Seeing life behind the door at convents, monasteries

Dominican Sister John Mary Fleming talks to visitors at her order's convent in Washington. (CNS/Julie Asher)

Dominican Sister John Mary Fleming talks to visitors at her order’s convent in Washington. (CNS/Julie Asher)

To help lay Catholics gain a deeper understanding of religious life, priests, brothers and women religious across the U.S. opened their convents, monasteries, abbeys and religious houses to the public a week ago.

More than 150 communities welcomed visitors Feb. 8 for what was the first of three major events planned for 2015 in observance of the Year of Consecrated Life, announced last year by Pope Francis. The special year began last November and will end Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life.

The open house event was strongly supported and promoted by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

In a posting on their Facebook page, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati deemed the open house at their Mount St. Joseph motherhouse “a huge success!” More than 450 family and friends “filled our home to learn more about the Sisters of Charity community and religious life today.” The three-hour event included guided tours, opportunities to interact with the sisters and associates, children’s activities and musical performances.

At the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, visitors got a taste of Dominican life by meeting the friars, taking guided tours of their house and joining them in sung community prayer. A couple of blocks away others were welcomed to the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia’s convent. After visiting the order’s motherhouse in Nashville, Tennessee, Zoe, a fourth-grader from St. Henry’s School, said: “I learned here that a lot of the sisters work together. They ring a bell to call them to prayer. … They take turns doing things so that one person doesn’t just have to do it. It’s like a big house for a big family.” This issue of the Tennesee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper, had full coverage of the open house on page 11..

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity held numerous open houses at their convents in seven states: Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

“It was such a wonderful pleasure to work with religious sisters and brothers across the country to open their doors to families of the Catholic faithful and introduce them to religious life,” said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life and chairperson of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

In a statement released by the council, she noted that the next events will be a day of service and a day of prayer.

consecratedlifelogo“We are so happy that religious across the country joined in this first ever nationwide initiative and saw life behind the convent door,” added Mother Agnes.

For its part, the council, with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, launched a nationwide promotion campaign that included online advertising, social media, press releases, and an interactive open house map that listed its member communities that participated. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations developed and promoted the “Days with Religious” initiatives.

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