An order of Benedictine nuns living a life of prayer and care for the elderly on Long Island, New York says it welcomes the apostolic visitation investigating women’s religious institutes.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Benedict start their day at 5:15 a.m. to gather in their chapel, where they pray for half an hour and silently meditate for another 30 minutes. They care for the 43 elderly residents of St. Joseph’s Guest House for an hour, then return to the chapel for morning Mass. Newsday reports that they spend about four hours each day in prayer.
"Something inside you feels you want this," said Sister Matea Mirecka, the superior of the house. "I am very happy and I will never change."
Though some orders have reacted critically to the Vatican’s three-year apostolic visitation to survey the lives of religious sisters in the U.S., the nuns’ superior said they welcomed the inquiry.
"They want to help us," Sr. Mirecka told Newsday. "I will be happy if they come. This is good."
The Sisters of St. Benedict in Long Island are all natives of Poland. They are a traditional order and wear a long black habit.
Sister Bernarda Krajewsak said the habit is “very precious” to the sisters.
“It's a sign to the whole world we belong to Christ. We are the brides of Christ," she told Newsday.
The sisters bathe, dress, medicate and entertain the residents of the adult home. At least one sister is on duty throughout the night and they rarely leave the convent grounds in any case.
Sr. Joachima Mystkowska told Newsday that in her 30 years at the convent the only movie she has gone out to see was The Passion of the Christ, which she saw twice.
The sisters live in obedience to their superior and must ask her if they can write to their families in Poland and get money for postage. She usually says yes.
Mary Gautier, co-author of a new study on religious vocations done by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), told Newsday that people are clearly being attracted to religious life “but apparently not to religious life as it has been practiced in the United States for the last 20 or 30 years" by most orders.
The CARA study finds that though traditional orders make up only 10 percent of nuns in the U.S., they attract half of all new vocations.
The Sisters of St. Benedict have attracted several American-born women as novices but they have either left or have transferred to other orders. Their membership is still young, with many sisters in their thirties.
The 35-year-old Sister Pia Wojtak told Newsday that she loves the time spent in prayer in the chapel.
“You want to spend as much time with your beloved, Jesus Christ himself,” she said.
Fr. Charles Kohli, one of three retired priests from the Diocese of Rockville Centre who lives at the sisters’ Guest House, said the sisters’ prayer makes them “so exquisitely effective with us."