March 2009

Tautra Mariakloster’s 10th anniversary!

It’s hard to believe we Cistercians have already been back on Tautra for 10 years! March 25, 1999, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, some 200 people joined the 7 foundresses in a tent to celebrate the opening Mass for the new monastery, and to bless the bell which would from that day on call the sisters to prayer 7 times a day. Bishop Georg Müller said in his homily: "At the threshold of the new millennium, we are gathered on Tautra to dedicate Tautra Mariakloster. Our thoughts go back to this same day in 1207 when the monastery Sancta Maria de Tuta Insula was consecrated. Time stands still for a moment, and the timeless mystery is revealed: Jesus Christ is the alpha and the omega, to him belongs time and eternity. The church and religious life are called to give witness to this mystery."

March 25, 2009 was also a special day for us because Sr Anne Elizabeth Sweet transfered her stability to Tautra during our celebration of the Eucharist. Annie first came to Tautra in 2005 to give us classes on St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. She has a doctorate in scripture from Notre Dame, and has now learned enough Norwegian to be able to share her insights on our website. Annie fell in love with Tautra, and after returning here in 2006, has received many signs from God that he is calling her to be part of our growing community. At chapter, Sr Anne Elizabeth made her promise of obedience into Mother Rosemary’s hands. Mother Nettie, abbess of Mississippi Abbey, was one of Tautra’s foundresses, and it was a poignant moment for her to "give away" one of her sisters on the foundation’s anniversary. Sr Ina returned to Tautra for the occasion, as well as our former Father Immediate Dom Brendan Freeman of New Melleray Abbey, and former abbot Dom Laurence Walsh of our current Father Immediate house, Roscrea in Ireland. After the Mass, we enjoyed a special dinner catered by our Trondheim friends Bjørn Eklo and Bodil Evjenth.

We invited our support group, friends and neighbors to vespers and an evening celebration since the 25th was a workday. About 80 filled the church, contributed enough delicious potluck dishes to cover our long refectory table, and made for reminiscent and joyous fellowship in our scriptorium and cloister looking out on the fjord. We were all having such a good time that we postponed Compline until 8.00 when we all gathered again in church to thank God for another wonderful day, and the multitude of gifts and blessings that he has poured out on Tautra during the last 3560 days!

Christina van Opzeeland, who came to us in October 2007 from the Netherlands as a volunteer, and represented us at World Youth Day in Australia last June, received the Cistercian habit on November 1 and officially entered our novitiate. Sr Christina is a great mimic and provides hilarious entertainment whenever she gets the opportunity. Her vocation story is posted on our website, under Come and see, Becoming a nun. We hope to have more of our sisters’ stories to share with you, in both English and Norwegian.

In 2008, the income from Tautra herbal soaps and creams covered 86% of our living expenses. If we count all our sources of income, the figure is 95%. We could never have achieved this progress without our indefatigable support group and the innumerable volunteers who help us not only with soap and cream production but in the garden, kitchen, guest houses, and liturgy and bookkeeping departments. Now, due to some generous benefactors, we look forward to the opening of our new visitors’ center in May or June. The architect is Hans Petter Madsø, who is the husband of Unn Madsø, the very first member of the support group who has published the story of the support group in Norwegian. The visitors’ center is being built in front of the red guest house, which is where our first chapel was located. Half of the building will be a larger "butikk" where we will sell our products as well as products from other monasteries (maybe by Advent, the new port-du-salut cheese of the new Munkeby Mariakloster!). The other half will be a display explaining to visitors the "why" of Cistercian monastic life. Parchment-like banners hanging from the ceiling will contain key texts from the history of our Order. A frieze around the walls will illustrate a typical day at Tautra Mariakloster, starting at 4.00 a.m., with quotations from the Rule of St Benedict. One wall will have a large world map with a pin marking the location of each current Strict Observance monastery, 102 of monks and 73 of nuns. We have made a short video in which sisters explain the rooms inside the enclosure that the public cannot see, and this will be shown in a separate room. We are fortunate to have the help of Karl Gervin and Aud Dalseg in planning and carrying out this exhibition which we hope will be interesting and informative for the many visitors who come to our monastery.

