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Nuns Were Asked To Leave Their Convent, So They Did

By Susan Campbell

August 10, 2010

The Sisters of Mercy have a long history in Hartford’s South Green neighborhood.

Beginning in the mid-1800s and stretching to the late 1970s, they taught at the parish school of St. Peter Church. Briefly in the 1880s, they ran an academy. Back in the 1970s, they began renting Charter Oak Convent, a sprawling house behind the church, but last summer, the archdiocese asked the nuns -- six of them, and one in her 90s -- to relocate.

The request comes at an unusual time. Nuns in the U.S. are the focus of an apostolic visitation, in which they have been asked detailed questions about their spiritual lives, and their adherence to church doctrine. The Catholic News Agency said last year that many orders have boycotted the survey, or sent in incomplete forms. Some nuns call the visitation an “inquisition.” Last week, an American priest named secretary of the Congregation for Religious said his appointment is a reflection of “just how badly” American women’s religious orders have reacted to the apostolic visitation.

Part of the impetus of the survey is concern that modern nuns do not live in community in old-style convents - similar to the one on Charter Oak. The convent was next door to a homeless shelter. In preparation for their move, when the curbside piles of cast-offs grew increasingly large each trash day, the shelter residents expressed concern. Where would the nuns go?

As of now, the six sisters are scattered from South Windsor to Hartford and West Hartford.

Beyond serving as base for the Sisters of Mercy, the convent, which sleeps 20, played an important role for women religious passing through the capital city. Sisters from a variety of orders, as well as volunteers who needed a place to stay, were welcome. At one point, representatives from eight different orders enjoyed fellowship at the convent.

The nuns wrote the archbishop to tell him the history of the order in Hartford, and the archbishop thanked them. On Monday, an archdiocese spokeswoman said the house is being used as a rectory for St. Peter's.

“We don’t begrudge them using the house,” said Sis. Mary Alice Synkewecz. “But we would have preferred being in on the process. We might have suggestions for the site, but no one’s asked us.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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