Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome The Prince of Peace

The Presentation in the Temple by Brother Max Schmalz, CSsR

Mass Readings for Today
1 John 2:18-21
Psalm 95:1-2, 11-13
John 1:1-18

The first reading in the Liturgy of the Word today speaks of the end times. The celebrant, Fr. Thomas Deely, CSsR, asked us to consider this in terms of the end of one year and the beginning of another. He suggested we meditate upon how we might fill in the blanks in the following: "Today is the end of ___________. Tomorrow, the start of the New Year is the beginning of ________."

What would we like to see ended this day? And what would we like to begin with the first day of 2012? I immediately thought that this should be the last day of war and all its horrors. Perhaps I am being sent in this direction by news of our troops returning from Iraq while so many are still deployed and losing their lives elsewhere. Perhaps it is the books I am reading about the 1930s in Germany and the relentless build up in the will of a megalomaniac infusing a whole nation with a spirit of revenge and hatred preparing them to do the unspeakable. It may be the most recent constant conjecturing in the media about possibility of war with Iran.

Earlier this morning, at the Office of Readings which we combine with Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, we were offered a selection from the writings of St. Pope Leo the Great. He proposes that we too are born with Jesus and born into his peace. Here are some exerpts to ponder...

In adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find that we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.

The enitre body of the faithful is born in the font of baptism, crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father's right hand in his ascension,so with Him are they born in this nativity.

But in the treasures of the Lord's bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace which at the Lord's nativity was first proclaimed by the angel choir.

...[We] must offer to the Father the unanimity of peace loving sond and daughters.

...The Father in his gracious favour has adopted as his heirs...those that are one with him in feeling and affection. Those who are re-modelled after one pattern must have a spirit like the model.

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace.


Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all..for he himself is the peace between us.

May January 1, 2012
be the birthday of
throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding a New Home

by Matthew Pleva
pencil 3-1/2' x 5"
"HOME!" What a loaded word that is! It is the place where we grew up; the place we raised a family; the place in which we feel safe and loved and comfortable. It conjures images, sensations, aromas and memories. The memories will run from the sublime to the unspeakable - always so powerful by virtue of that loaded word, "home".

This community of contemplative nuns has called the Monastery of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on the grounds of Mount St. Alphonsus their home since 1957. Talk about a place loaded with memories! As the Mount changes hands at the close of this year we continue to walk the path away from this beloved place toward a new home. It has been a varied path to many places and many disappointments. But now we think we have found a place in which we can establish our contemplative monastic household of God, provide comfort and safety for our sisters, provide space to continue our business making ceremonial capes for the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and allow us to be a praying presence in the local Church. It may surprise you to learn that it is an urban location. But that is where we have been led by God.

At this moment we are exploring how we might obtain this building and carry out a few adaptations for our older sisters. You can well imagine that money plays a part here.

Since networking is so important we have just created a Facebook Page for our monastery. the link is:

Do consider signing up to "follow" our page to keep on top of breaking news from here.

is still up and running. But we are developing a new one which will have the address

In the meantime we depend on your prayers for the success of our new adventure. We hope to be able to move by the end of April. We have community elections in January and two of our sisters will attend the General Assembly of our Order in May. Much lies ahead of us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Memories of Christmas

Chapel Infant Jesus 2011
Hummel Bisque

Since the days of our foundress, Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa, there has been a Christmas tradition in our Order of displaying a large baby Jesus figure in a cradle. Her monastery in Foggia, Italy has an infant Jesus figure dressed in clothes that are said to have been made by her own hands.  We continue that tradition and have this Infant Jesus under our tree. This Bambino is larger than most baby dolls, at least two feet in length. But the infant above is much smaller and brings it own story. This year it rests on a small round-topped table placed in front of the ambo in our chapel.

