A rare glimpse into the lives of Thailand's Red Nuns

Credit: Alex Proimos via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) filter added.
Credit: Alex Proimos via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) filter added.

.- An American group of cloistered nuns has opened a new monastery to bring their contemplative spirituality to the northeast of Thailand.

“Our contribution to the world’s need is prayer,” Sister Joan Claver O.Ss.R, prioress and founder of the new monastery in Thailand, told CNA.

Sr. Joan has been a professed nun for 63 years.

“We have great admiration for apostolic work like preaching or nursing and family life, but we as Redemptoristine nuns are called to this distinct way of contemplative prayer life,” she explained. “All together we contribute to build a better society and a better world.”

Back in 2011, a few members of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer from St. Louis, Missouri arrived in Thailand to explore whether to plant the seeds of contemplative monastic spirituality in the region.

Now their priory has five members: four nuns and one aspirant.

The Redemptoristine nuns are affectionately known as the Red Nuns because of their traditional deep red habit. They also wear a scapular and a blue choir-mantle with a colored medallion of the Most Holy Redeemer. They wear a belt that includes a 15 decade rosary. The rosary’s medallion is embossed with the emblems of Jesus Christ’s passion.

“We follow a life of prayer in every moment right from the time we wake till rest,” Sister Maria Suphavadi Kamsamran, a Thai Redemptoristine sister, told CNA March 6. “Our meditation ranges from Jesus Christ’s infancy in the crib to the Passion on the Cross and the Holy Eucharist which are our spiritual sources.”

“We are grateful to God and to the Diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima for granting us support in our prayer ministry,” Sister Maria said.

The Red Nuns’ contemplative spirituality has key elements like psalms, prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and silence. The nuns dedicate every moment of their activity in life to prayer from morning to night. Even their daily community chores involve prayer.

The new monastery building has a private chapel, cloister cells for nuns and a refectory. Many parts of the building are not yet fully furnished.

The Diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima granted the nuns 3.2 acres of prime land in the center of the city of Korat, about 136 miles from Bangkok. The diocese and other benefactors helped establish the maiden contemplative monastery in the diocese.

Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisut presided at a thanksgiving Mass for the monastery on Oct. 31, 2015. He blessed the monastery in the presence of Redemptoristine nuns visiting from the U.S., Thai Redemptorist priests and several other religious and lay faithful.

“I want the diocese to be also a focal center of prayer,” Bishop Chusak told CNA.

Bishop Chusak explained that there was a lack of contemplative religious congregations in the diocese. He said every diocese ought to have at least one, and the Red Nuns have filled the void.

The bishop said the monastery will serve as a “beacon of prayer” that will energize the region, bear witness to hope, and bolster prayer life in the region.

Bishop Chusak is also the head of the Thai Catholic bishops’ inter-religious dialogue efforts. He noted that the nation’s majority Buddhist population has great admiration and respect for Catholic pastoral and apostolic ministries in education, social services and charities. These efforts are led by various religious missionary congregations.

“The Buddhists and other faiths here have mainly seen sisters in action, but they will also see sisters who continuously pray,” Bishop Chusak added. “It does not mean that our other religious and consecrated nuns don’t pray.”

“People will get to know our silent contemplative monastic way of life,” the bishop said.

The Redemptoristine nuns were founded by the Italian mystic Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa in 1731 with the support of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist priests. The nuns’ rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1771.  

Pope Francis has approved the beatification of Ven. Maria Celeste Crostarosa. The beatification ceremony is scheduled for June 18.

Tags: Religious Life, Nuns, Thailand

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