of Vatican II came over the Abbey. Dame Agnes would approve this and would happily be the Mistress of Ceremonies.

  8. rdb says:

    What I find interesting is that the Church had had two generations of nuns and sisters who, in the spirit of Vatican II” sought power. In the end they gave up their hospitals, schools and universities for reieke, environmental issues and making their convents nuclear free zones. In seeking power they found irrelevance.
    Now, look at these pictures and what does one see? Life, vitality, joy, and a consecrated religious holding a crozier. The NcR crowd will find it almost impossible to understand what is happening here.

    [But some will. Some will and it will make the demons in them gnaw at their own innards. Others may find that they also desire it.]

  9. robtbrown says:

    Fr Z says,

    . . .the clothing of four novices by the formidable Abbot of Clearcreek.

    Who was not only a student of John Senior but also in the Marine Corps.

  10. Richard_amdg says:

    Why did the Abbess not receive a miter?

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Mitred abbesses held juridical power over priests. (IIRC.) There were a few medieval examples of such, like the abbess of Las Huelgas, but it was an extraordinary privilege of very very rich and powerful convents.

  12. capchoirgirl says:

    Ellen, I thought of Brede the whole time I was watching both days. Dame Agnes would be proud!
    And quite fitting that the daughter house is in Madison!

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    The other thing about Madison Diocese is we did used to have some Benedictine sisters, (I don’t think they were monastic nuns, they had a girls’ boarding school, but their original habits resembled these nuns’ habits) that left the Church and when there were only two “sisters” remaining they became a post-Catholic sect with a Sunday “eucharist” that is not a Mass. The membership seems to be heavily gay, and ecofeminist. Their supporters include LCWR sisters including Sr Simone Campbell of “nuns on the bus”. It’s possible Bishop Morlino may be trying to put things right by restoring Benedictine religious life to Madison in a form that is ironically very modern and has its finger on the pulse of the Church, in terms of trends in religious life. It used to be that religious communities seemed to last for centuries. After the great disruption of Vatican II which there were really few healthy survivors in terms of religious communities, will the new groups formed after that have a lifespan of centuries? we have to try, right. Trying what worked for centuries in the past isn’t irrational.

  14. acardnal says:

    Blessed news for the diocese of Madison to be recipient of a daughter house of this monastery.

  15. Sandy says:

    It’s all beautiful, other-worldly, as it should be. I agree with your word “power”, Father Z, as a key to so much. One cannot explain to modern Catholics what was lost with the so-called translation of everything into the vernacular (the dumbing down of prayers and rites). They don’t understand that meanings were changed, and so we lost the supernatural power of the prayers. Thank you for this inspiring story.

  16. Dominicanes says:

    The sisters are already “officially” Benedictine nuns with solemn vows. Dame is an English title and not intrinsic to the Benedictine vocation. Some monasteries call their solemnly professed nuns “mother”.

    Actually the sisters started in 1995 as Oblates under the FSSP. So the have been growing and developing as a community for 23 years.

  17. LeeGilbert says:

    But what I want to know, more than anything else, is where did these nuns come from? Michael Rose wrote a book some years ago titled, “Good-bye Good Men,” but we need something upbeat right about now, such as “Hello, Good Women.”

    My guess, which I think this book would substantiate, is that a good many of them came from homes where there was 1. no TV and 2. their parents read to then stories from the Gospels and the lives of the saints. At least this is the case with the Carmelite nuns of Valparaiso, another monastery with no shortage of vocations.

    We have one daughter, and there she also became a contemplative nun. If only . . .if only priests at baptisms and other occasions convenient and inconvenient would tell parents that they would be completely NUTS not to pray that at least one of their daughters becomes a nun. What graces and blessings, blessings on the right and on the left, unsuspected and wonderful, sometimes incredible.

    Why bring her to the baptismal font at all if you don’t want her to go to Heaven? And if she becomes a nun, isn’t it practically a sure thing, like money in the bank? And for a son-in-law, can you do better?

  18. acardnal says:

    I love the photo of the nuns in their wedding garments. Now THAT is a teachable moment for the uncatechized.

  19. docsmith54 says:

    We are most fortunate to have women such as these. They are a blessing for the entire local community and our country.

  20. KateD says:


  21. Semper Gumby says:

    Superb, inspirational. God bless the new Abbess Mother Cecilia and Bp. Morlino. Thank you for this Fr. Z.

    acardnal: A lesson for the uncatechized indeed.

    robtbrown: Interesting, I did not know that the Abbot of Clear Creek was also a student of John Senior.

  22. youngcatholicgirl says:

    “… it was as if they were going to their beheading.”
    I was going to say, “Except for the fact that they had big smiles on their faces”, but considering women such as St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, I think “complete with big smiles on their faces” would be better. God bless these beautiful sisters!

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: an earlier comment, the Cistercian nuns are at Valley of Our Lady Monastery in Prairie du Sac, WI. (Which is in Madison’s see.) They have 112 acres, a bunch of different buildings new and old, and a fair number of new vocations coming in every year. You can read more about them at; and there’s a nice long page about their history at

    I don’t think anybody’s getting slighted here. Plenty of contemplative room for everynun!

  24. There were already up to now, two mitred abbesses in the United States. One is at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut (the home of the former Hollywood actress, Mother Dolores Hart), the other at The Abbey of St Walburga in Colorado. During the Middle Ages, both Abbesses and Abbots had similar administrative authority over the local churches, similar to diocesan bishops (even though abbesses were never ordained). This practice fell with the rise of the nation-states in the Renaissance, as did the practice of mitred abbesses in Europe. In addition to the abbatial staff (aka crosier), both abbots and abbesses do possess the mitre and the ring, but abbesses do not wear the mitre, mostly due to the obligation of the veil. The mitre of an abbess is traditionally carried before them on a pillow in procession.

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