These cloistered nuns who never leave the convent are at WYD for the first time

By Walter Sanchez Silva

They never, or almost never leave, the convent where they live totally devoted to God, but one lively group of cloistered nuns is participating for the first time in World Youth Day 2023.

Four Perpetual Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from the congregation’s community in San Francisco shared their personal experiences with EWTN News at the event taking place this week in Lisbon, Portugal.

Mother Alma Ruth, the superior of the community, 63, who has been in religious life for 39 years, spoke excitedly and with great expectation about WYD.

“It’s the first time that we have come to this beautiful event that will encourage us more, going back to our monastery to pray for all these young people. It’s a joy to see so many young people looking to see what God wants of them,” she said.

Regarding her own vocation story, the nun recalled that she wasn’t exactly thinking of becoming a cloistered nun. She only went on a vocation retreat to accompany one of her sisters, “who wanted to have an experience with the ‘adorers’. She didn’t stay but I did. I was 23 years old and have been in religious life for 39 years.”

“Religious life,” she said, “is the most beautiful thing that could happen to me and I have no words to thank God, only my life to thank him for having chosen me.”

Another of the nuns who is experiencing her first WYD is Sister María Grace de la Dolorosa, a Mexican American who took her vows just four months ago. “I never wanted to be a nun, but my sister did,” she confessed.

The sister of this 34-year-old cloistered religious realized that she didn’t have a vocation, but in love with the charism of the sisters, she decided to organize retreats so that more young people opt for the consecrated life. Sister Maria Grace attended the first one, but she was “very afraid” and tried to forget about the profound experience she had had.

But participating in a second retreat, she admitted, she could no longer resist “such a strong call” from God. “There I saw that I didn’t need anything else, that Our Lord was giving me everything I needed,” she recalled with a note of relief.

The nun also recounted that her decision had something to do with an umbrella, which might sound strange, but she explained it very clearly: A priest told them that if they prayed for it to not rain and went out with an umbrella, they didn’t have faith.

“So I said, ‘I don’t want to go out with an umbrella, without faith,’ and I said ‘yes’ to Our Lord.”

Don’t be afraid

Sister Maria Grace also encouraged young people who might have vocational concerns not to be afraid, not to be paralyzed by it, and to respond to the Lord Jesus with great courage and determination, with the energy typical of youth.

“If you are afraid, this is going to paralyze you. If you think that God is calling you, respond. A vocation has two important points: the call and the response. If you listen to the call and do nothing, it remains null; but if you listen to the call and respond, you will be truly happy.”

The nun also had special advice for parents, who sometimes oppose the desire of their children to give themselves completely to God out of fear or prejudice, or seeing that the possibility of grandchildren is no longer on the horizon.

Sister Maria Grace advised them, quite clearly, not to be afraid and to let go of “what does not really belong to you,” because we all “belong to God.”

The smiling nun acknowledged that it is the Lord himself who gives children to parents, so that they may love them with all their hearts, educate them in the faith, care for them, and raise them as good Christians. However, she noted that “they have to give them away wherever God calls them whether it’s religious or married life.”

“Don’t be afraid to surrender your children to the will of God and to pray a lot for them so that they are good Christians, which is what we need so much in this world,” she encouraged, pointing out the happiness of each and every member of a family where a consecrated vocation has blossomed.

Mother Alma Ruth urged all young people — not only those at World Youth Day in Lisbon — to give themselves “the opportunity to have an experience wherever they want, in any monastery, to see if that is not really your calling.”

“We’ll see about [the option of] marriage later, but if you have a calling within your soul, give yourself the opportunity to be happy with what God wants of you!” she said.

The superior of the community in San Francisco also addressed parents and promised that they will not regret letting their children choose a life dedicated to the Lord.

“They won’t regret it, because they’re not losing a son or a daughter; on the contrary, they gain an entire community and afterward they’re very happy to see their children happy.”

As Pope Benedict XVI said: “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life.”

Sister Mariana de las Llagas de Jesús is another of the Adoration Sisters who is in Lisbon this week along with hundreds of thousands of young people eager to see and hear Pope Francis, who arrived in the Portuguese capital on Aug. 2.

Sister Mariana has already been with the adorers for 10 years and she makes a clear, precise, and forceful reminder: God doesn’t force anyone.

“He doesn’t force us, he’s a gentleman. And I would advise parents to let their children decide for themselves, for what is good, for what is holy, for what God is calling them to, and to support them 100%.”

Sister María Magdalena del Sagrado Corazón, a 30-year-old Mexican, is another one of the nuns who has temporarily left the convent. She has been in the community for 10 years, only leaving the monastery to go to the doctor and nothing else.

She was introduced to the religious order when she was only 20 years old when an aunt invited her to meet the adorers: “Our Lord called me at that moment,” she remarked firmly and also with special sweetness.

The Perpetual Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were founded in 1807 in Rome by Blessed Mary Magdalene of the Incarnation. Their charism is to make reparation for the offenses, ingratitude, and sacrileges committed against the Blessed Sacrament as well as to intercede for the Church and humanity with their uninterrupted eucharistic adoration.

The almost 1,000 nuns who belong to the order spread throughout some 70 monasteries are present in Italy, Spain, Austria, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by Catholic News Agency.

Photo: From left to right: Sister Mary Grace of the Sorrowful, Sister Mariana of the Wounds of Jesus, the Mother Superior Alma Ruth, and Sister Mary Magdalene of the Sacred Heart. | Credit: EWTN News