Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Foundation Anniversary Celebration

Contemplative Nuns
Prepare to Celebrate Fiftieth Anniversary

The Redemporistines of Esopus, New York are preparing to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their foundation on December 8, 2007. As introduction, A Bit of History appears below.

The Order of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded on Pentecost, May 13, 1731, at Scala in the Kingdom of Naples according to the founding inspiration of Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa.

Concurrently with the Order of Nuns, assisted by the monastery of Scala, and with the encouragement of Maria Celeste, St. Alphonsus founded for men in 1732 the Congregation of the Most Holy Saviour. In 1749, to avoid confusion with another institute, the Holy See directed that the name ‘Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer’ be used. We refer to this relationship as the ‘double institute’; the Congregation in missionary service to the ‘most abandoned’; and the Order also fully apostolic in its ministry of contemplation and prayer.

As a bishop, St. Alphonsus began expansion of the Order by inviting the Nuns into his diocese (1766). In the 19th century the Order spread to Vienna, Austria in 1831. The branch of the ‘family tree’ extending to Esopus grew from Vienna to Brugge, Belgium (1841); to Dublin, Ireland (1859); to England (1897); and to Toronto, Canada in 1947. By the mid-50s, the Canadian monastery was filled to overflowing and began to make ’foundations’. The first came to Esopus in 1957 at the invitation of the Redemptorist Baltimore Province which offered to build a large monastery on the grounds of its Major Seminary. A group of six sisters, under the leadership of Sr. Mary Catherine Parks, settled in for a two-year stay in a rented house a few miles south on Rt. 9W. Three of those sisters are esteemed members of the community today; Sr. Mary Anne Reed (Detroit); Sr. Margaret (Peg) Banville (Toronto); and Sr. Paula Schmidt (Grand Rapids). The first ’novice’, a former teaching sister, is also a senior among us; Sr. Mary McCaffrey (Brooklyn).

In 1960, the sisters moved into their new home; one that offered a handsome chapel and insured both the enclosure and accommodations for women flocking to the monastery. However, it was the cusp of great change in society and the Church. The Second Vatican Council “opened windows” and declared “the universal call to holiness.” The Feminist Movement began to open previously unheard of opportunities. While the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War Movements raised consciences in matters concerning justice and peace. Many factors contributed to a shrinking of the ranks in all religious communities. This community remained small, never filling a huge building which could not meet the needs of an aging community and was costly to maintain. Through Redemptorist generosity, the community moved into a new home in 2001.

Today we earn an income by making habits for Redemptorist priests and brothers and ceremonial capes for the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. As part of a national trend with historical precedent, the community is once again receiving women who are eager for a life of prayer, contemplation and solitude; who bring maturity, skills from the world of work and, often, from a life time of homemaking and motherhood. Above all, they wish to be “living memories” of Jesus and true daughters of the inspiration of Maria Celeste. We strive to live the Gospel; to be a visible witness and living memorial of the mystery of redemption which the Father accomplished through Christ and in the Spirit.

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