Samantha and her boyfriend Joe, two seniors at Villa Maria College, are walking down Pine Ridge Heritage Boulevard after class on Friday. They make a right turn onto Doat Street and stroll half a mile to find a beautiful old stone monastery on their left. As they pause to examine the building Joe asks the first question:
Joe: What’s that old building doing in the middle of these suburbs? It seems a little out of place.
Samantha: Well, it only seems out of place today. This whole area used to be farmland, you know, and the monastery fit right in back then.
J: A Monastery? You mean there are a bunch of monks in there? Praying and doing monk things?
S: No, silly! This is a monastery for nuns, Dominican nuns to be exact. It is the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary.
J: Oh, well, you can see how I would make the mistake, what with the similarities between monk and monastery . . . but who are these nuns? Dominicans? Are they from the Caribbean?
S: No, no! Dominicans is short for the Order of Preachers, an Order founded in 1216 by St. Dominic. Some of the first Dominicans were nuns in Prouille, France, directly under St. Dominic himself! You could say that the nuns here are actually direct descendants of this original group, because all the Dominican monasteries in America were founded from a French movement in the nineteenth century.
J: So they have been here in Buffalo for two hundred years?
S: Well, not quite. In the nineteenth century there were two nuns movements, one perpetual rosary, the other perpetual adoration, and the monasteries in America are from one or the other of these movements. I suppose it goes without saying which movement the Monastery of Our Lady of the Perpetual Rosary comes from. The perpetual rosary line was brought over here by Mother Rose of Saint Mary, O.P., and this monastery was founded in 1905 by a number of nuns from the Dominican monastery in Union City, New Jersey.
J: Was there a fight? Why did the monastery split up?
S: A fight? Nuns?! No! Founding other monasteries is a normal procedure when one becomes big enough to create another. In fact, when the monastery here was at its peak in the 1950’s it sent eight sisters out to found another monastery in Elmira, New York.
J: Oh, I guess that makes sense. But what do the sisters do in the monastery? Pray the rosary all day?
S: Well, actually the monastery had perpetual adoration and rosary for most of its history. In 2004 they switched to ten hours a day, except for Thursdays when they keep up 24-hour adoration and rosary.
J: Ten hours! That’s still a ton of praying! How many sisters are there?
S: The monastery was founded by five sisters, but right now they have twenty-two, ranging from 27 to 95 years old. And they do more than pray the rosary; they also observe the traditional hours of liturgy, called the Divine Office, throughout the day, singing them in Gregorian chant. A Dominican friar serves as chaplain to the community. He celebrates Mass for them daily (guests are invited to join in the main Church). Outside the hours spent in common prayer, the sisters commit themselves, as good Dominicans, to studying sacred truth. Sometimes this includes reading and translating various works of other Dominicans. In fact, the works of two famous Dominicans, Fr. Servais Pinckaers and Fr. Guy Bedoulle, were translated into English at this monastery! One of the mother superiors also did the calligraphy and musical notation for a four volume Gregorian chant instruction book. And, of course, they also do all the daily tasks and jobs needed to keep a community running like cooking, cleaning, housework, gardening, etc.
J: Wow! They sound pretty busy!
S: They are! But it is a joyful busyness, for they work for the Lord and with each other. And they do have time to recreate together each day to relate, laugh, and discuss the events of the day. The Dominican life is one of happiness, especially in the monastery here!
J: Gee, Samantha, you sure do know a lot about these sisters . . . how did you find out about all of this?
S: Well . . . actually, Joe . . . about our plans for next year . . .
Image: The Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary (Buffalo, NY)
For more information, please visit the Monastery’s website at http://www.opnuns.org/