Sister Heléna Marie
In 1978, after completing a masters degree in piano performance, I "took the plunge," guided by what I discerned to be the Holy Spirit, and began my adventure with the Community of the Holy Spirit. I've been here ever since.
Job-wise, I taught in the Community's two schools (1978-1989); created and nurtured Outpourings, a program of retreats, workshops, concerts, art shows and poetry readings (1989-1994); held the position of Associate Director for Women in Mission and Ministry at the Episcopal Church Center (1993-1999), during which time I was able to travel around the world, working in women's leadership development; and helped begin and develop Bluestone Farm and Living Arts Center at Melrose (2003-present). In terms of Community leadership I have held the positions of Director of Liturgy (1982-present), Novice Guardian (1999-2005) and Community Council member (2001- present).
I am devoted to the teachings of the world's mystics, especially Jesus and Sri Ramana Maharshi, the music of J. S. Bach, the films of Ingmar Bergman and the ideas of permaculture, biodynamics and sustainable living/farming. I hope my future includes continuing to participate in the evolution of human consciousness, helping to reduce the human ecological footprint, promoting the principles of sustainable living and engaging further in the Transition Town movement.
Sister Faith Margaret
I am a native of New York City, having grown up on Staten Island. I majored in Math in college and worked as a large group underwriter and an employee benefits consultant before entering the Community in 1986. I taught Math at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s School for five years and worked as Financial and Benefit Analyst at the Episcopal Church Medical Trust for seven.
In addition to my responsibilities as a member of the Community Council and treasurer of the Community, I serve as a spiritual director, retreat conductor and treasurer of the Diocese of New York. Over the years I’ve learned more about maintaining old Brownstones than I ever wanted to know. I’ve had a wonderful time planning for the new green city convent and find the process of building to be fascinating. It is such fun to prowl around as the new space takes shape.
I love to cook, bake and sew; I’ve picked up knitting after a long hiatus and am becoming a little more adventurous – right now it is socks that have my attention. I find that quiet prayer, retreats and petting the cat are essential to maintain balance in my otherwise busy days.
Sister Catherine Grace
Born and raised on the cusp between urban Chicago and the farms of central Indiana, I came to this Community well-trained for either way of life. This was a good thing, as my first thirteen years here were spent in high-octane New York City and the last seven in bucolic Brewster. I embarked on the religious life late-ish — in my mid-forties. Before that I had lived in Colorado, enjoying its variety of landscapes. I worked with computers mostly, either running a data center, selling related products or consulting. The change to religious life may seem odd, but it was the perfect progression for me.
I have always cherished the ability to knit, crochet, sew, etc., and after coming to the farm here at Brewster (Bluestone Farm and Living Arts Center, a work of the Community), I was able to add spinning and weaving to that list. My work up here is varied, but during the busy growing seasons I can be found in the kitchen, preserving the bounty to feed us through the winter.
Keeping track of some of our animal companions is also one of my duties, and it is one I enjoy thoroughly. In the city I cared for Joshua (dog) for several years, and here Simon (our Weimaraner) is my constant companion. I also enjoy aquarium duties; Brother Turtlegirl joined us last year, and we added a hefty Pleck to help with algae control. Occasionally I fill in as caretaker for ducks, chickens, cat, rabbit or bird—or perhaps goats some day!
The greatest gift of all, however, is the privilege of being able to live with a community who understands and cherishes the inner life. Whether it is meditation, singing the lovely plainsong of our Daily Offices, observering the many feasts and fasts of the Church year, or connecting ever more deeply with our generative Earth, I deeply value my spiritual companions on the way.
I came to this Community on September 19, 1950, and two years later became our fourth life-professed Sister. Prior to that I had served in the US Navy (beginning in December of 1941, and leaving exactly three years and eleven days later!). At that time I was able to take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights and applied to Julliard School of Music where, in June of 1949, I receive my Masters in Organ.
Because our Community was brand new — in fact, we hadn't yet been officially established — when I arrived, my formation time was relatively brief, and I began teaching second grade immediately in our fledgling school. Canon Edward West, who helped us to found CHS, told Mother Ruth I "should be educated" if I was to continue teaching, and I soon enrolled at Teachers College where I received my Doctorate in Education.
In 1975 I was transferred to our Melrose Convent in Brewster to become the head of the convent and Headmistress of the school. Finally, in 1993, I returned to St. Hilda's House in New York, where I managed the kitchen for many years, continued to support our choir and worship with music and served at times as Novice Mistress, Juniorate Mistress and Sacristan. I have also been a spiritual director for many years, and enjoyed conducting retreats and quiet days around the country and in both of our convent retreat programs.
Though I am now "fully retired," I continue to do a bit of musical composition, help with various house duties and especially value the time I now have to read, to visit with my Sisters and to offer intercessory prayers, often based on my reading of the daily newspaper. I am extremely fortunate to be able to say that I have no physical disabilities, no aches and no pains, in spite of the fact that I am "of an age" where such discomfort could readily be expected!
Sister Mary Christabel
I was born and raised in Montreal. I graduated from McGill University, and after working as a physical therapist and serving in the Canadian Navy, I joined the community in the mid-fifties and was life professed in 1958. I have ministered in many capacities in our Community, including Novice and Juniorate Mistress, librarian and Sister for Associates. I was the first elected Superior after our founder, Mother Ruth, retired and I served for twelve years. I have always enjoyed giving retreats and quiet days, and for years I met with Associates around the country, giving retreats and renewing good friendships. I was also a spiritual director and enjoyed several years of direction for seminarians at General Theological Seminary in New York, where I was also awarded an honorary doctorate.
