Saint Louis Catholic: First of all, how did your novitiate year with the Sisters in Tyringham go?
Sister Rosalind: It was a beautiful year. I asked God for two things before it began: to deepen my prayer life and to help me to love Him more. I spent a year in that cloistered order, completely under Papal enclosure, the Visitation Sisters of Holy Mary founded by St. Francis de Sales in 1610 in Annecy, France. They were celebrating their fourth centenary, and it was extremely beautiful for me as I had asked the Blessed Mother that if it was okay with her, that St. Francis de Sales would be my spiritual director from Heaven. And in a wonderful way she actually put that in place.
St. Francis de Sales is the patron, as you know, along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, of the Visitation Sisters. Since it was the fourth centenary of their founding, we went to Annecy, France. I had commented a few years prior, that if St. Francis de Sales were alive today, I would get in a plane, fly to Geneva and sit at his feet. Well, a month after I arrived in Tyringham, I went off with the sisters to Annecy, France, and sat at the foot of his coffin! It was a very great gift, as was the rest of that year with the sisters. They are a beautiful order; I love them and went back just last week for a visit of four days. They have ordered me that my sisters, the sisters of the new community, will be their nieces.
SLC: It sounds great.
SR: It was quite beautiful. About three quarters of the way through the year, a statement of St. Francis de Sales sunk deep into me through the grace of God—about the will of God. St. Francis said, if you want pure water, what difference is it to you if it’s served to you in a clay cup or a golden chalice? You have what you want, which is pure water. And, he said, if you want the will of God, what difference is it to you if it’s served to you in consolation or affliction, or in any other manner? You have what you want, which is the will of God. That statement truly sunk in, and I can say that God’s will is not just my desire, but indeed now my food. I returned to St. Louis and that grace, as you know, has been tested more than once.
SLC: That leads to the next set of questions. You went to your year of novitiate to continue your discernment; obviously you have discerned that God wills that you should continue with your new order.
SR: Well, yes, and you know, the founding of this order has so much history behind it, it wasn’t so much that I went off to the novitiate to continue discernment, which of course is a main function of the novitiate—and its fruit-- but I went more than anything for my own formation since I’d not been a religious before.
Yes, I came out just as determined to found the community as before, if it is God’s will.
SLC: So, we have heard that you are now moving from St. Louis to Tulsa, and I am sure readers would like to know something of why this is coming about.
SR: As many know, then-Archbishop (now Cardinal) Burke invited me to St. Louis to found the community. I left for my novitiate year prior to the installation of Archbishop Carlson. When I returned from the novitiate, I met very briefly with Archbishop Carlson who let me know following that meeting that he does not wish the community to be established in St. Louis. In his letter, the Archbishop welcomed me to contact other bishops to see who may wish the new community in their dioceses. I did just that. I selected a handful of bishops, for whom I first prayed a novena, sent several letters out and received a wonderful response and a very warm welcome from Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ll be headed there in less than two weeks.
SLC: Do you know where you’ll be staying at the moment?
SR: I do at the moment, Tim. The bishop has offered me a house that’s available through May so I can be in Tulsa and look for a place. There are no convents available; Tulsa is known as the “buckle of the Bible belt”, so I am going to find hopefully a large house or a facility to make into a convent. I mentioned in my Christmas newsletter that I am heading out, like Abraham of old, without a forwarding address! I know the city, but not the place, and have few resources to start out with. It’s all in God’s hands, which is a very good place to be.
SLC: Sister, coming back to the recent events in St. Louis, what do think about what I guess I would call the manufactured controversy over your brother David Moss’ Association of Hebrew Catholics Convention that occurred here back in October. Is there any comment you’d like to make about David’s apostolate, and did this have anything to do with your departure?
SR: The controversy over the conference in early October has no connection with my departure at all. “Manufactured” sums it up, Tim. It had to do with the reporter, Tim Townsend, who manufactured a controversy that never existed. He called David to do an interview on the AHC in light of the upcoming conference—the first one for the Association of Hebrew Catholics in St. Louis—and David spent two hours with him on the phone because it was supposed to be an AHC interview. Tim went ahead and contacted the Jewish community apart from David’s knowledge and turned it into an entirely different article stirring up a controversy that didn’t really exist. I simply think the controversy was manufactured, as you said, to sell newspapers. That’s the beginning and the end of it. The Association of Hebrew Catholics is, I think, an enormous gift to the Church; it exists, like Esther of old, for such a time as this in the history of the Church and, by God’s grace, is doing very well.
