Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Benedictine Abbey Offers Hospitality

What a pleasure it was to once again sit down and chat with Mother Dolores Hart!  The occasion was her visit to Woodside where she was a guest speaker at the Communion-breakfast hosted by Corpus Christi parish.
Several years ago, Father Frank Mann, my wife Sheila and I drove up to Bethlehem, Conn., where Mother Dolores lives in Regina Laudis Abbey. It’s about a two-hour ride from Brooklyn.  Visitors are rewarded with a restful, peaceful place that offers scenic views of the Berkshires.
To say that the place is austere is an understatement, although it’s certainly comfortable enough.  The chapel is beautiful, although I’m not sure that the cloistered sisters appreciate it at 2 a.m. each morning when they gather for Matins prayers.
Mother Dolores was generous with her time, spending about four hours with the three us as Father Mann took notes for a story and I snapped away with my digital Nikon. At that time, we spoke through a grill, a grating which separates the sisters from the public.
Last weekend, I had a more up-close encounter with the former movie star as we sat in the living room of the rectory.  Her stunning deep blue eyes belie her celebrity status. Despite being in her 70s and suffering from neuropathy, she still knew how to make an entrance and take a bow as she played to the SRO crowd that came out to see her in Queens.
It’s evident that she enjoys being with people but it’s also certain how much she loves the abbey.  She spoke lovingly of the 38 sisters who call Regina Laudis home and she takes listeners on a visual tour of the  30 acres of land that opened as a place of prayer for women religious in 1947.
The sisters live as self sufficiently as they can.  They farm the land and eat the vegetables they grow.  It’s startling but not unusual to see a sister in full traditional garb driving a tractor across a field.
The farm animals include sheep and pigs.
There is also the blacksmith barn, pottery shop, dairy farm, and the gift shop where you can purchase home-made goods.
The supply of crafts and food items usually includes pottery, candles, woven and knitted goods, wool from their sheep, granola, iron work hand-forged at the abbey’s blacksmith shop, cheese, honey, vinegar, herbs for seasonings, hot mustard, as well as cards, books, medals and other religious art objects.  All sales, of course, go toward the support of the sisters’ contemplative lifestyle.
The highlight of the tour, as far as Mother Dolores is concerned, is the open-air theater, where summer productions are performed for public view.
Given the age of the monastery, it’s not surprising that repairs need to be made.  As a matter of fact, the local fire dept. recently told the sisters that they will have to bring many of the buildings up to code which will cost quite a bit of money.  In response they have begun their New Horizons program to raise the necessary funds.
The sisters also offer hospitality to retreatants in line with the charism of the Order of St. Benedict to which they belong.
A visit to Regina Laudis is spiritually rewarding. Its lifestyle is inspirational. To learn more about the abbey, go to www.reginalaudis.com.

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