2017 Newsletter now online!

It has been a busy year here at St. Joseph Monastery, so busy, in fact, that we could barely find time to tell you all about it!  At long last, here is our first (and only) newsletter of 2017, just in time to recap the many wonderful events of the last 12+ months.


Some highlights are:

  • The First Professions of Sr. Frances Marie and Sr. Lucia Marie
  • Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima apparitions
  • Sr. Mary Magdalen’s Gold Jubilee celebration
  • Lots of vocation visitors
  • the Passionist Nuns’ international work of renewal and revitalization

Here’s the link:  Passionist Nuns’ Autumn 2017 Newsletter


Discernment in the Spirit of Advent

Entering Advent, we find ourselves before a banquet of spiritual riches.  In the liturgy and practices of the season, the Church seeks to help up prepare ourselves to encounter Christ anew.  It is a time to recall His coming as an Infant in Bethlehem, to look forward to that final glorious coming upon the clouds, and to receive Him as He desires to be present in the small, daily moments of our lives.


Yet, in the busy-ness of preparing for Christmas, it is all too easy for us to miss the banquet.  Garlands to hang, gifts to wrap, mountains of baking, not to mention all those Christmas cards that need stamping…I assure you, even in the cloister we can get distracted by all that needs to be done!

For anyone discerning their vocation, this can also be a time of temptation to press the pause button on the journey of seeking God’s will.  We might think:

“I’ll pray later, right now I need to finish x, y, & z”


“After Christmas I’ll make that phone call or sign up for that retreat”


“If I can just get through this month, then I can figure out what God wants me to do!”

But rather than shelving the idea of discernment until the partridge has left the pear tree and the ten lords have leaped their last, we can use the time of Advent as a powerful opportunity to grow in our openness to hearing the still, small voice of the Lord.  Perhaps it is not the time to make a big decision, but by practicing the virtues of this holy season of waiting, we can prepare our hearts, not just to recognize Christ’s coming in the manger, but to welcome Him as unfolds His plan for us.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the spirit of Advent and how it can contribute to our time of discernment, especially through a spirit of silence, of wonder, and of union with Mary as we wait upon the Lord.

Wisdom from Our Holy Founder

While our chaplain, Fr. Lou Caporiccio, CPM was spending a few days visiting his confreres at the Fathers of Mercy Generalate, we were blessed by the presence of Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP.  Hailing from the community of Passionist Fathers in Chicago, Fr. Arthur came to offer Mass and take a few days of solitude in our Guest House.


Mother John Mary & Sr. Catherine Marie with Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP

In each of his homilies, he brought out some words of our holy founder, St. Paul of the Cross, written during his 40-day retreat in 1720.  This retreat was made immediately after St. Paul received the holy habit from Bishop Gattinara on November 22nd, and it was at this time that he wrote the rule for the Passionist Congregation he would later found.  The spiritual diary kept by St. Paul during that retreat remains a great treasure, as it gives much insight into our founder’s life of prayer and inspirations for the foundation of the Passionists; we can “follow his footsteps” by reading each day what he wrote of his experiences.

Here is some spiritual wisdom from St. Paul of the Cross’s entry on November 30th, 297 years ago!

I remember that I kept praying to my Jesus to grant me the greatest degree of humility.  I wanted to be the least of mankind…and I kept praying to the Blessed Virgin with many tears to obtain this grace for me….Because, just as the devil desired the highest place in paradise and for his pride was cast into the very depths of hell, so, on the contrary, the soul which humbles itself below hell makes the devil tremble and overcomes him, and the Sovereign Good exalts it to paradise.

-St. Paul of the Cross

Saturday, November 30, 1720

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Advent is right around the corner, and today our “Kitchen Sisters,” with the help of many hungry nuns, are clearing out the meat from the pantry to get ready for this season of extra fasting and abstinence as we prepare our hearts to receive anew the joy of Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas.  We pray that each of you have a blessed beginning to the Advent season!

Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!

“Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord” – Passionist Renewal of Vows

After four graced days of retreat (Nov. 17-20), the nuns of our community renewed their vows during the Holy Mass commemorating the Presentation of Mary in the Temple.


Our Lady provides a beautiful model of total consecration to God! As we renew our self-offering to God on this feast each year, we ask her intercession help us persevere in faithfulness as handmaids of the Lord and His work of redemption.


This feast was always very special to our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, who named the first houses of the Passionist Fathers and the Passionist Nuns after the Presentation of Mary. St. Vincent Mary Strambi, CP, the first biographer of Paul recorded for us that:

“Paul used to say that this feast was the blessed anniversary of that day on which he took leave of the world and wore the habit of the Passion for the first time. It was the day on which, in the flower of his youth, he offered himself to the Divine Majesty. Thus he imitated the heavenly Queen who presented herself in the temple as a sacrifice most pleasing to the heart of God.”

