Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery
Contemplative Prayer, Retreat House
Get in Touch!
270-233-4571 | | Sr. Cecilia Maria, CP (vocation directress)
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Paul of the Cross (founder), St. Gabriel Possenti of the Sorrowful Virgin, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Charles of Mt. Argus, Bl. Dominic Barberi, Bl. Isidore DeLoor
Our vocation as Passionist contemplative nuns is one of prayer and intercession in union with Mary at the foot of the Cross. Our whole life flows from the personal love of Christ for us manifested in His passion, death and resurrection. We seek to comfort Him in His Sacred Passion by loving our Sisters in community life and through Divine Worship. This is expressed most powerfully in our participation in the Holy Mass which is the high-point of our monastic day. Through this union with our Sacramental Spouse in the Eucharist we are empowered to persevere in this loving union with Christ Crucified.
Like our active Fathers and Brothers in the Congregation of the Passion, we make a vow "to promote devotion to and grateful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ," which vow distinguishes the Passionists in the Church. The nuns fulfill this vow as contemplatives; instead of going out to preach and evangelize, we seek to be witnesses and beacons of the love of Christ Crucified by our hidden lives of prayer and by inviting others to come spend time with us at the foot of the Cross, where we run a small retreat house.
The four marks of the Passionist charism are prayer, poverty, silence, and solitude, all in union with our Crucified Bridegroom in His great act of self-outpouring love for the world's redemption. Ours is a Marian vocation; the Passionist Nuns are deeply identified with Mary at the foot of the Cross, who was the first to offer herself in union with Christ's sacrifice. It is a Eucharistic vocation; through the Mass, the re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, our lives are caught up into that same mystery. It is a monastic vocation; our days are lived in the great tradition of western monasticism and include its traditional framework of the sung Liturgy of the Hours, communal meals, and a balance of prayer and work. It is a ecclesial vocation; we dwell at the very heart of the Church and give our lives so that Christ's continuing work in and through her may bear abundant fruit.
St. Paul of the Cross founded the Congregation of the Passion (the Passionist Fathers) in 1720 in Italy, and in 1771 he finally realized his desire to found a female branch of the Passionists when the first monastery of nuns was established in Corneto (now Tarquinia), Italy. The venerable Mother Mary Crucified was the first superior of the newly-founded monastery, having lived first as a Benedictine nun for many years. Since then, some 30 monasteries of Passionist Nuns have been established across Europe, North and South America, and Asia. While each monastery is autonomous, we are all united by our common charism and Rule and Constitutions, and in 2018 the Holy See approved the erection of the Monastic Congregation of the Nuns of the Passion of Jesus Christ, a juridic structure of communion among all the Passionist Nuns' monasteries.
The Passionist Nuns first came to the United States in 1910. St. Joseph Monastery was founded in Owensboro, KY, by five nuns from the monastery in Scranton, PA, in 1946. In 1995 we built and relocated to a new monastery in Whitesville, KY, in order to provide a better environment for our contemplative life.
Our community currently has 14 members, one of whom is serving as Mother President of the Monastic Congregation (and therefore living in Italy right now!).
The daily prayer life of a Passionist Nun includes daily Mass, the full Liturgy of the Hours sung in choir, two hours of personal contemplative prayer (one in the morning, one in the evening), and 30 minutes of spiritual reading. There is daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for Evening Prayer and the hour of personal prayer which follows. Each nun is also encouraged to pray the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross daily on her own. The prayer life in our monastery is rich and Spirit-filled. St. Paul of the Cross always encouraged his spiritual sons and daughters to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their prayer, and we certainly do that here. As our name and charism suggest, the Paschal Mystery -- the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ -- holds a primary place in our prayer and devotional life and, indeed, influences all that we do and are.
The following "horarium" is a typical weekday schedule in our monastery and gives a glimpse into the rhythm of prayer and work:
4:30 AM - Rise
4:45 AM - Office of Readings
5:20 AM - Hour of Prayer
6:20 AM - Angelus and Morning Prayer
7:00 AM - Holy Mass, followed by Midmorning Prayer
8:00 AM - Breakfast
8:45 AM - Spiritual Reading
9:30 AM - Work Duties
12:00 PM - Angelus and Midday Prayer
12:15 PM - Dinner (main meal)
1:00 PM - Optional Recreation
1:25 PM - Silence Time (free time in solitude)
2:35 PM - Midafternoon Prayer, followed by the Offerings of the Precious Blood
3:00 PM - Study (40 minutes three days a week)
3:40 PM - Work Duties
4:45 PM - Exposition and Evening Prayer
5:10 PM - Hour of Prayer
6:15 PM - Angelus and Supper
7:00 PM - Community Recreation
8:00 PM - Night Prayer and Marian Antiphon
8:45 PM - Great Silence
9:30 PM - Lights Out
Every Friday morning is set aside for prayer in honor of Our Lord's Sacred Passion; the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the Altar from Mass until Midday Prayer. On Fridays, our second hour of prayer is kept at the 3:00 Hour of Mercy, when Jesus died on the Cross. Also on Fridays, one nun is chosen by lot to make a special remembrance of the Passion in her prayer and is freed from all work in order to be in chapel.