The fascinating story of our amazing support group (which was in existence before Tautra Mariakloster!) will soon be available in English. You can order a copy either on our website or by sending a mail to

Normally when we enter the monastery, we expect to give up our family and commit ourselves to the community. Our families come to the monastery to visit us. Because there is such a great distance between the US and Norway, however, when we were a foundation we were allowed to travel to the US every three years for a home visit. After we became autonomous in 2006, our visits home are approximately every five years. The cost of these trips is greatly alleviated by gifts of frequent flyer miles from friends who cannot use them themselves. If you have extra air miles that you would like to donate, please let us know and the date they need to be used by (, and we will contact you when a sister’s trip is being planned. Tusen takk!

This is an exciting and historic spring not only for Cistercian nuns, but also for Cistercian monks. Fr. Joël Regnard has been prior and in charge of the cheese factory for many years at the Abbey of Cîteaux, where the first New Monastery of the Cistercian Order was established in 1098. While he was on Tautra in 2006 for a well-deserved sabbatical, he also fell in love with Norway and found it particularly suited to his dream for a simpler monastic life aimed at helping others deepen their prayer life and relationship with God. Our gardeners belong to the Munkeby family and they had relatives who were willing to sell a corner of their farm for this new monks’

monastery, the second time in a decade that Cistercians are coming back to Nord-Trøndelag. The property, an hour’s drive north of us, is 1,5 km from the stone ruins of a church which was probably part of a Cistercian monastery which preceded Tautra. The place is called, appropriately enough, Munkeby. Instead of the sea and shore, the site is predominantly mountain and forest, but with its silence and solitude, it feels very Cistercian. Cîteaux has chosen 4 monks to come on the foundation which will be begun officially in September: Fr Joël (52), Br Cyrille (82), Br Bruno (32) and Br Arnaud (31). Their life stories are posted on their website The four founders are living together this Lent in a nearby house while the first phase of the monastery is constructed. We are excited that they will be spending Holy Week and Easter here with us on Tautra.

Since Fr Joël’s expertise is cheese, naturally the Munkeby monks will begin making cheese to support themselves, buying the milk from local farmers. Since production will not begin before the end of September, and the cheeses need to ripen for 5 weeks, we look forward to being able to trade Tautra soap and cream for Munkeby cheese perhaps next Advent! Of course the monks’ main work is the Work of God: singing God’s praises and living a life of prayer. With the world economic crisis it is a difficult time to be building, and they would certainly appreciate any financial contributions. Our brothers at Gethsemani Abbey in KY have kindly agreed to accept donations made in the US on their behalf. All gifts are tax-deductible. Please make your checks payable to "Abbey of Gethsemani", note "Munkeby Mariakloster" in the memo line, and mail your contribution to: Munkeby Mariakloster, c/o Abbey of Gethsemani, 3642 Monks Rd., Trappist, KY 40051. In Norway, the bankkonto is 4202 13 56772 Sparebanken Midt-Norge, Håkon den Godes gate 31,7600 Levanger. Electronic transfer from other countries is via IBAN: NO1542021356772, SWIFT: SPTRNO22. And of course, the most important gift you can give them is your prayer and support. We never expected to have a brother monastery so close to us, and so soon after we ourselves came back to Tautra. That it is a foundation of Cîteaux, which had not started a new monastery since they themselves were reestablished after the French Revolution in 1898, is a further sign of God’s amazing designs for the Cistercians in Norway.

Our hearts are full of gratitude for all that God has called into being in these last 10 years, and for all the ways we have been touched and sustained by your friendship and support. Dom Brendan gave us a meditation on the Annunciation which nicely framed our prayer: "Sweet angel, on the anniversary of your appearance to Mary, bring us too a message on our anniversary of appearing in Norway, 10 years now by the waters. May Mary’s soul live in us, may Mary’s heart beat in ours; her prayers be in our prayers, her joy in our joy. May her obedience to your message, dear angel, be in our obedience, her poverty in our poverty, her virginity in our chastity. Above all may we too conceive through faith her Son in our hearts." We go forth into the next decade in confidence, joy and wonder, saying with Dag Hammarskjold: "For all that has been, Thanks. For all that will be, Yes!"

With love from your sisters on Tautra

Photos in the anniversary gallery on this website. See also M. Rosemary’s "thank you" under News, Events.