SLC: Did you or your order suffer any fallout from that event?
SR: No, from the conference itself, not at all.
SLC: So, can you say anything more specific about the reasons for your departure?
SR: I can truthfully say that the reason the Archbishop has asked me to leave is not clear to me. I do have a letter from Archbishop Carlson which makes it clear that the community is not to be established in St. Louis, but the reasons are not clear. What is clear to me, Tim,—bottom line, if I might say it that way, is that it is the will of God. And I would add that often, as we seek to give our lives to God and to serve Him, many things may occur that are grievous. Such is the case here. But, in my heart, I certainly respect Archbishop Carlson as bishop, in his office, and I ask everyone’s prayers for him. I trust that God has allowed what He has, and the bottom line is His will, which as I said is my food.
SLC: Are there any specific prayer intentions you would like your well-wishers to keep in their prayers?
SR: I would say three things: one, that before the end of May our Lord would lead me to a facility in Tulsa that could be made into a convent; secondly, that He would provide the financial resources needed; and, thirdly, for the discernment of the women who would join me in this glorious work for our Lord' Kingdom.
SLC: I hear there are a fair number of them.
SR: We’ve narrowed the number of Applicants to seventy.
SR: We’ve narrowed the number thus far through phone interviews and written applications. I hope to take those seventy through a discernment process that will result in a choice of about a dozen women to lay the foundation with me.
SLC: This question concerns your community life and your participation in the Church’s public prayer. With the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum of course, the Holy See has acknowledged that religious communities can choose which form they use, whether they use both or one exclusively. I was wondering if in your celebration of the Divine Office and in your Masses whether you would have any recourse to the Extraordinary Form?
SR: Yes, is the answer to that, Tim. The reason Bishop Slattery came to my attention so prominently halfway through my novitiate year in Tyringham was his decision to celebrate the Ordinary Form ad orientem. That was enough for me to keep track of him. I wish every Mass to be celebrated facing the altar, facing liturgically East. He is a very beautiful, orthodox, faithful shepherd of the flock.
I wish the sisters to appreciate a reverent celebration of the Mass in both forms. And in both forms, our altar will face East, and we will receive Our Lord on our knees, and on our tongue.
SLC: That’s fantastic news, and I trust you’ll find ad orientem worship beneficial to the spiritual life of your community.
SR: There’s just no question in the world. I wish everyone understood the beauty of the Mass, the meaning of the Mass—the fact that the priest’s back is not to us; rather his front is to Christ. He is the shepherd leading us to Christ. He is leading us in worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Whom I received on my tongue sixteen years ago. It’s just too amazing.
SLC: As the priest’s own personality diminishes, and he doesn’t feel the need to “perform”, then you really see him as acting in persona Christi—it makes a fundamental difference.
SR: A huge difference. I have grieved through so many Masses, not so much because of the people’s lack of understanding, but because of priests who, to use your words, Tim, feel the need to “perform” or to change the words of the liturgy to what he thinks may seem more relational or acceptable to the people. But the Mass is not the property of man’s creativity to do with as he wishes. The result of such behavior is to rob the People of God of the true meaning of the Holy Mass and its fruit in our lives.
SLC: Sister, I just wanted to say publicly, since this may be the last interview with you for some time, that I have appreciated not only having access to your thoughts, to be able to speak with you, and to have you in our community, but also your words of encouragement to me personally. It really means a lot to me and I feel like I have a good sister, both of us under the tutelage of St. Francis de Sales. You will remain in the prayers of my family and also, no doubt, of my readers.
SR: Thank you, Tim. I want you and your good readers to know that your blog has become my home page and one of my favorite links with all that is sane. I have a deep appreciation for your ability to see and to think, for your courage and faithfulness to the Church. I am very grateful.
SLC: Anything else you would like to say?
SR: The only thing I would say as a farewell to my dear family in St. Louis is what I have often said: Hold nothing back from God. God has made us each with a unique personality, a unique set of gifts, and with a unique calling within whatever vocation He has called us to. It would be the enemy’s choice and constant striving, to distract us by good things in order to keep us from the best, the highest, from giving our all. I would beg you, beloved family, to not let the enemy get a foothold, but rather to be holy, uncompromising witnesses to a world that desperately needs our Savior and His Church.
SLC: Thank you very much.
SR: Thank you, Tim. I hope to stay in touch from Tulsa.