Friday, January 29, 2010

Goddess of Wisdom Enthroned in Former Nuns' Chapel in Halifax

Speaking of nuns... the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, (soon to be extinct) once kindly put me up at their motherhouse (now sold to developers) at Mount St. Vincent when I was between apartments. I like to recall the conversation I had in the little kitchen with one of the "nuns", a Sr. Pat, and a few other non-vowed ladies staying in their little hospitality wing.

Sr. Pat was bemoaning the order's inability to attract new vocations. She revealed (and this was ten years ago) that while they had a wonderful formation programme, developed by the most highly trained psychologists, they had not had a new candidate in fifteen years. This, she said, was because of the inability of young people these days to commit.

This was something that, naturally, I could not let go by.

I mentioned the indisputable fact that there were lots of religious orders who had to beat the candidates off with a stick at the front gate and that I personally knew at least six young women in Halifax who were seriously interested in religious life and were using the internet to search for a place to go.

"Not that the Sisters of Charity would be interested in any of them, of course."

"Why not?"

"Well, they are all looking for a community that has kept the habit, community prayer on a fixed schedule, a common life together in a convent, a unified apsotolic work...that sort of thing. They're interested in helping the destitute and promoting the Catholic religion."

"Well, I was one of the ones who wanted to keep the habit," said Sr. Pat in her purple polyester track suit.

Perking up at this little flicker of religious feeling I said, "Well, I'm pretty good with a sewing machine, I'm sure there are probably patterns lurking around in an attick somewhere. We could put something together for you in a weekend.

"I'm telling you, young people can commit just fine, you just have to give them something to commit to. And tantric meditation and hug-a-tree workshops are going to cut it with them. But if you put your habit back on, start praying the Divine Office every day in your chapel and got down to Barrington St. and started trying to help the heroin addicts, I'm sure you would get a lot of interest."

For some reason, this suggestion was not received enthusiastically.

This just in from a local correspondent in Halifax, NS.

I wanted to share with you more of the marvels of the post-Catholic
[Mount St. Vincent] university ; the latest is the planned destruction of the Evaristus Chapel at the Mount. I don't know if you were ever in the Chapel; by the time I first arrived at the Mount in the late 1970s, the interior had been "renovated" -- it was only built in 1951 -- but it was still a consecrated chapel. Despite the ugly blond wood furnishings, the Chapel had some very nice stained glass windows, a good working organ, and the Blessed Sacrament.

When I returned in 1995, they had just made the decision to remove the Blessed Sacrament, they abandoned the Baccalaureate Mass in favour of a "Celebration of Wisdom" -- and you can guess what *she* looked like. I know that weddings were still done in the Chapel, though I don't know how many of them were Catholic.

He adds the following post-script worthy of note:

...the Muslim students, who had always had a section of the Chapel for
their rugs and cardboard signs pointing the way to Mecca, wanted a space established in the main academic building (Seton Academic Centre), because they didn't like walking up the hill to pray...It was announced that Seton now had a "Multi-faith Prayer Room".

I dropped by the room today and entered. Several curtains
had been hung from the ceiling (to separate the sexes, I would guess). There were prayer rugs on the floor, no chairs or benches (much less prie-dieus), several bookshelves with nothing but Muslim books and brochures, and a sign on the door informing the world that the "multi-faith prayer room" was "administered by the Muslim Students Association.


BillyHW said...

Ack. I clicked on your second link, and my eyes--they burn!

Robert said...

The large wooden italianate-style crucifix from that chapel has lately been imported to the Basilica, placed in the centre of the apse wall, and has happily replaced the strange image that had been suspended above the altar there since the 70s.

The "good working organ," a Casavant, has found a home at St. Agnes in the West End.

DCummingsMcLean said...

Ah, Hilary. I say something similar about modern day nuns' (and 1970s holdouts) attempts to attract women in my book. (I am not plugging my book, mind you. Just backing you up, nodding rapidly.)

I think when I use my blog name, you call me Janet...

HJW said...

D, (or Janet),

well, perhaps, but the question remains. Why does your name link to the Toronto Catholic Register?

Are you the Register?


D Cummings McLean said...

I am a page of the Register, once every two weeks!

I have a small allergy to linking my given name to my bloggy blogs. Professional writing: here; bloggy writing: there. No doubt they will eventually collide.

I don't think the CR will mind if my name links to them... We like readers.

Anyway, I would link to my bloggy blogs if you allowed people to use our ridiculous blognames, e.g. Seraphic, and I don't like the name Janet. I mean, it's a nice Scottish name and all, but I don't feel like a Janet.

R. Berard said...

"Robert" is confusing the remains of the MSV Motherhouse Chapel with that of the University's Evaristus Chapel. The Motherhouse Casavant has gone to St Agnes, but the University's Casavant is still looking for a home, as are the beautiful windows with a theme of the various titles of Mary. Since the "renovation" of the 1970s, the crucifix and other furnishings are really fit only for kindling.