But it is also a special day for all contemplative men and women – November 21st is Pro Orantibus Day, a day of prayer for those the Lord has called to the life of prayer on behalf of the Church. As souls devoted to prayer, we know how powerful and necessary it is to lift one another up before the Lord, and we are so grateful for your remembrance of us, and all cloistered contemplatives, in your prayers today.


On this special day celebrating religious consecration, we also have some wonderfully joyous news to share.


Sr. Maria Faustina, novice, and Emily, aspirant

Sr. Maria Faustina, our novice, will be making her first profession of vows on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception! She will begin a 5-day retreat on December 3, and certainly appreciates your prayers as she prepares to become the Bride of Christ Crucified.

Street Art on the Cloister Walk

One misty November Sunday, we were astonished to see a pair of vandals in our cloister courtyard. Armed with a pack of Crayola chalk, aprons, and jackets, they braved the bitter chill and waning light just to leave their mark on our patio concrete. Perhaps such hooligans are commonplace on busy New York City streets, but in the Western Kentucky wilderness, it was a shock. So, we did the only sensible thing possible: we grabbed the camera!

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Our budding “street artists”, Sr. Cecilia Maria and Sr. Frances Marie, were inspired by a poem featured in Vol. IV of the Breviary, a beautiful piece that speaks of the Passion of Jesus and His overwhelming love for us. It seemed especially appropriate as we enter these darker months and approach the season of Advent, a time of eager anticipation of the coming of Christ, our Light. Here’s the whole poem:

I Saw the Sun at Midnight, Rising Red

By Joseph Mary Plunkett

I saw the Sun at midnight, rising red,
Deep-hued yet glowing, heavy with the stain
Of blood-compassion, and I saw It gain
Swiftly in size and growing till It spread
Over the stars; the heavens bowed their head
As from Its heart slow dripped a crimson rain,
Then a great tremor shook It, as of pain—
The night fell, moaning, as It hung there dead.

O Sun, O Christ, O bleeding Heart of flame!
Thou giv’st Thine agony as our life’s worth,
And mak’st it infinite, lest we have dearth
Of nights wherewith to call upon thy Name;
Thou pawnest Heaven as a pledge for Earth,
And for our glory sufferest all shame.

Passionist Assembly – September 2017

All the superiors, delegates, and facilitators of the September Assembly.

In September, St. Joseph Monastery was blessed to host an international Assembly for English-speaking Passionist Nuns. This was a graced and fruitful time for the superiors and delegates from each monastery to gain a better understanding of the new juridical structure of communion we will soon be establishing. With the guidance and assistance of Mother Fernanda Barbiero, smsd, Fr. Floriano de Fabiis, CP, and Msgr. Michael Palud, CO all received a clearer picture of how we can move forward as sisters in Christ and daughters of St. Paul of the Cross to promote devotion to the Passion of Jesus in this world so desperately in need of His saving love.

A candle representing each participating community was left burning before the statue of Our Sorrowful Mother during the Assembly, entrusting this holy work to her loving care.

While most of the community here did not attend the official meetings, all were able to enjoy meals and conversations with the visiting nuns, who hailed from around the US, the Philippines, and South Korea. On the last day of the Assembly, we had some after-meal entertainment with nearly everyone contributing something from their talents and unique cultures.

Mother Maria Theresa of the South Korean Passionist community performed a traditional Korean dance while Sr. Paulina and Sr. Marianna, OCD (our wonderful Korean translator for the week) sang.

On a totally different note, our own Sr. Cecilia Maria led everyone in a rousing rendition of an Appalachian folk tune, “Bile dem cabbage down.”

Sr. Magdalena, from the Passionists in the Philippines, treated us to some recorder music, with Sr. Mary Angelica, OP (one of the Italian translators) assisting as a faithful, living music stand.

We rounded out the evening of international entertainment with something all Catholics know and love regardless of their native tongue: the Ave Maria. The three-part round was a fitting conclusion to our time of building sisterly communion, as we look to the patronage of Our Mother and Our Holy Founder to bring this important work to speedy fruition!

A thousand measures of gratitude go to all who so generously gave of their time, talent, and treasure to make the Assembly possible. We recognize especially Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP who translated all the documents from Italian into English; our translators, Fr. Joseph Barbieri, CP, Fr. Brad Smith, CO, Sr. Mary Angelica, OP, and Sr. Marianna, OCD, volunteers Janet Nemec, and Kate Mims, and all our Passionist Oblates who helped us keep everyone well fed! Thanks to all who have supported us, and please keep up the prayers for the soon-to-be-established structure of communion.

St. Paul of the Cross and Praying Dangerously

Passionists throughout the world are preparing for the great Feast of St. Paul of the Cross. Our Holy Founder was a saint, not because he did extraordinary things (which he did indeed do!), but because he was radically in love with God and because he surrendered his life to God with great faith and generosity.  He was a man of action BECAUSE he was a man of prayer.  I write all this to introduce you to a blog post that would have pleased St. Paul very much.

