Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary where Catholics around the world are asked to give thanks and to remember in their prayers “those who pray,” our cloistered brothers and sisters.
I would like to highlight one such community today: the Dominican nuns of Linden, Virginia, who had a very circuitous path to where they now are today. The first Dominican monastery of nuns was established in 1880 though the sisters trace their own foundation to 1906 when a group of sisters was sent from Union City, NJ, to Baker City, OR. However, in 1909 they moved to La Crosse, WI, the second St. Dominic’s monastery, where they remained until the 1980’s when the dearth of chaplains and other issues precipitated their “temporary” move to Washington, DC. They remained there for 22 years until 2008, they moved to their permanent home in Linden, VA, in the Blue Ridge mountains.
The new monastery is located in what was once an apple orchard. The building is not complete though the cloister courtyard, cells, infirmary, enclosure fence and kitchen have been erected. Yet to come are the permanent chapel, library, living quarters for a resident chaplain, and several guest rooms for visitors. Most importantly, a cemetery has been dedicated where three of the sisters who were buried elsewhere have been brought “home.” As the sisters say, “A monastic community is not complete without the presence of the members who have gone before, those who have lived the life, have persevered and have now left this world to go to God.”
The location is bearing fruit. Nine women are in formation with two more aspirants entering soon. Sr. Mary Fidelis, the novice mistress, says, “I think that some of the things that our community values are what young people are looking for in religious life: going back to the traditional habit, devotion to the Eucharist, fidelity to the Church and the Holy Father, and Marian devotion.”