Religious accept God’s ‘better offer’
Established in 1944, Elmira’s Monastery of Mary the Queen is home to a contemplative order of Dominican nuns. These women, who now number 12, came from disparate backgrounds but surrendered their past lives to accept what Sister Mary of the Trinity calls “a better offer” — the opportunity to become closer to God.
The sisters spend every day praying, working and studying with that simple opportunity in mind. They are cloistered, but they are not cut off from the outside world. They sell handmade crafts and homemade foods in a small gift shop, and host workshops, lectures and special events. They believe in solitude and silence, but also embrace the joys of living in community. Many remember a time when steel grills made it difficult to view Mass or see family members, while invisible barriers kept them from fully engaging with one another. Now they have regular meetings to discuss shared concerns, and everyone has a chance to be heard.
“Sisters are challenged to be honest and forge relationships with each other,” Sister Mary Dominic remarked.
These relationships are what help keep the monastery thriving. Sister Anna Marie, who moved from Trinidad to Mary the Queen in 2005, said her impressions of the monastery were shaped by the women she met there. “When I visited I was encouraged by the zeal and the spirit of the sisters,” she said. “I decided to come after that and have never regretted it.”