Sr. Élise and I are enjoying our "retirement", and, after so many years of having way more to do than we had time for, we are both enjoying a slower, more meditative pace!.
[Ed. note: Sr. Jerolynn Mary was not able to say what all the rest of us know and love about her: she was absolutely the very best Sacristan we have ever had. She always had linens perfectly presented, books marked, every detail attended to with deep spiritual attention. No one will ever be able to equal the high standard she set!]
Sister Mary Elizabeth
Despite Sunday School and bedtime prayers, my first real sense of God (and an unrecognized hint of vocation) came through science. I was born in 1925 when all that was generally known of the universe was the existence of our own galaxy. Within a very short time, knowledge of other galaxies began to circulate, and in 1929 there were reports that space was expanding, that galaxies were flying away from each other like blotches on an expanding balloon. My dad was a salesman, not a scientist, but he loved science (and math) and shared his interest and increasing knowledge with me. We had discussions about infinity and light, as well as suns, stars and galaxies, about lightning displays and what caused thunder. We moved when I was four, and the discussions ceased. I remember, however, when I was about six, walking across our lawn on a lovely spring day. I thought about Earth – its size and beauty, how a child like me might be on the opposite side of the planet (upside down from my viewpoint) but both of us pulled by gravity toward the heart of Earth. Then how tiny I was in that tableaux. Then how tiny this huge planet was in comparison with the sun – the solar system , our galaxy, the universe. And suddenly the God mentioned (but not explained in church and Sunday School) came into focus as Creator of it all. It was a revelation, an awakening. It awoke joy, delight, ecstasy and awe. I thought – if God created all this, nothing can be more important than knowing about God.
Thirty years later, I entered CHS as a postulant. In 1963, I took First Vows. Since then I’ve taught in our two schools (history, math, etc.), several years at Barnard College (methods of teaching history), and fifteen years as a volunteer at St Luke’s Hospital psychiatric outpatient center. After nearly fifty years as a Sister, I find the modern conflicts between science and religion incomprehensible. I have had doubts myself, but never based on science. I go back to science for a glimpse of the incredible beauty and the awe it evokes. I only wish I could share that with everyone.
In 1974, I entered the Community after graduating from college with majors in French and German. Having taught at St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's (grades 4, 5, and 6) from 1974 - 1984, I then moved to Melrose and taught various subjects at various time in grades 4 - 8. I "retired" from teaching children two years ago and now "teach" at the Farmer's Market in Brewster. Planting seeds, weeding, harvesting, preserving, and taking care of our animal companions (besides our corporate life in Chapel!) are the activities I enjoy most.
Sister Maria Felicitas
Before entering the Community in the mid-seventies, I was married and had a large and wonderful family. In fact, several years ago they requested that I be allowed to move closer to them, which the Community joyfully agreed to. I now live at St. Simeon's in Tulsa, near many of my dear family members!
During my more active years with the Community I taught Spanish in our schools, drove a school bus, worked in the school administration offices, and also worked for the Bishop for Armed Forces at the Episcopal Church Center. I also loved doing various forms of handwork. I sewed habits for the sisters, made work aprons, knitted and crocheted and also learned to do fine church embroidery. Since we never really "retire", I took up watercolor painting and playing the violin in my later years. I still appreciate the violin, and my teacher here visits me regularly.
My college degrees are in history and English. Before coming to the Community, I worked as a researcher at The Buffalo Historical Society, Old Fort Niagara and Buffalo State College. I moved to New York City in 1980 and worked as research law librarian for a Wall Street law firm for ten years and then at Seamen’s Church Institute. Since I came to CHS, I have been the librarian. For five years I was a chaplain at Columbia University. Currently, I am a spiritual director, mentor at Yale Divinity School and the Sister for Associates, and I also write and lead retreats and quiet days.
My passions are literature and poetry, which I weave into my retreat addresses. I do write poetry but mostly am just a wanderer with a poet’s heart. As John Keats once wrote:
“ I find I cannot exist without Poetry—without eternal Poetry—half the day will not do—the whole of it—...” (Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds, April 18, 1817).
Sister Claire Joy
I am a late-to-life sister, artist, mom and grandmother. I've been a member of the Community since 2003, and though I have moved back and forth between the two convents, I currently live in the city. Before my call (it was no "call"… rather a swift kick in the kabotzah) to the religious life, I was an artist for thirty years, working in photography, TV and AV production, 3-D animation and graphic design. With the support of my sisters, I have kept up with my artwork and regularly exhibit on the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA) website. I've designed many of our flyers, brochures and Christmas cards and have created five (somewhat religious) cartoon books.
Outside the community, I currently serve as chaplain to Episcopal Relief & Development's staff. Current hobbies include cartooning, cooking, reading, and crocheting/knitting. I am a firm believer that laughter is one of God’s greatest gifts.
Sister Carol Bernice
Encountering the energetic, brilliant, visionary and radically devoted Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit at Thomas the Apostle Center in Cody, Wyoming in the summer of 2002 changed my life. Until then I had been happily living and working in my hometown of Glenrock, Wyoming, pursuing an interest in theology and a spiritual practice as best as I was able. But suddenly the prospect of the religious life became totally compelling. I was received into the Community in September of 2004 and made my life profession on October 11, 2008. The monastic life and the work of the community on the farm at Melrose enriches me day by day. As Vocations Director I hope and pray to guide others on this same path.
The Rev. Leng Lim, Home Nguyen, Sharon Bodenschatz