A monastery in Beacon is now giving life to two communities of contemplative religious women who have found the living—and praying—arrangement mutually beneficial.
This all began when the Redemptoristine Nuns learned they would have to leave their monastery on the grounds of Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus because the Redemptorist Fathers would soon be selling that property. The sisters moved temporarily to the West Park property of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus but they knew they would have to leave by the end of June 2013.
Needless to say, their search took on more urgency as the deadline neared. They enlisted the assistance of another woman religious who helps religious communities plan their futures. Last March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, they began a novena to St. Joseph “to help us find a new home,” the Redemptoristine Nuns wrote in a letter to their friends and supporters this past Advent.
Last April, the Redemptoristine Nuns found a Lutheran-run assisted living facility in Mount Vernon to care for three of their sisters.
That same month, the other six Redemptoristines received an answer to their prayers for a place where they could live together. Their prioress, Sister Moira Quinn, O.Ss.R., went to visit the Carmel of the Incarnation in Beacon. At that point, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns were discerning how best to use the extra space available in their monastery. Recent deaths had left their community with 16 members and plenty of extra rooms. They had offered other communities a place for retreats and short stays, but had begun to think about seeking a more permanent solution, said Sister Marjorie Robinson, O.C.D., their prioress.
The day Sister Moira visited, the Carmelites were having a community meeting. One by one the other sisters came up to Sister Marjorie with essentially the same question: “Can’t we do something for the Redemptoristines?”
The two religious communities had known each other for a long time. For some 45 years, they have been members of the Metropolitan Association of Contemplative Communities. Having a common background as contemplatives was key, both prioresses said.
When the Carmelites unanimously extended an offer to have the Redemptoristines come to live permanently at the Beacon monastery, it was accepted in one day.
Sister Marjorie described the process “as a moment of grace.”
“How women of faith respond in faith when there is a need,” she explained.
Sister Moira said, “I found that so overwhelming that the Spirit was working so fervently in them.”
The monastery had enough room to accommodate an office for the Redemptoristine prioress, work space for the sisters, a community room and living quarters for each sister.
Since both the Carmelites and Redemptoristines are contemplative communities, much of their daily life revolves around prayer. Coming to a monastery where morning Mass was offered each day by priest chaplains and communal prayer takes place four times a day “was a gift from heaven,” Sister Moira said.
The day the Redemptoristine Nuns moved in last June “was like coming home,” she added. To aid in that feeling, the Redemptoristines have brought some of their religious artwork and statuary that has been tastefully incorporated into the Beacon monastery. “That’s been a big accomplishment,” Sister Marjorie said.
An icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help now offers an inviting welcome to the chapel. A set of wooden Stations of the Cross was recently placed. And a stained-glass window of Redemptoristine founder, Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa, is awaiting installation.
Though the two religious communities retain their own charisms and are not merged or formally united in any canonical way, their life of prayer is very compatible, both prioresses said. It is carried out in a peaceful setting on 35 wooded acres off Hiddenbrooke Drive. Within view on the landscape are a field and a pond.
As the communities become aware of differences, such as when silence or dedicated prayer times are observed in the respective areas of the house, each is “extra respectful of the silence in the house, so as not to disturb anything,” Sister Moira said.
The two groups also share responsibility for preparing meals and keeping the monastery clean and tidy, with more hands making a lighter workload, Sister Marjorie said.
The Beacon monastery, now known as Incarnation Monastery, is a place where mature women religious are living out their vocations in a grace-filled way that offers hope and a shining example for others. They are walking together by faith and letting God fill in the details.
“It makes us a more effective presence for the larger community, for the Church,” Sister Marjorie said.