By Karen Pulfer Focht ©
They are sisters and they sing like angels. Four of their albums hit the top of the charts. Now, reluctantly, they are breaking up for God's sake!
Yes, for God's sake. They are the nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, at the Catholic monastery in Gower, Mo.
“We are breaking up,” explains Sister Scholastica, assistant prioress. The angelic sound that has blessed them with 10 successful CDs--and four that reached #1 —may never be the same.
This makes their latest album, The Hearts of Jesus Mary and Joseph at Ephesus, even more special. It could be their last recording together as a relatively new religious order and musical group.
In this case, breaking up is an exciting thing. The order has grown so fast that they have outgrown their current monastery. They believe 30-40 sisters should be the maximum size. “I think more than that might start to feel like an anonymous crowd, where one might be among a circle of friends, but not necessarily a family” she explains.
This very traditional order of nuns started with two members in 1995. They currently have thirty-five women, ages 17-94--and more coming in every day. Ready to commit (or seeking admission) are five postulants. Nine have officially signed up for early October and 20 or so more are in consideration.
The monastery began to fill up. In the chapel, they moved from choir stalls to ordinary pews. Then, the new postulants started filling up the back pews normally reserved for guests. As more women came to join the order, Mother Cecilia, the prioress, realized they'd have to build again. They started this tenth recording adventure to help with the financing the project.
“It would be very nice to stay together, but it is very much like in family life: there is a time when the older children grow up, and must begin their own families and carry on the family line” says sister.
In an effort to branch out, they have begun a search for another place of peace and some holy ground to dig in to. “When the family grows large enough that we begin to lose sense of the family, it is time for some "repotting," transferring portions to new soil “ she says with a bit of a broken heart. “While the details are still pending, I can say it will be the most painful thing we have ever experienced as a community since we have such deep sisterly love for each other.”
They are actively looking at different properties and locations to begin a new house. They'll have several sisters go and start a new monastery. “We are still gathering all the information and praying about where God wants us” explains Sister Scholastica.
So, it's possible that the earthly gift of this temporal union of women vocalists may have an uncertain future. But surely there will be more music coming from this sacred homestead?
“We know our sound just won't be quite the same! “ says Sister, “recording again seems a great improbability since several sisters will be sent, but one never knows what God has up His sleeve!”
By Memphis Photojournalist Karen Pulfer Focht © All Rights Reserved
Their CDs can be purchased and donations can be made at http://benedictinesofmary.org