Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Hermitess in Manhattan?

Yes, but not that Manhattan.

Last week, Kathryn Bloomquist of the more hermit-friendly Manhattan, Kansas professed vows before Salina Bishop Paul Coakley and was consecrated a hermitess. The Register newspaper of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas has the story, excerpts:
Now, as Sister Kathryn Ann of the Holy Angels, she will spend her days mostly in solitude, “lived to the praise of God and the salvation of the world,” she explains.

It is a path she has walked for much of her life.

She moved to Kansas from Washington, D.C., with her husband, Len, in 1989 when he joined the faculty at Kansas State University. Eventually he became chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work.

Even then, Sister Kathryn said, she chose a life of prayer and silence.

“He worked in the world, but he so believed in my calling. He protected me,” she said of her husband.

“This life came about as we built this chapel. I was practically already a hermit. It just fit. It happened,” she said.

Together, they constructed the native stone chapel, hidden even from their residence tucked away in the wooded hills near Manhattan.

She adopted the practice of a Benedictine oblate, focusing on the Rule of St. Benedict written 1,500 years ago. She prayed the Litany of the Hours and learned the Gregorian chants in Latin.

And then Len became ill. A rare cancer took his life just four months after they finished the exterior of the chapel.

She soon knew she wanted a more formal expression of her calling and began researching eremitic life. . .

. . .She contacted Bishop Coakley, who had just come to the Diocese of Salina, to ask that her vocation be formalized.

“I have been working with Sister Kathryn since shortly after my arrival in the Diocese of Salina,” Bishop Coakley said. “For over four years, I have been privileged to guide and encourage Sister Kathryn in discerning her response to this very special vocation in the Church.”

The Code of Canon Law recognizes a hermit “as one dedicated to God in a consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop and observes his or her own plan of life under his direction.”

In addition to guidance from the bishop, Sister Kathryn drafted her plan of life, which spells out how she will live her vocation.

“It is one of assiduous prayer, silence, solitude and penance. It’s an ascetic endeavor,” she said. “I try to live in the utmost simplicity — the idea of poverty of heart, pureness of life. It means a simplicity of living, to gaze toward God so pure that he can commune with the soul. Nothing is loved like God is loved.

“I’m here alone, but everyone is with me because of my prayers. No one prays alone,” she added. . .

. . .She supplements her income by making and selling rosaries via the Internet.

“A hermit with a Web site and e-mail. That’s very strange,” she said, laughing. But, adhering to that tenet of simplicity, she has dial-up Internet service, not broadband.

And here's Bishop Coakley on the new vocation in his diocese:
“A hermit’s hidden life is a silent witness to the invisible presence and power of God’s grace at work in our midst. Our society highly values human activity and measures success by the results of our efforts. This vocation reminds us of the primacy of grace and the importance of silence in our busy lives,” he said.

“Sister Kathryn’s consecrated life is a gift for the whole Church and to our diocese in particular. I am grateful for her generous response to God’s invitation to seek him in solitude and silence while devoting herself to prayer and the chanting of God’s praises,” the bishop added.

See the whole thing. Hat tip to a friend who was driving through far out Kansas and picked up the diocesan paper at St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas. St. Fidelis rises majestically from apparently nowhere. It was nicknamed The Cathedral of the Plains by William Jennings Bryan who visited there in 1912 and is numbered one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas.

Check out Kansas Catholic, who among other excellent things, frequently posts picture essays of the many marvelous churches dotting rural Kansas.