The little baby Jesus figurine is about five inches in length. It has been in my possession for fifty years and followed me to the monastery. It was a gift from a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, NY, Sr. Mary Corita Hawthorn, CSJ. I was a public school girl who attended her 8th grade Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (aka CCD) class on Wednesday afternoons during 'released time' from public school. Yes, we were permitted to leave school at 2pm Wednesday afternoons to walk to the local Catholic school, if our parents wished it, for religious instuction. Sister and I struck up a frienship that lasted until 2010 when she passed on to her great reward. I think I was a real curiosity to her because even though the product of public education and non-church-going parents, I passed the exams for admission into the finest of Brooklyn Catholic high schools for girls, a flagship high school of her congregation. Some time during my high school years she presented me with this baby Jesus as a Christmas gift.

Being half German I fully appreciated the artistry and value of this Hummel figurine. On the back of the figure the Hummel name has been molded into the bisque. There is the familiar Hummel logo of the "vee" with the bumble bee above it and the word "Germany" stamped in ink on the back also. Unlike most other Hummel figures this one is not multi-colored but very subdued in light brown and biege. The back also has two holes which would allow for the figure to be hung on a wall.

I remember that it took me a few years of prowling around the post-Christmas sales in New York City department stores to find a cradle to fit this babe. This little one, just perfect in its construction of twigs delicately nailed together, has been carefully re-glued a number of times. But it survives.

These last few days I have searched the internet to find the market value of this piece. None of the Hummel price lists I have found included this exact piece. Maybe someone out there will know more about this. No matter what monetary value may be revealed, this Bambino is priceless to me. It speaks of Jesus in such a sweet voice and speaks of an old and dear friend who reached out to a student to encourage, to reassure and to teach the faith.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Community Christmas Letter

From Your Redemptoristine

Advent 2011

We come to you this Advent in the posture of Naomi and Ruth, Mary and Joseph: standing together at the crossroads journeying to a new home: Bethlehem.

Both couples were living in a time of mystery.  Naomi, a widow, decided to return to her native land, Bethlehem, and her daughter-in-law Ruth joins her saying, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  And it can be imagined that as Mary and Joseph journeyed together in a time of expectant wonder to be registered in Bethlehem they said similar words to each other.    And we, Redemptoristines in Esopus, echo that sentiment.  

We began the New Year with a visit from the new Redemptorist Provincial of the Baltimore Province, Rev. Kevin Moley and his Council. They came to inform us about the decision made by their Chapter to end Redemptorist ministries at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus come January of 2012.  This startling news held ramifications for us as we were told the whole property would be leased out and we would have to move to a new location next Spring.    Thus our search began.

Along the way we have been helped by many generous people with advice and leads to houses and convents in the Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts area.  We even looked into a place in West Virginia!  Most of the places we visited, either on the Internet or in person, were not suitable for a monastery.  Most old convents sit on small plots of land overshadowed by other buildings.  They tend to be in disrepair and in need of renovation to permit our sisters to age gracefully within the monastery and for all of us to live fully our contemplative life. And even the luxury houses we investigated did not have the right configuration for a chapel, bedrooms, workspace, library, community room and offices, not to mention that they were outside our financial resources.  

We do have hope and faith, expectant wonder, trusting that God is journeying with us in some mysterious way to our new home; a monastery where we can continue to live together our life of adoration, praise and intercession. 

This has been a bittersweet year of last times: the last time for the celebration of our Triduum in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in this monastery; the last barbeque on the patio, the last beautiful autumn colors on the trees of this magnificent property, the last stroll down to the Hudson River, the last celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas…  

Other news:

We were blessed to be able to care for our Sr. Peg at home, with the help of the wonderful people of Hospice, during her final months.  Sister died peacefully on February 21, 2011, with the community surrounding her with love and prayers.  

We participated in three programs of the Metropolitan Association of Contemplative Communities this year: The Effects of Modern Technology on Contemplative Religious Life with Sr. Lynn Levo, CSJ; The Implementation of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal: A Moment of Recognitio! with Sr. Sandra DeMasi, SSJ and Msgr. Richard Groncki; and Women Working for Peace with United Nations NGO Sr. Margaret Mayce, OP.

