It likely passed unnoticed, but last Wednesday marked a Dominican anniversary. As of November 27th, it is now fourteen years since ten Dominican nuns journeyed to the mountains of southwest British Columbia to found a new monastic community. Nestled in the Tantalus Mountain Range along the Squamish River, Queen of Peace Monastery was completed just a year and a half ago, and is home to fifteen contemplative Dominicans nuns, twelve of whom are fully professed.
A twenty-five minute drive from the nearest town, this community is truly set apart. Their land is shared by bears and cougars, and the rushing creek which can be heard from the monastery is filled with salmon. Glaciated mountain peaks are framed by the windows of the chapel, and a farm truck sits in the driveway.
Each day in the monastery brings a schedule rooted in the rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours. Five times a day, the community gathers in the chapel to recite the psalms, celebrate Mass, and pray the rosary. In the designated times for manual and intellectual labor, the nuns devote themselves to the indoor and outdoor maintenance of the monastery, print religious cards, make soap, study, produce sculptures and icons, write, and cultivate a garden.
Attached to the monastery is a guest house, where visitors are warmly welcomed. The community considers extending hospitality an important part of their mission, as they offer people in the area an opportunity to step away from busy schedules and encounter that special witness which only contemplative communities can provide to the world. When visitors accept this invitation and make the drive up the pristine Squamish River Valley, they are given an opportunity to hear the voice of God in both the surrounding wilderness and in the prayer of the nuns.
When the original ten, arriving from various Dominican monasteries in the States, first came to this area, they filled a sorely-felt void. The Squamish region had hitherto been home to no religious communities. However, the nuns’ arrival has not only brought their own presence to the area, but has instigated the formation of nearby lay Dominican groups.
Queen of Peace Monastery is a hidden place, the kind of place that you would only find if you were looking for it. Many people pass the exit off the highway which leads up the river valley to the nuns’ home, and most of them never know what they have missed. But whether they know it or not, on the other side of the steep ridgeline to the west of the highway, there is a little lodging where the channel of communication between God and man is kept wide open, where bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood, and where souls are constantly praying for you and me.
Image: The Refectory, Queen of Peace Monastery