LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Fearing that the Monastery of Angels could be sold for private use or redeveloped, Los Angeles conservators and advocates are forming a nonprofit as they seek to acquire and take responsibility for Hollywood’s beloved home for cloistered Dominican nuns.
Over the years, the community has dwindled as the nuns have aged and after some have died of COVID-19 and other causes, making it difficult to maintain the monastery’s “democratic way of life”. Dominican nuns have dedicated themselves to studying the scriptures and praying for those who come to them for guidance and to do penance.
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An online petition to ‘Save the Monastery of Angels’ emerged last year, with LA residents calling the four-acre property a ‘retreat’ and ‘oasis’ amid the city’s clamor. It collected more than 4,200 signatures on Wednesday May 18.
The local prioress, Sister Maria Christine, president of the Association of Dominican Monasteries of North America, said in December that no decision to sell had been made, adding that the Dominicans were “looking into many options and trying to find the best solution. One of these options was to seek other religious communities that could manage the monastery.
“We continue to await official canonical permissions to proceed. Our goal is to maintain the beauty of the property and to continue to be a source of spiritual enrichment for all who come to pray,” she told Religion News Service in an email Friday.
“The world needs prayer and we keep everyone in our prayer intentions,” she added.
But the Conservatives are not taking any risks.
The Los Angeles Monastery of Angels Foundation, the nonprofit being formed, wants to acquire the monastery to care for and maintain the property “as a sacred Catholic space,” according to the Save The Monastery website. Of The Angels which went live on Thursday.
“Losing the monastery to non-Catholic redevelopment will deprive Catholics in Los Angeles of the ability to sustain themselves spiritually from its lands and will also remove a place of prayer from a community in dire need of it,” according to the website. .
Behind this effort are Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, LA historians and curators who run a travel agency exploring the city through an architectural, historical and spiritual lens; Rob Hollman, a nonprofit consultant whose clients include PBS SoCal, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, and Preserve Orange County; and Brody Hale, president of the St. Stephen Protomartyr Project, an organization that works to preserve historic Catholic churches and sacred spaces.
“We have to be proactive,” Schave said.
Schave said he agreed with Sister Maria Christine that the monastery should remain a space for spiritual enrichment, but “if we drop that and put our faith in the Dominican Federation and the Holy See” , he said, “I don’t believe we will achieve that.
This part of town, Cooper said, has been subjected to foreign investors who “don’t really have a sense of community.”
“They just want to do everything they can as quickly as possible, in order to profit from it,” Cooper said.
Founded in 1924 by a New Jersey nun, the Monastery of Angels received financial support from wealthy Los Angeles families and celebrities such as the Dohenys, through the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, and the late actress Jane Wyman, through the Jane Wyman Charitable Foundation. The nuns also bake and sell their famous pumpkin bread, peanut brittle, chocolate mints and other goodies at the gift shop.
Supporters behind the effort are planning a fundraising campaign aimed at Catholics and others in the region and across the country. They will determine if it makes financial sense to continue producing pumpkin bread and other products.
“All income from the production of these goods will be used solely for the care and maintenance of the monastery and its grounds,” they said.
They will also seek to retain the gift shop and explore the possibility of making the monastery available for retreats.
Although the Dominican nuns would no longer inhabit the monastery under their stewardship, the group plans to keep the chapel open for the occasional celebration of Mass, sacramental activities, 24-hour Eucharistic adoration and private prayer. Volunteers would be there.
There appear to be fewer than five nuns residing at the monastery.
The group models its efforts on those of other lay Catholics who have taken ownership and responsibility of churches and monasteries across the country.
One example is the Save Our St. Anne’s group, which for years maintained St. Anne’s Church in Columbia, California. The parish is within the boundaries of the Diocese of Stockton and Mass is celebrated there a few times a year.
In Batesville, Indiana, the St. Mary’s of the Rock Preservation Society has cared for St. Mary’s of the Rock Church since its closure in 2013. The parish is within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
“Those who wanted St. Mary’s to remain a church available for occasional Masses stepped forward and took responsibility for caring for it and its grounds, at their own expense,” the group said.