Our fifteen lay Associates met regularly on the second Sunday of the month for input concerning our charism, to deepen their prayer life and support one another in order to follow the way of Jesus, making the redeeming love of God present in their daily lives.

We were blessed to have Fr. Ronald McAinsh, CSsR Provincial from the London Province, as our Retreat Director. His timely reflections were on “Transitions: Physical, Generational, Emotional and Spiritual.” 

We mourn the loss this year of Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Opptiz who made our foundress known throughout the world with his book, The Mystic Who Remembered: The Life and Message of Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa OSsR.  We published this popular book a number of years ago and next year we plan to publish a third run.  

On December 7, 1957 six Redemptoristines came from Canada to begin the first foundation of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer in the United States in Esopus.  This December 7th, to celebrate our 54th year we invite the local religious and lay Associates for a Vigil Service for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as a way of thanking them for their friendship and prayerful support throughout the years. 

As we journey through this time of Advent, and as our Christmas gift, you and your loved ones will have a special remembrance in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass December 16th to 24th during our Novena before Christmas.   On those evenings after Vespers we extinguish all the lights and pray by the glow of the Advent wreath for your intentions with these words:

‘Adore, oh my soul, in the bosom of Mary,
the only begotten Son of God,
who became man for love of you.’

In the coming months, when we have made our definitive plans, we will let you know our new address and contact information.  In the meantime, if you wish to make a donation to help us in the moving process and making our new monastery handicapped accessible, we would greatly appreciate your gift.

May the Prince of Peace be your companion on the journey of life,
and grant you joy and blessings now and always,  
Love and prayers, Your Redemptoristine Sisters

Redemptoristine Nuns of New York
P.O. Box 220
Esopus, New York 12429-0220


Sisters Moira, Mary Anne, Maria Linda, Mary Jane,
Paula, Mary, Maria Paz, Lydia, Hildegard

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Our Immaculate Conception Vigil Office - A Love Fest

Last night's celebration of the Vigil Office for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was a lovely and very moving affair. So many of our friends gathered with us to honor our Mother Mary. So many came to express solidarity with us as we walk our current path toward a new location. Before calling us to prayer Sr. Paula, our Prioress shared these words of remembrance and gratitude.

Good evening everyone!  And thank you for joining us.  This evening marks a special anniversary for us—54 years ago six weary young Sisters arrived from Canada to begin this monastery in Esopus. The big bells of Mount Saint Alphonsus rang out as the two cars carrying the foundresses began the long drive in.  We came to call those bells the “happy bells”.  Whenever we heard them over the years we knew something special was happening.  The bells were still sounding as the Sisters climbed the front steps of the Mount to attend solemn Benediction in the Mount’s chapel.  At that time the chapel was filled with handsome young seminarians, eager to welcome their Sisters, the Steens. 
So much has happened since that auspicious day.  So many precious memories for which we are grateful.  Three of those ‘young Sisters’ have gone home to God, after a good long life:  Sr. Mary Bridget who died at our monastery in New South Wales, Australia; Sr. Mary Catherine and Sr. Peg, in our cemetery here—all awaiting the final Resurrection.  Two of those Sisters are still with us, continuing to “age in place”.  We leave it to you to guess who they are!
Tonight we remember too the many women, true God-seekers, who shared life with us for longer or shorter periods in those 54 years. We cherish our alumnae.
And we cherish you, our friends with us tonight, and all those who could not come, who have supported and enriched our lives over the years.  The Redemptorists, the Marists, the Benedictines, monks of Holy Cross, Sisters of St. Ursula, Dominicans, Franciscans, Christian Brothers, Presentation Sisters, Sisters of Christian Charity.  And all our Associates and friends.  This is a time for memories, a time for gratitude.  A very special time too, as it will be the last time we will celebrate this special day in Esopus. 

Tonight as we honor Mary our Mother we celebrate our union in the mystery of the Communion of Saints, and we invoke a special blessing on each one here, and on ourselves as we move into the future.  God bless us all! And thank you!

