The Life of a Millennial Nun

La vita della maggior parte dei millennial ruota attorno ai social, gli studi e il lavoro. Tuttavia, ci sono giovani che scelgono una vita completamente diversa, come questa suora di clausura di un monastero nel New Jersey. L’abbiamo intervistata per farci raccontare come ha riconosciuto la vocazione e com’è la sua giornata tipo.

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Molly Malcolm

Speaker (American accent)

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The nineteen current members of the monastery.

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Life for a typical American millennial involves almost constant engagement in modern culture, fashion, and social media. But in the city of Summit in New Jersey, there is an American millennial who has a very different type of life. Every morning, she wakes up before dawn, puts on a white habit and a black veil, and then engages in a day of prayer, work, and recreation. Her name is Sister Mary Veronica and she is one of nineteen Dominican nuns who live at the Dominican monastery in Summit.

silence and contemplation

Founded in the early 13th century in France by St. Dominic, the Dominican Order is made up of thousands of friars, nuns, sisters, and lay people, all over the world. Nuns, like sister Mary Veronica, are cloistered, meaning that they rarely leave the monastery, and they spend most of their lives in silent prayer and contemplation. They also offer spiritual counsel and other assistance to people in their community, and participate in the daily operation of the monastery; sister Mary Veronica manages her monastery’s finances, for example, and she and the other nuns take turns preparing meals. 

an early calling

Sister Mary Veronica was thirteen when she knew she wanted to become a nun. Ten years later, at the age of twenty-three, she joined the Dominican Order, and six years after that, she made a lifelong commitment by professing solemn vows —the final stage in the process of becoming a Dominican nun.

Sister Mary Veronica

Sister Mary Veronica is a Dominican nun in New Jersey. Now aged thirty-three, her life is not like that of most Americans her age. She doesn’t have a cell phone, never watches television, and only watches a movie with the other nuns once a month. As a nun, her main job is to pray. In addition to that, she’s responsible for the monastery finances. She will never get married, have children, or go on vacation, but she says she is living the life that she wants to live. We spoke to Sister Mary Veronica, who began by telling us how she became a nun:

Sister Mary Veronica (American accent): My family is Catholic, I was grown Catholic. Going to Catholic school, I actually did have some nuns who were teaching me, and I think from there I kind of got the idea that I wanted to be a nun, which was surprising to most of my family because that wasn’t something that they expected or had encouraged much at all growing up. So, I came up with it on my own. I was thirteen when I first thought about it. And then it took me a while to kind of figure out what sort of nun I wanted to be, because you can’t just be a generic nun, you have to pick an order, and I didn’t really have a good idea of what I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to nurse. And then I found the Dominicans...

NO REGRETS

Sister Mary Veronica is well aware of what she appears to be missing out on, but she has never regretted her decision.

Sister Mary Veronica:  I can’t say that I didn’t think about those things a lot too but really, when it came down to it, I think this is what God wants me to do, and I think I should trust God to follow through on it, and I think it will work out for me. It’s not that I’m not conscious that these possibilities were open to me, but it’s clear that it’s an exclusive choice and I’m happy the way it came out.

DAILY LIFE

She then describes her typical day.

Sister Mary Veronica: Most days, the rising bell goes off at 5.20[am]. And then so, from 5.20 to 5.55, we have time to eat breakfast, get dressed, whatever. At 5.55, we have the first of our scheduled prayer times for the day. So the whole community, which is right now nineteen of us, we come into the chapel and we sing hymns and psalms, and read some readings from Scripture. Then, we have about forty-five minutes of private prayer, until 7.30, when we have mass. And that’s when the day starts. So I usually go to my office, I check my email, I see what bills I have to pay. If people bring donations in, I’m responsible for sorting a lot of those and keeping what we need and giving away what we don’t. We have a dog, and I also take care of the dog, with the help of the other sisters. So, I usually feed her breakfast and take her for a walk at that time.  And then we have another fifteen minutes of prayer, and we all eat dinner together after that. And while we eat dinner, we listen to some recorded lectures.  

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

At the monastery they don’t do much talking, but they do have some time for fun. 

Sister Mary Veronica: For most of the day, we’re quiet. We don’t speak to each other unless we have to. But at recreation, this is the time for conversation, or some of the younger sisters will go outside and play some games, sports. If it’s a rainy day, maybe some board games inside, and also just, you know, odds and ends. And then from 1.30 to 3 o’clock, we have what’s called profound silence. It’s a time for being alone, reading, people can take a nap, which is nice on the nights that we’re up in the middle of the night for adoration. And at 3 o’clock, we have another block of communal prayer, which is followed by a little bit of private prayer until 3.45, another period of work, followed by more communal prayer in the chapel, until 6, when we have supper, during which again, we’re reading a book or something. And then we have a period of private study after that. Studying theology is really important to Dominicans. The idea is that we need to nourish our intellectual life to have a good prayer life. And then we have another period of recreation for about forty-five minutes, and then we go back to the chapel again. And then we go to bed at 9 o’clock. 

social challenges

She then described the most challenging aspect of monastery life.

Sister Mary Veronica: Probably just the aspect of community life is the hardest thing. You move in and there’s nineteen other people here, and getting used to the schedule is not actually not that difficult. But the day in and day out of living with people and getting on with people, you don’t have the option of saying, “Well, I’m annoyed with you right now. I’ll just go find someone else,” because there is nobody else.

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