Elizabeth Scalia over at Aleteia recently wrote a fantastic article on “dangerous prayers” – the kind of prayers that God can use to totally change our lives by drawing us near to Christ in both the suffering of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. She writes:

There is the old, true chestnut, of course, “Be careful what you pray for; you might get it.” How often do we hedge our prayers — we say the first “dangerous” prayer (“Thy will be done”), but we hope we can get the glory we seek without having to encounter the Cross. I know I do it all the time: “Dear God, please teach me how to be a better person. Thy will be done, but don’t do it some crazy way, that involves something tragic, okay? I can’t handle it.”

So often, my prayers take a line through Flannery O’ Connor: “Lord, I’ll never be a saint but I might be a martyr if they can kill me quickly!”

Access the full article here

It is well worth a read, and you might notice some familiar names and faces while you take in Elizabeth’s challenge to pray boldly…

Did You See?

Did you see?

The burning question of August: “Did you see the solar eclipse?” Yes, indeed we did!

The whole community viewing the eclipse (plus Steve, the monastery caretaker)

We were not quite in the line of totality, but at 99%, we got to experience a remarkable dimming of the Sun’s light and a drop in temperature. The cicadas quieted down, the crickets rosined up their bows for a twilight serenade, the dappled light beneath our trees looked like thousands of crescents, and we even spotted a planet during the peak of the eclipse. Mother John Mary provided eclipse glasses for the whole community, so we were able to watch the Sun rather quickly be blotted out to a tiny crimson sliver, then gradually reappear to its full splendor. The whole event put us in awe of our Creator; how precisely our solar system was designed that such a wonder could happen at all!

Visitor Emily with Sr. Cecilia Maria and Sr. Mary Andrea

The week of the eclipse, we happened to have a young woman on a live-in experience at the monastery – she saw the eclipse with us, but she must have seen something more, because the Lord drew her back to continue discerning with us!

Emily receives the Passion Sign pin

On October 3rd, during Night Prayer, Emily received the little Passion Sign pin of an aspirant and began a new season of seeking the Lord’s designs for her. Please remember her in prayer, that this may be a time of grace and clarity in discernment, and continue asking the Lord to draw more young women to follow Him in Passionist life.

The new aspirant with Mother John Mary and Sr. Mary Veronica, our novice directress

In a Pickle

Our poor Sr. Cecilia Maria came down with a mysterious ailment. It started with a funny rash, bumpy and green. Then, we noticed a strange look in her eyes.


The ailing nun

By the time we consulted the doctor, he confirmed our fears. Sister had contracted an acute case of cucumbitis! The cure? “Take a vinegar bath and call me in the morning.”

Recovered from her malady, Sister decided to deal with the root of the problem: a mountain of fresh cucumbers from our generous friends and neighbors! With the help of Sr. Marie Michael and Sr. Maria Faustina, she set to work.

Sr. Marie Michael tackles Mount Cucumis

They washed. They peeled. They sliced. Finally, they loaded everything into the dehydrator.

Sr. Marie Michael and Sr. Maria Faustina fill the dehydrator

Ten hours later, and voila! Dried cucumber slices to be rehydrated as pickles throughout the year!

Sr. Maria Faustina shows off the crispy cucumber chips

And thus did our heroic nuns vanquish the cucumbitis virus and transform the green mountain into a veritable molehill.

The fruits of their labors, ready for year-long enjoyment


On another note:

One of you asked and some of you are probably wondering – “where’s Ruth?!”  Since last fall, many of you saw her in our photos of work, play, and prayer. The initial stages of formation the monastery are still a time of discernment, and we thank you for your prayers that she would hear and follow God’s will.   It seems our Lord has a different plan for her than life in a Passionist monastery. We miss her tremendously but there is peace and joy in knowing she is following the Lord’s call to be a light and a leaven back out in the world.  Keep praying for all men and women who are discerning a priestly and religious vocation!


Register for our October Passionist Vocation Retreat

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a nun?

Want to learn more about discerning vocations?

Looking for an opportunity
to grow in love for the Lord Jesus?

Join us for a Vocation Discernment Retreat here
at St. Joseph Passionist Monastery!

Some of our younger sisters with the June 2017 Vocation Retreat participants.

Some highlights of this 3-day retreat:

  • Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours with the Passionist Nuns
  • Opportunity for the Sacrament of Confession
  • Meet some of the Sisters
  • Connect with other discerners
  • Hear talks on prayer, discernment, Passionist spirituality
  • Walk the trails – it’s a gorgeous Kentucky fall this year!

Intrigued? We hope you’ll prayerfully consider attending. Here’s how:

When: October 13-15, 2017 –  Register by Friday, October 6

Who:  Single, Catholic women ages 17 – 30

*Must be of good physical and psychological health, and a citizen of the U.S.A.

How: Register HERE by filling out the form.