Mother Rosemary's golden jubilee
Mother Rosemary, congratulations with your golden jubilee! How are you going to celebrate?
My golden jubilee was a very special day that I will always remember. We celebrated with the Eucharist where I renewed my vows after the homily. I chose the readings to correspond to the former feast of the Precious Blood, which was the actual feast of my Solemn Profession. But now with the changes in the liturgy, it was a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart. A friend of ours sent an abundance of roses and lilies so the Church and monastery had flowers everywhere.
I was presented with a hand carved wooden staff by our Munkeby brothers to sustain me in the years ahead. After the Mass we had middag with about 35 invited guests. The Sisters prepared everything and it was lovely and delicious. There were a few kind speeches and we ended with the Office of None. Many gifts and cards assured me of the enormous love we have all received since coming to Norway eleven years ago.
You entered Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts in 1957, why? Fifty years seems a long time in a person’s life, but in the life of the Order it's short. Have you changed much during these years, or are you basically the same person? What about the Order?
I entered the only Cistercian convent of nuns in Wrentham, Mass. in the U.S. when I was nineteen, having finished my second year in college. Now there are five nun's monasteries in America. I learned of this Order because I read Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain as a young teenager and was taken by the totality of the ideals he presented. I was at the time very opposed to becoming a nun but knew that this would be the way, if ever God could change my mind and spirit. And He did within a couple of years! Then the desire to follow Him on this path was so strong I could wait no longer. It has not been easy at times but it has been overwhelmingly fulfilling beyond all I could have imagined. I have never been tempted to turn away from this vocation which has become ever dearer to me as I have come to experience the meaning and purpose of Christ's gift. The fifty three years since my entrance day seem in
retrospect to have gone very quickly. Yes, in many ways I am still the rebellious, opinionated extrovert I was then. However, the years have changed and molded me in many ways. I learned to appreciate the silence and now am happiest when in solitude. Grace and the life we live have helped me to be more balanced and develop the other side of my personality. The Eucharist and divine office prayed seven times a day in choir plus the opportunities for quiet prayer have nourished me with the riches of our faith and the words of Scripture. These are a source of tremendous joy to me. Yes, our Order has changed much in the last 50 years. In my opinion all the changes have led to deeper authenticity, less rigidity and more interior freedom. The rules of silence have been greatly mitigated so that we now have the opportunity to be more personally responsible and also to have healthy interpersonal relationships. The scholars in our Order have rediscovered the early Cistercian Fathers and made them available to us and to a wider range of readers. We are less isolated from society and involved in ecumenical endeavors and intra-community conferences, classes and workshops. All this has made us more aware of the needs of society in our times and helped to deepen our intercessory prayer.
Tautra Mariakloster is the second foundation you have participated in, the first was Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Iowa in 1964. How would you compare the two foundations, I mean, are there great differences? You have been the superior for the eleven years Tautra Mariakloster has been in existence. I had the privilege of visiting your monastery some days ago, and was impressed by the huge structure you and your Sisters have been able to create in such a short time span. How was this possible?
The monastery on Tautra has been a tremendous experience for all of us who have participated in its development and building. It is an example of how things have changed in our Order. Being one of the twelve who were sent on the foundation of Our Lady of the Mississippi was totally different than coming to Tautra. The former was just about the time of Vatican II, but we were spared an exposure that was too instantaneous and for which many were unprepared. Because of our enclosure ours was a much more gradual learning process. Consequently very few vocations were lost and we slowly became informed of the changes and challenges that swept through the Church. At that time in 1964 we were not involved on the level of planning, weighing pros and cons and making decisions. So coming to Tautra has been a real growth period for each one of us, as we basically made all the decisions for the new monastery by consensus in accord with our new Constitutions and the norms that had by then been put in place by the Church and our Order. At present our two monasteries are very similar in direction, spirit and desires but it seems to me we are more immersed in the concerns and interests of our near neighbors, guests and retreatants. How did we build the monastery on Tautra?
I am blessed to live with a quite remarkable group of eight Sisters who are well educated, articulate and have strong opinions. But they are also deeply committed to following the Spirit. We thank God for one another, our health, deep joy and resiliency, for the uniqueness of each
one’s gifts and also our idiosyncrasies that invite us to go beyond our limits and self-centeredness. Foremost among those who encouraged and sustained all of us during the years of building are our Sisters at Our Lady of the Mississippi, who made every sacrifice to send us to Norway and to make sure we lacked nothing necessary for the foundation. Then we are grateful to all who contributed by prayer and effort to the construction of the monastery, as well as all the workers, the volunteers and guests who have come to live, pray and help us. I would venture to say that no monastery could have a more faithful and self sacrificing Support Group than we have. We could not have persevered without them. The diocese of Trondheim bought the property for us. More financial assistance came from countless donations from all over the world and especially from our own Cistercian monasteries and the German Catholic church as well the former bishop of Nidaros, Finn Wagle and all the Lutheran parishes who have had collections more than once to help us with the costs of building. These are the people who built Tautra. We are the beneficiaries. I know I can speak for all the Sisters when I say that these years have been the most challenging and rewarding of our lives and the ones for which we are most grateful. Norway and Tautra are definitely my home now and I marvel at the immense favors the Father has bestowed on us. I can never be grateful enough for the vocation Our Lord chose for me and for all through whom He has revealed His Love.