Construction has begun at last!
We were delighted on St Patrick's Day to welcome Prior Dariusz, O.Cist., of Queen of the Fjords Monastery in Lofoten, who was on his way to the Chrism Mass in Trondheim. Three monks of the Order of Cîteaux opened this monastery on Sept. 5, 2004 on the largest island in Lofoten, which is a 12 1/2 hour drive north from Tautra. Lofoten is known as the "Pearl of Norway" while Tautra is called the "Pearl of the Trondheim Fjord." The monks are involved in pastoral work for their parish, which is 170 km (102 miles) long with 60 Catholics amid a population of 11,000. Frosta has a population of 2400, of which only 2 are Catholics besides the nuns. The three monks live an essentially cloistered life, except when they go out fishing. Father Dariusz belongs to a monastery of 20 monks in Poland. He comes to Norway after 13 years of close association with the Missionaries of Charity in Armenia, Albania and India. His experience at Hindu temples has affirmed his conviction that there is only One God. In the same way, we hope for a long and happy association between our two communities in our common conviction that there is only one Cistercian Order. The next morning, vigil of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, was cold, crisp and clear. At 7 a.m. as we began preparations for Lauds, the sound of a big machine digging into the site of the new monastery reached us in the chapel. It was music to our ears! Finally, after reducing the area to 1917 m2 and simplifying the construction, applying to the kommune for permission to begin for the third time, and holding our breath while our project leader bargained the contract into range, mountains of dirt were beginning to be moved on Tautra. At the end of the fifth week of Lent, it was a foretaste of the Resurrection and we couldn’t help singing Alleluia! a little earlier than liturgically called for. NCC Construction is the total contractor for the new monastery. They count on 14 months' building time, and plan to have the complex finished in June 2006. We hope to be able to celebrate Easter 2006 in the new church. Last summer we realized we would not only have to simplify the plans, but also increase the total budget. The budget now stands at 48.5 million kroner (about 8 million dollars), of which we still lack 9.6 million kroner (1.6 million dollars). We move ahead in faith, trusting that God will inspire more benefactors when they see that building has actually begun. We are so grateful for all your support in big and small ways, especially encouragement by your prayers. We are delighted to be able to use Norwegian stone (Ottaskifer) which is a kind of slate with
iron oxide which increases in rust color over time. The stone will be hung in large overlapping panels on all the outer walls of the building. Architect Jan Olav Jensen has designed a glass roof for the church, which will have room for 18 sisters and 75 guests. The glass will be over 4 layers of crisscross wood beams which will filter the light and give a lot of interplay between light and shadow. From inside the church when you look up, it will be like being inside a basket. Project leader Atle Romstad says it will remind people of the greenhouses on Frosta, and hopes we will be a spiritual greenhouse on Tautra. Terryl Kinder, an expert on Cistercian architecture, theorizes that Cistercians didn’t like a lot of ornamentation in their churches because they used God’s light as decoration. We hope to continue the tradition by letting God illumine the new church with Tautra’s special light. It is obvious that NCC has built buildings before. The first thing they had to do was set up offices for the building chiefs and the crew. One worker built a base on which the prefabricated units would be placed. We were told that these units would arrive at noon on the third day of work. At 11:58, three large trailers rumbled across the bridge and up our road to the site. Within 15 minutes, the first offices had been lifted by crane and set in place. If this beginning is any indication of the project going like clockwork, we have every reason to believe NCC will be able to hold to the schedule. Of course the real church of Tautra is the community, which like anything that has to do with human nature, is much more difficult to build. The 8 of us made our novitiates in 4 different monasteries. The process of having to reach consensus on almost every aspect of the building plans has forced us to practice really listening to one another, accept and respect our extremely different ways of expressing the same values, and of being ready to give up personal dreams for the new monastery so we can move forward together. It has been said that God loved the world so much that he didn’t send a committee. Designing anything with a group of 8 very different women is a challenge to any community. The beauty of Cistercian life is not that we all agree, but that God creates a unity out of all our different preferences. As one of us pointed out, we will see many parallels between the physical building being raised and our life as a community. First the workers took off the top layer of grass and topsoil. Only then could they dig deeper and remove a second and third layer so the site will be levelled evenly. Otherwise there would be deep holes pockmarking the site and it would be impossible to pour a solid foundation. In the same way, in community life we try to wait for each other so that we move deeper at the same time. We don’t dig holes as individuals, even in our search for God. We grow as a community by going deeper into the heart of God together. Comings and Goings
In January we had the pleasure of welcoming Srs Herovima and Vitalia, orthodox nuns from Varatec Monastery in Romania, for a week of learning how to make soap. Their monastery has 450 nuns and they are looking for additional industries to keep them all busy. Though we had a few communication problems at first since we had no common language except a little English (we got some translation help from our parish priest in Levanger who is Romanian), these sisters were very smart and needed the process to be explained only once. In February, Mississippi Abbey sent Sr. Anne Elizabeth Sweet to give us classes on St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Sister has a Ph.D. in Scripture from Notre Dame and contributes regularly to journals in the U.S. In this letter, Paul speaks of the "language of the cross." One of us commented that the only way to learn a language is to use it. In our Cistercian life together we have ample opportunity to practice denying our own will, preferring the good of the other, and supporting one another. This is our daily use of the language of the cross. We needed especially to support each other when Sr Ina left us on Feb. 17. Although God chose her as the instrument by which he would bring Cistercian life back to Tautra, Sr Ina had a strong sense from the beginning that she was preparing the foundation for someone else. She did not feel called to stay on Tautra, but rather called to return to France to help her monastery Laval’s pre-foundation Meymac. Sr Ina left a big hole in our community, and a big hole in each of our hearts. We are very grateful to her for all she has given us on Tautra, especially a solid and deeply spiritual foundation for our liturgy in Norwegian. It takes three of us to fill her shoes as organist, not to mention liturgist, sacristan, chantress and bookkeeper. In March we welcomed Mother Gail for her annual visit. It is always good to reconnect with our motherhouse Mississippi Abbey, though we hope to be able to become autonomous perhaps in about a year. Even before Mother Gail had departed, another Mississippi nun, Sr Maria Elena, arrived to help us for two months. We showed our gratitude by giving her lots of work. She is a wonderful cook and baker, and our taste buds are enjoying the hint of Mexico that has appeared in our meals. As spring and the building progress, we plan to update our website with news and photos. Take a peek at www.tautra.no. Please continue to pray that this project, the first newly built Cistercian monastery in Norway in 800 years, will be to God's honor and the glory of his kingdom. We could never have reached this historic moment without all of you.
With love from your sisters on Tautra