Something really wonderful is happening here, far beyond our small selves. So many people have been touched by their visits here, the beauty of the monastery and its setting. They find God here. We have people coming from all over the world—from all faiths and no faith.
Surrounded by breathtaking views, the Queen of Peace Monastery is a respite from everyday life, and place of peace for the Dominican sisters who live there as well as the visitors they welcome. Funded by benefactors, the monastery was finished on the feast of St. Dominic, August 8th, 2012, after 17 months of construction. The monastery is north of Vancouver, in the Upper Squamish Valley, and currently houses 12 sisters—but the number is growing! They come from Canada as well as all over the world, from places like the States, Ukraine, Tanzania, and France.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask cloistered nun Sister Jean Marie Dwyer about the monastery and her way of life.
Who can visit the monastery?
Anyone can come who wants to experience the monastic rhythm—both men and women, married couples and groups. There have been several large groups who have come for a day of recreation. Two or three have brought their own lecturer and joined us at community prayer. Sometimes a group will ask that a sister come to speak to them about our life—that is not our main thrust. God’s presence among our prayerful, hidden life is what touches people. We see our principal ministry as one of offering space, prayer, the beauty of creation, and the all important ingredients of silence and solitude for finding God. We want to be faithful to what God calls us to be in the Church.
“The monastery provides a beautiful sacred space where people can get away from the ‘rat race’ and experience the ancient monastic rhythm of life, with it’s ebb and flow of liturgical prayer and silence. It is fitting that we should choose a place where the Creator of the Universe can speak to hearts in the silence of Canada’s awesome natural beauty.”
We have what we call a “ministry of welcome” for those who are seeking a time of silence, prayer and retreat. We have only a small guest house now, but our dream for the future is to raise money to build a larger one. There is a real need for this in the archdiocese—the guest house has been very busy since we opened the monastery in August. When a person arrives they are greeted by the sister in charge of welcome and shown the guest house and chapel. The chapel is open all day so they can go there anytime for prayer. If they wish, they can participate in all our community prayer times beginning with the Morning Office at 6:00 am. For community prayer and meals they can follow the monastic schedule with us. They can also shape their day by silence and solitude, walking, hiking and enjoying the beautiful nature all around us.
What is your daily life like?
We live the day in silence, except when it is necessary to speak for work or to take care of some special need of the sisters. This creates an atmosphere that keeps us in the presence of God. We keep to a monastic schedule. It is more than a list of things to do or obligations to fulfill: it is the structure that enables us to follow a “Way of Life,” in the spirit of St. Dominic and the traditions of the Order. The rhythm of work and recreation, silence, liturgy, study and prayer—along with the regularity of schedule—helps us to enter into relationship with God, ourselves, and our neighbor. The sameness seems like it would be boring, but it isn’t because it enables us to be alive to God.
What do you love about the monastic life?
How to say it! It is truly my vocation and so it is the niche in which I flourish.
“The monastic journey has not made me an angel; what it has done is helped me to be the person I was always meant to be.”
I am at peace with who I am, and I have come to know God and know I am loved by God. Perhaps what I love best is having found God—in finding God I have also found my brothers and sisters. I believe the power and ripple effect of prayer and God’s presence moving out into our world. My life has connection with all God’s children. I have been a nun for 50 years and have experienced the ups and downs of life, but my heart is young and filled with gratitude and joy.
“We feel so strongly that this is all God’s work and that he really means to use the monastery as a house of prayer for all peoples.”
These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
(Isaiah 56.7 NRSV)
I hope to visit soon when I return to vancouver after living in Europe for 13 years. I spent 3 days with the poor clares in norway and it was just wonderful.