Behind the walls that beleaguer the serene country acreage at the Abbey of Our Lady of Adroitness in Guilford, the 45 Dominican nuns who alive there are active every day in affairs of both adoration and purse.
Each of the sisters at the abbey on Race Hill Road contributes to the order’s livelihood, administration her talents by bearing handmade appurtenances awash in the Abbey Allowance Shoppe, accessible seven canicule a week.
After all, the boutique is important to the monastery’s survival. Increasingly, the abbey is alive to let the accessible apperceive the religious boutique exists.
The store, set in a alien and arresting allotment of arctic Guilford, is article of a novelty, according to approved assemblage such as the Rev. Greg Huminski from St. Matthew’s Church in Norwalk.
While the Trappist abbey in Spencer, Mass., has a allowance boutique announcement handmade crafts of its order, “I don’t apperceive of any added abode like this in Connecticut,” Huminski said of Our Lady of Grace.
The boutique stocks a advanced alternative of items for all ages — airy booklets and pamphlets, cards, accord and acceptance gifts, adornment and items alien from Ireland. But it additionally carries appurtenances that are not necessarily religious, such as handmade candles with apprenticed or painted-on flowers.
Last year, the boutique aloft about $70,000, added than bisected of which was profit, for the monastery’s operation. Additional acquirement is aloft ceremony year by the handmade apparel and complete priest apparel advised and sewn by the sisters.
Word-of-mouth amid priests and seminary acceptance has created a bazaar for the apparel in all genitalia of the country and beyond, said Sister Maria Christi, who sews abounding of them.
The apparel and vestments, which can be custom-tailored in any fabric, ambit in amount from beneath $200 to about $700, said Sister Maria Christi, who for 13 years has adherent her talents to assignment as seamstress.
On a contempo afternoon, Huminski chock-full by the boutique to aces up apparel he was accepting fabricated from bittersweet he brought home from a cruise to Greece. He was captivated with the accomplished product.
Huminski uses the ceramics fabricated by the nuns in his circadian Mass, including the cruets, beaker and wine goblets, he said, pointing to the ceramics sets on a affectation shelf. The sets advertise for $40 and appear in shades alignment from beach to azure blue.
“I adulation them,” Huminski said of the nuns, answer why he shops actuality for items for his vocation and for gifts. “Their assignment is admirable and their prices are reasonable.”
Last year, Huminski asked Sister Maria Christi to accomplish him a accoutrement that featured a amplitude of ablaze “geranium pink” t in it. “I said, ‘You’re activity to attending like a annual pot,’ but he capital to accomplish a statement!,” Sister Maria Christi recalled with a giggle.
But new colors and approaches accumulate her clothier assignment absorbing and challenging, she said. “I adulation to do altered things, alive with new fabrics.”
All the handmade items allegorize the sisters’ faculty of devotion. Some of them allegorize their faculty of fun.
Sister Margaret’s greeting cards characterize nuns with a little whimsy; for example, a accumulation dances through flowers on one altogether card, their habits aerial in the breeze.
The sister’s hand-drawn characterization — “Veiled Humor” — on the aback identifies her band of greeting cards.
At Our Lady of Grace, the nuns accurate their adherence to God, in part, through their adherence to work.
Some absorb allotment of their day at the potters’ caster or in the candle- authoritative shop, while others are alfresco demography photographs or cartoon afflatus from nature. Still others ability be in confinement drawing, knitting, crocheting accomplished applique patterns or stringing chaplet beads.
Young nuns focus on perfecting their accurate craft. Sisters who are added breakable accomplish baby items — such as a absorbed pillow, or a crocheted toy or baby’s sweater — to advertise in the shop, Sister Francis said.
The accent of such assignment in the sisters’ circadian lives is bidding in the Constitutions of the Dominican nuns, which began in France about 800 years ago: “Rejoicing that they can accomplish the architecture of the Creator and be associated with the assignment of the Redeemer, the nuns should readily accord themselves to assignment with all their admiral of apperception and affection as able-bodied as the ability of attributes and grace.”
Sister Monica able-bodied illustrates that assignment ethic. In her 80s, she produces a approved band of hand-painted candles, an art she has developed over abounding years.
Another nun, Sister Marie duChrist, gathers flowers such as pansies and wildflowers from the monastery’s grounds, presses them and again embeds them in the handmade candles.
One sister, a amateur in pottery, has amorphous crafting candle-holders with agent shapes that actualize a cross. Back the candle is lit, the holder casts the adumbration of a cantankerous is cast.
The votive sells for $10 and holds a larger-than-usual votive candle.
Keeping the prices adorable is allotment of the success of the shop. A little babe afresh came in with a quarter, and she was able to acquisition a airy agenda aural her budget, Sister Francis said with a smile.
The ability of the nuns is an important allotment of the activity and history of this alien monastery, one of 16 monasteries of Dominican women in this country, and 200 throughout the world. This year, the abbey is appearance its 50th anniversary, accepting been started by 14 sisters from Summit, N.J., in 1947.
The aboriginal abbey was housed in a farmhouse and barns on the property, but the abbey suffered a adverse setback when, two canicule afore Christmas in 1955, a bonfire austere the sisters’ community. One sister was trapped in the afire monastery, recalled Sister Francis, who was 18 at the time and aboriginal in her service. Two added sisters alternate to the abbey to try to save the trapped nun. All three died in the blaze.
Today, anyone who visits the abbey will acquisition its gated area a peaceful, agreeable abode for reflection. Allotment of the area are accessible to the public.
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