Sunday, June 23, 2024


The Order of St. Anne belongs to the Anglican religious order and is considered to be one of the oldest ones in Chicago. Its history dates back to 1921. The monastery was founded at the Catholic Church of the Ascension according to chicago-future.

The emergence of nunneries in Chicago

Nunneries began to be actively founded in Chicago and other industrial centers of America in the early nineteenth century. The first nunnery was opened upon the initiative of Mother Agatha O’Brien and the four Sisters of Mercy in 1846. At that time, by their looks the monasteries resembled the houses of the settlers.

Religious institutions were often engaged in charity. In particular, they provided a range of services for the poor local population. This included the opening of Sunday and primary schools, orphanages and hospitals.

In the nineteenth century, the House of the Good Shepherd and the Mercy Hospital were opened, which are still operating successfully.

It was nothing new for Chicago residents that a group of women lived among emigrants and worked selflessly to help people. In general, by 1889, there were approximately six dozen monasteries in Chicago. The Catholic sisters who lived in them were usually poor and did not even belong to the middle class.

Women from different ethnic groups lived in Chicago monasteries. They joined the religious communities of the Irish or created their own ones. Thus, in 1911, the Sisters of Saint Casimir, a community originally from Lithuania, founded a parent branch in Chicago. The academy also started operating under the community.

Teaching in educational institutions was not uncommon among nun sisters. Apart from that, women prepared food for hospitals and helped to serve the sick.

The life of nuns in monasteries

In the urban and suburban areas of Chicago, monasteries were mostly located near Catholic churches and schools and thus they were always in plain sight to local residents. However, quite a few monasteries were still hidden from the human eye, because they were located in large medical and educational institutions under the guidance of religious communities.

Frequently, nuns, in order to fulfill their missions, lived at hospitals and universities. By 1945, there were approximately nine thousand Catholic sisters in monasteries of Chicago.

The famous American journalist and reformer Mary Livermore considered Catholic sisterhood to be a driving force of goodness, which she actively encouraged Protestants to follow. Adopting the principles of nun sisters’ life gained great popularity among young women in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Female residents of Chicago were attracted by the opportunity to be useful, do good deeds and act in a way that women were not allowed to do in the Victorian era. Therefore, they deliberately refused motherhood, choosing the role of the better part of society.

Monasteries in Chicago after World War II

After the end of World War II, a period of prosperity began in the USA. Many Americans felt either social or cultural changes, which also affected women who professed Catholicism.

Nuns began to obtain a higher education. They often participated in various social actions such as the civil rights movement and various movements involving women. This had a corresponding effect on the religious life of the nun sisters.

Many nuns left the monasteries and chose family life or a professional career. Those nuns who remained and dedicated themselves to serving God changed their traditional clothing and chose new forms of Christian service.

In the early 1990s, the number of nuns in the diocese of Chicago declined significantly. Many nun sisters retired. Apart from that, dozens of monasteries and churches were closed.

It should be noted that active nunneries in the city continue to provide assistance to poor residents, orphans and children with disabilities. They also traditionally provide care and teaching services.

Order of St. Anne and the Chicago Monastery

In 1910, Frederick Cecil Powell founded the Anglican religious order of nuns – the Order of St. Anne. At first, the Order operated in the town of Arlington Heights in the state of Massachusetts. On the initiative of the Order, a school for girls was opened in the town, which was later renamed Germaine Lawrence School.

In 1921, during a train stop in Chicago, two nun sisters accidentally met Father William Brewster, who was the rector of the Church of the Ascension. He quite quickly managed to persuade the sisters of the need to serve in Chicago.

Therefore, in 1921, the Anglican religious order founded the monastery of Saint Anne of the same name. It operated in the Anglo-Catholic Church of the Ascension. The main task of the nuns was missionary work in the parish. The nuns worked in the Church of the Ascension as mentors and teachers.

The first abbess of the Chicago monastery was Mother Gabriel. Together with the other sisters she set to work. Nuns taught children, visited the sick, and prepared children for the Holy Communion.

In 1932, a small school for girls was opened at the monastery, which in twenty years was transformed into a parish school for children. The first headmistress of the school was the abbess Mary Margaret.

As for the Church of the Ascension, it was founded in 1857 as a mission of the church of Saint James. Since 1869, the parish joined the Anglo-Catholic church. However, in the early years in the parish there were often conflicts with the main bishop of Chicago regarding divine services. However, later the temples of the city were united by the idea of ​​the national leading role of the Ascension.

Sisters of the monastery of the Order of St. Anne

Sister Judith Marie had been the abbess of the monastery for thirty years. She devoted her whole life to serving God.

Sister Judith comes from India. She was brought up in the local Orthodox church. For the first time the nun came to Chicago in 1988 and has lived in the monastery ever since. It should be added that the religious life of Sister Judith began in 1977.

By education, the abbess of the monastery holds a master’s degree in English literature. She also received a bachelor’s degree in theology. Sister Judith devoted many years of her life to help in the fight against bad habits. In particular, she has a certified license in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. She worked as a consultant in Chicago for about twenty years.

Sister Judith Marie defined helping people in difficult times and love for God as the main tasks in her life. According to the abbess, she takes great pleasure in working in the Church of the Ascension.

The nun devotes her prayers to the sick, the homeless, the people with addictions, as well as to Chicago, where she spent most of her life. In her spare time from prayer and work, Sister Judith Marie likes to travel and spend time with family and friends.

An outstanding representative of the Order of St. Anne is Sister Barbara Louise. She was born in Chicago and raised in the Jewish tradition. However, in 1955, Barbara Louise accepted Christian baptism. She earned a teaching degree from Roosevelt University. Later, Sister Barbara Louise additionally received a degree in the education of the deaf and the people with disabilities.

The nun became a member of the Order of St. Anna in 1976. She taught in Chicago schools and Malcolm X College for many years.

Sister Barbara Louise devotes all her time to writing stories for children and working in the book club of the Church of the Ascension.

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