After prayer we enjoyed the company of our quests and they seemed to relish being with each other, particularly the religious whose ministerial paths have criscrossed through the years. They were also delighted to see a display of photos reflecting the history of the community.
Today we pray to our Mother Mary for the needs of Our Church and our needy world. We ask that her maternal love will be poured out upon the hungry and home, the jobless and the under-employed, the refugees and the undocumented immigrants. May she embrace us all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - The First "Good-bye"

The Redemptoristine Nuns of Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery celebrate today the 54th anniversary of their arrival at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, New York.  Six sisters came from Canada (three US citizens) at the invitation of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorist Congregation of priests and brothers to establish the first American monastery of their contemplative order on property surrounding the major seminary of the congregation. It was December 7, 1957, a time when these sisters were still accustomed to complete enclosure and therefore quite overcome by their entrance into the seminary chapel where they were greeted by all the gathered students and faculty and ushered to the front row to participate in Solemn Benediction. Two sisters still speak of the bishop they saw standing behind the students in the entry foyer. Later, in questioning the Redemptorists about this bishop they learned that no bishop was present. Could it have been the spirit of Bishop John Nepomucene Neumann (1811-1860), Redemptorist Bishop of Philadelphia? They will not know until they reach the other side. On this auspicious note began the long story of close relationship between the Redemptorists and our community of Redemptoristines sharing this park-like environment of 400 acres on the banks of the Hudson River.

Tonight we will celebrate the Vigil Office of Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother in the chapel of our monastery. We have invited the clergy and religious of our area, our lay associates and a few other friends to the first of our efforts to bid farewell to this home and to the people we have come to know so well in this place. Although the location of our new home remains a question we do know that we will be relocating some time in the spring.  

In 2001 we moved into this new building and saw the old monastery go down. We salvaged its cornerstone but made no attempt to open the stone in which, it was said, a box of memorabilia had been placed. A few months ago we thought it about time to do the deed. While quite spoiled by moisture the collection we found reflected the community and the piety of its members. Evidence indicated that individual sisters had placed particular items into the metal box. The collection included a relic of our foundress Maria Celeste Crostarosa, a framed picture of Mother of Perpetual Help, holy cards, scapulars, a crucifix, ten different medals honoring Jesus, Mary and the saints. There were also the remains of a 1958 issue of Perpetual Help Magazine published in Canada and featuring photographs taken inside the enclosure of the Canadian Redemptoristine monastery. Most interesting was a copy of the leaflet given to guests who came to the open-house of the then new monastery from June 19-26, 1960. The sisters say they were exhausted by those days of meeting and greeting and escorting people through the building - a last opportunity for lay people to see the inside of the monastery before the enclosure was officially established.

You will note the strong emphasis on separation and enclosure. Today, as we will do so with joy this evening, we freely mingle with our guests praying with us in chapel, learning our charism as associates, seeking spiritual direction or just entiring into the quite of contemplation in this holy place. 

Tonight we will pray with our friends honoring Mary, a source of strength. We will deepen our collective journey into Advent time. We will enjoy some refreshments afterward in our large gathering space just outside chapel. It will be our pleasure to thank those gathered for their friendship and support. Time marches on and history too with the hand of God beckoning, calling us into the unknown with the promise of divine companionship.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Jesse Tree
Frater Max Schmalzl, CSsR
1850 - 1930
Second Sunday of Advent

A voice cries out in the wilderness,
"Prepare the way of the Lord." In what direction do our preparations move forward? Do they keep us on the surface, just floating on a choppy sea pushing us from one chore after another, from item to another on an ever growing list of 'to dos'? Here is a prayer from Henri Nouwen which may add a couple of stabilizing pontoons to your  fragile vessel bobbing its way through the season.

Lord Jesus,
     Master of both the light and the darkness,
       send your Holy Spirit upon our preaprations
       for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
      seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
      look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
      long for the complete joy of your kingsdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
      seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness,
      yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
                Henri J.M. Nouwen 1932-1996