Today is the 9th anniversary of our move to our present monastery, located on what we call Mt. St. Francis in Barhamsville, VA. We shall celebrate by recounting stories of the never to be forgotten day. Here is an excerpt from our spring newsletter of 2004 which tells some of what happened:
January was, at long last, the “acceptable time” of our great move. Our dear Friends in the Hope community were so eager to take possession of our Harpersville monastery on January 31st, and we were so eager to begin Poor Clare life on Mount St. Francis that we did not realize until all was accomplished that only God’s grace got us through it all. The plans we always had in mind about the move were so neat and tidy. We would finish the monastery, get it mostly painted and cleaned, and then move by stages, all the boxes and furniture for one room being moved in the same vehicle and ending up in the right room in our new place.
Well, God’s ways are not our ways, and if we had heeded the Scriptures a little more carefully we would have noticed that the Exodus and the Flight into Egypt were not exactly programmed to human perfection. At the last Matins we chanted together in Newport News on January 30th, the day we would make the definitive transitus of the whole community to Mt. St. Francis, we were all moved even to some tears at the first responsory: “Be strong and steadfast, for the Lord your God is going with you. He goes before you; there is nothing you need fear. The Lord will be at your side to keep your foot from stumbling. He goes before you; there is nothing you need fear.”
The following accounts are written by some of our sisters…
“Looking back, ‘Moving Week’ is a blur of images: pick-up trucks, U-Hall vans, private vans, Seaford Moving trucks, flat-bed trucks, all driven by canonizable saints otherwise known as our good and faithful benefactors, friends, and family members; boxes and more boxes, carefully sealed and labeled at first, then gradually coming unlabeled and unsealed; sisters, friends, and moving men carrying boxes and furniture through dusty halls and gritty stairs; construction men of various trades trying to do their task amid the chaos, or looking on amazed, or getting into the act themselves; brooms and mops wielded with right hand and left, waging war on the ever-returning plaster dust. Basically the plan had been simple. One or two sisters would go each day to Mt. St. Francis with the first few loads of our goods, and remain there to unload and direct traffic at that end while the rest stayed at the other end to continue packing and loading. The “routine” for the first group became to unload, then wash dormitory rooms until the next load arrived. But the last day, when we finally took possession of the land, the first four to arrive dropped their gunny-sacks containing the absolute essentials of life in their new cells. This day was like all the others except that we knew there would be no trips back to Newport News. The “routine” began and they waited for more sisters to arrive throughout the day. None came. Then a few came…and went back. The unmarked and unsealed boxes, mentioned above, gave evidence that things were becoming desperate at 28 Harpersville Road.”
“As evening drew on we began readying the cells for our sisters, sweeping and washing floors, finding the simple furniture needed and respectively marked cell boxes belonging to each one. It was a great blessing to be able to do this, as those remaining in Newport News to finish up still had a ways to go and those in “situ” still had plenty of unloading to do. God indeed was our strength and our strong support, and we leaned heavily upon Him. Gradually the others began to arrive, until eventually the entire community was together under one roof – the King’s new rooms, a royal house of prayer. Each had so much to tell, but oh! how weary we all were! A late meal happened around a little table in the kitchen. What was so beautiful for me at the end of that day? Having spent months traveling up to Mt. St. Francis to plant, weed, paint, and clean…after all the chaos of this day, before retiring I took a stroll over to the community dormitory and stood looking down the corridor at all the closed cell doors with lamps inside each room sending out a gentle glow. Ah, all my dear Sisters are here, safe! My heart was filled with love and gratitude that our dear Lord had taken such tender care of us. May He be forever blessed. Just then, Mother Abbess came out from her cell and whispered “I have to go lock the front door!” Look down with love on us, O radiant vinedresser, Mother Clare, and bestow on us your maternal benediction!”