Monastic Life: A Gift Received, A Gift Shared
Dear Friend in Christ,
I am delighted to be sending you this Special Edition during this Summer of 2000 at one of the most exciting and transformational times in our history -- one that will impact this new millennium for Christ by building a new monastic Chapel for our nuns and guests who desire to pray with us and by providing expanded retreat facilities for thousands of individuals who participate in our life annually. In our brief 70 years we have founded a thriving Benedictine monastic community incarnating the ancient monastic values of ora et labora (prayer and work) through which our lives are consecrated to God. This first capital campaign emphasizes that the monastery is the heart of St. Emma. It will also improve and expand facilities to better provide Benedictine hospitality for all retreatants.
Architecture both expresses and forms our vital mission of monastic dedication and service to Christ. With His blessing, our vision is to express more fully in brick and mortar the primacy of God in our lives through a monastic chapel which is the heart of our monastery, the pre-eminence of the monastic superior as spiritual guide and the role of the community in Benedictine spirituality. Specifically our plans include construction of a monastic chapel with choir stalls for 30 nuns (and seating for 80 guests), formal office for Prioress, space for conferences for the community and a library to provide resources and ambiance for lectio divina (prayerful reading).
Also with His blessing, we will extend our range of Benedictine hospitality by making the retreat house handicapped accessible through a four-story elevator. This capital campaign also includes adding two conference rooms to accommodate more groups simultaneously.
As the first American-born Prioress, I constantly marvel at and am very proud of the consecrated lives of ora et labora that our Sisters lived at St. Vincent's from 1931 to 1987 and have continued at St. Emma's since opening a novitiate here in 1961. The vision and foresight of Mother Leonarda Fritz and the Sisters laid the solid foundation for our monastic life and current facilities. We now have a unique opportunity to build upon that vision and foundation.
One of St. Emma's most compelling strengths is its total reliance on very dedicated volunteers. It's a unique partnership of nuns and volunteers working together in nearly all facets of monastery and retreat house life. I believe God is now calling all of us to extend this partnership in support of enhancing and sharing our monastic life.
This monastic life of ora et labora has taken root -- and flourishes -- in our American culture. Since the mid- 90s, four women have entered and two more plan to enter this summer. Since mid-February, 16 women have made an initial contact and, indeed, five of these women have already visited! We are experiencing the fruit of your prayer for our community.
A $2,600,000 capital campaign will further support our service to Christ and to the community at large. Endowment opportunities and estate planning are also additional long-term financial strategies of this campaign. You will be hearing more from us soon about this capital campaign. May God bless you for your prayer and support.
Yours in Christ,
Mother Mary Anne Noll OSB
Ora et labora -- Each of these essential aspects of our Benedictine life poses new challenges and presents new opportunities. The size and arrangement of our present monastic chapel hampers our traditional style of liturgical prayer and precludes us from using this chapel for any of the ceremonies essential to our monastic life. The vision includes:
· A monastic chapel pointing to the centrality of God in our Benedictine vocation.
· Choir stalls facing each other enhancing the chanting of Psalms and giving visibility to the church at prayer.
· A sanctuary spacious enough to accommodate the rites of reception and profession and burial with the dignity, grace and beauty of the monastic tradition.
· Additional seating to welcome a large number of people to participate in the community's celebration of The Liturgy of the Hours and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In the words of St. Benedict, the superior is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery. In order to give an external expression to this belief, a formal Prioress' office will be included in the monastery renovations. Other monastery improvements include: monastic library, clerical offices, laundry relocation and elevator.
Ora et labora -- The sharing of these values with our retreatants also poses new challenges and new opportunities, including handicapped accessibility via a four-story elevator and two additional conference rooms. For the first time ever, participants will enjoy access to all levels of our retreat house.
The monastic chapel witnesses more visibly to the gift of consecrated life at the heart of the Church and especially to the gift of monastic life that we Benedictine nuns live at St. Emma Monastery. The monastic chapel complex enhances our ora et labora which makes this monastery a touchstone of spirituality for the People of God. The improved retreat facilities will provide a more hospitable space where people experience God's presence, God's love and God's providence.
Monastic Guest House construction announced...
Have you ever desired to accept Jesus' invitation to come aside and rest awhile? Have you ever desired a place of personal silence and solitude? Have you ever desired to live in the shadow of the monastery and have your day shaped by the ancient monastic prayer frame of The Liturgy of the Hours and lectio divina? As the inspiration to build a monastic guest house took shape, we have been so affirmed in this decision by the dramatic increase in individuals who have sought out this monastery to answer these desires. As an example, during one week in mid-May, six individuals came for individual personal prayer time within the environs and the shadow of the monastery from the states of Indiana and New Jersey as well as Erie (a Lutheran minister), Leechburg, Johnstown and Butler, PA.
Our monastic guest house is shielded by trees on three sides with the fourth side overlooking a very well cut field surrounded by trees -- what a beautiful setting for this jewel! One senses God in the midst of such natural beauty while the sense of solitude and the silence permeate this experience. The outdoor Stations of the Cross around the orchard, the monastic chapel and other retreat buildings are less than a 100 yards away.
When completed late this Fall, the monastic guest house will offer nine private rooms with baths (one of which is handicapped accessible), two larger rooms for long-term volunteers, an oratory, a 36' lounge/dining room with fireplace, kitchen and laundry facilities -- and yes, air conditioning!
With the addition of this monastic guest house, we will provide a special facility to expand opportunities for individuals to experience more intimately some elements of our monastic life in a deeper way: more time for prayer, an atmosphere of greater silence and solitude, and an opportunity to join us for The Liturgy of the Hours sung six times daily and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In Summer 2001, we will sponsor directed retreats in the monastic guest house. Small groups looking for a very prayerful setting may also arrange to stay at our monastic guest house.
Please check our regular Summer newsletter for further information.