We also have other days and times set aside for greater prayer: a monthly retreat Sunday, holy days of obligation and certain other special feast days, an annual 8-day silent retreat in the spring and an annual 4-day retreat in November to prepare for our communal renewal of vows. As a community, we celebrate five solemn novenas to prepare for the feasts of Christmas, St. Joseph, Pentecost, Assumption, and St. Paul of the Cross, as well as a septenary to prepare for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Vows: Passionist Nuns profess five vows. In addition to our distinctive "Passion Vow," we profess the Evangelical Counsels of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience, as well as a vow of Enclosure.
Habit: The Passionist Nuns wear the traditional habit of the Passionists: a long black tunic (symbolic of mourning and of penance) girded with a leather belt, a black veil, the Passion Sign over our heart, a large habit rosary worn on the belt, and sandals. Our Lady actually appeared to St. Paul of the Cross dressed in this habit and asked him to found a community dressed as she is, which would keep continual remembrance with her of her Son's sorrowful Passion.
Stages of Formation:
It takes a total of at least nine years before a nun makes her perpetual vows. The initial step in becoming a Passionist Nun is making contact, getting to know each other, discerning if a woman has the basic, objective qualifications. Depending on the distance and expense we like to have some personal contact, preferably by email, visits, and a live‑in experience of about a week.
Aspirancy lasts 1-2 years, during which the aspirant does not yet live at the monastery but comes for periodic visits and stays in regular contact with the formation directress. At the end of Aspirancy she typically has a longer visit (2-3 months) inside the cloister while she prepares to officially enter the monastery as a postulant.
Postulancy also lasts 1-2 years. A postulant wears a simple black jumper and veil while living in the Novitiate. She is gradually incorporated into our life and has a Directress that will help her to integrate into the community. She attends classes to help her grow in wholeness and holiness.
After the Postulancy follows the Novitiate which lasts 2 years. The Novice receives the habit of a Passionist Nun (but not the Passion Sign) and she wears a white veil instead of a black one. At this time she also receives her religious name. In our community, we always receive some form of "Mary" as a part of our new name, and we also take a devotional title (for example, a recently-vested novice received the name Sr. Miriam Esther of the Sacred Heart). During the Novitiate she continues with classes focusing primarily on the meaning of religious life and our five vows.
At the end of the Novitiate the novice makes her profession of the five Passionist vows and she renews them for a period of five years. This period is commonly called the time of Temporary Vows or Juniorate. The Junior Sister receives the Sign of our Congregation and the black veil and the wedding ring. She takes on more responsibilities in the community while continuing with some classes.
After these many years of preparation sister fulfills her heart’s desire by pronouncing her Perpetual Vows, consecrating herself to Jesus with all her heart and forever, to be His Bride. She is fully integrated into community life and responsibilities including becoming a voting member of the Chapter.
Our profession ceremony includes a number of beautiful symbols and traditions. At final profession, during the Litany of the Saints before she pronounces her vows, the nun lies prostrate before the altar and is covered with a black pall, symbolizing her death to the world. At both first and final professions, the nun is crowned with a crown of thorns and a large wooden cross is placed on her shoulder. This same crown of thorns is treasured by the nun all her life, and when the Divine Bridegroom finally comes to take His bride to heaven, it is placed in her coffin and intertwined with flowers, symbolic of the goal she has reached and her resurrection to come.
Silence and solitude are important parts of our monastery tradition, but that does not mean that we are never loud and never have any fun! In addition to our daily periods of recreation (during which we can talk freely), we also celebrate the Church's feast days with afternoons free for recreation, and a few times a year we celebrate a "Gaudeamus Day," which is free for talking, laughing, playing games, eating good food, etc., all day long! The customary Gaudeamus Days in our community are Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Superior's feast day, and the Vicar's feast day... and the superior can decree a Gaudeamus whenever she sees fit!