Sr. Sheryl Frances Chen was assistant editor of U.S. Catholic magazine before she entered the monastery to join the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO). Now she is chantress and Saturday cook at Tautra Mariakloster on an island in the Trondheim fjord in Norway.
Like the migratory birds that come from all over the world, the 14 nuns of Tautra Mariakloster come from eight different countries. In addition to trying to create unity in the community when we come from such different cultures and backgrounds, our greatest challenge is communication.
Let us be the women who attune our inner ear to the heartbeat of God, who listen for the whir of wings on the way to prayers, and who find presence in the most empty spaces.
A woman who has made a retreat at Tautra Mariakloster many times brought her Bible study group for a weekend retreat. She asked me talk to them about our monastic life. One question took me by surprise: How has my relationship with Jesus changed before and after I entered the monastery?
Many of our friends and family back home in the U.S. and continental Europe think that founding a Cistercian monastery on the island of Tautra in Norway is taking a bit too literally Jesus' command to go out to the ends of the Earth.