6/13/12 | 815 views
In All They Do, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Focus on Jesus
Sitting at a table in the common area of the monastery of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a gentle, reserved sister spoke in a soft voice to retell part of her vocation story.
“I was in first or second grade and two of my friends told me, ‘Jesus is going to be in church tomorrow,’” recalled Sister Mary Sygne, O.S.S.
She told of her excitement as she thought, “I’m going to meet Jesus!”
When she arrived at church the next day, she said, “I didn’t see anybody.”
With a tone that hinted the childlike awe she felt then continues into the present day, she said, “But I saw the monstrance and I just felt so at peace and right at home.”
Sister Mary Sygne is one of six in the contemplative community of the Religious of the Order of the Blessed Sacrament and of Our Lady at the Scarsdale monastery. They are also known as Sacramentine Nuns.
A seventh sister now resides at Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry.
The sisters, who celebrated their 100th anniversary in the archdiocese at a Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers April 21, are perpetual Eucharistic adorers. Their motto is: “To love for those who do not love; to adore for those who do not adore; to praise for those who blaspheme.” From the moment they rise for morning prayers, through evening vespers, the sisters hold adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in their monastery chapel.
In the past, adoration was offered 24 hours a day at the monastery. But with a smaller number of religious, that is no longer feasible. Sister Marie Aimee, O.S.S., another sister there, said that although 24-hour adoration is no longer offered, “We unite ourselves with our sisters in France and Belgium in a union of prayers.” (The sisters also have a house in Conway, Mich.)
The monastery is just a quick turn away from Central Avenue, a main street lined with stores and businesses that stretches from Yonkers to White Plains. The seven acres on which the monastery sits feels in stark contrast to the hectic world surrounding it.
The bright and airy architecture lends a joyful quality to the grounds, and a quiet peacefulness fills the monastery. “Silence is an aid to prayer,” Sister Mary Angela said. However, the prayerful silence should not be confused with loneliness. Of her experience feeling the presence of the Lord as she prays before the Blessed Sacrament, Sister Mary Angela said, “I wish everybody could feel that.”
The order was founded in Marseilles, France, in the 17th century, in response to the Protestant denial of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and to practices of the Jansenists. Many of the early sisters were martyred for their beliefs during the French Revolution. Paintings and other images throughout the simple monastery honor the martyred sisters.
Other paintings and statues focus on the childhood of Jesus, also known as the hidden life of Jesus, and the Eucharist.
Sister Mary Angela, O.S.S., speaking of the cloistered nature of the sisters, said, “Our life also should be a hidden life, like Jesus.’”
After the Second Vatican Council, there were changes to cloistered life—in particular the removal of grills separating the sisters from visitors, and the ability of the sisters to leave the premises for Mass and religious events, and food shopping and doctors visits. However, the devotion to prayer and the focus on contemplation was not lost.
Sister Mary Francis Blackmore, O.S.S., said with a joyful laugh, “When I’m sitting here, I see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” The comment is not without merit. From her usual seat in the brightly lighted monastery chapel, Sister Mary Francis can see the face of Jesus—quite literally—in the glass of the monstrance that holds the Eucharist. It is the reflection of the Lord’s face from a nearby stained-glass window.
Although Eucharistic adoration is the main ministry of the sisters, they are involved in other works as well. They are responsible for packaging hosts and create prayer cards for special intentions.
Sister Mary Linda, O.S.S., spends hours each day packaging hosts for 140 parishes, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Most of the orders come from within the archdiocese, but the sisters also fill others from dioceses in New Jersey and Connecticut, and one as far away as Guam.
In a small room towards the back of the monastery, Sister Mary Linda packs the hosts. “I think about the parishes I’m packing for,” Sister Mary Linda said. “Usually when I’m packing, I’m praying for the people in that parish.”
That dedication to a life of prayer keeps the sisters connected to the world. “I don’t really feel closed off,” Sister Mary Linda said. “I think we are more connected to the world than separated.”
Sister Marie Aimee, O.S.S., a skilled artist and calligrapher, personally creates the sisters’ prayer intention cards. She creates the cards for prayer requests for birthdays, anniversaries, jubilees, and for the sick and deceased.
There is also space on the monastery grounds for those who wish to attend private retreats. A small cottage holds two bedrooms that people can use to spend time with the sisters in prayer and enjoy the grounds.
Groups also visit the monastery for Holy Hour each month, Sister Mary Sygne said. She said that the sisters also receive many prayer requests through phone calls and cards. The intentions are kept in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
“I hope people know that we are here, praying for them,” she said.
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