“We pray. That is our purpose,” Sister Mary John said as she spoke softly of the need of the place where thousands in East Texans have gone for help and prayer through the years. The Monastery of the Infant Jesus, 1501 Lotus Lane, is the one in need now — in need of a generator to help those nuns who are ill or elderly and are on oxygen.
“We have an infirmary here on the grounds and we have elderly sisters there who have been ill, on oxygen or have a feeding tube placed. When the electricity goes out, it can be a little frightening for them,” Sister Mary John said. “It is quite uncomfortable, especially for those on a feeding tube or on oxygen. We still take care of them, but it would be easier with a generator to help with caring for them or help in keeping the refrigeration for our food. The last time our electricity went off, it was out for 17 hours. It was very unfortunate. In case of a tornado or hurricane or just a bad storm, we must be prepared to help our sisters who need to be treated in the infirmary.”
Sister John said they have located a generator that must be hard-wired into the facility and is the right size to power the monastery along with the infirmary in case of a power outage, but she said the price tag is almost $50,000. The infirmary has a nurse’s station, a pharmacy area, a special walk-in bathtub and six rooms available for sisters who recover from surgery or need special care because of age or illness. Some have remained there while in hospice care. There is a deck outside the infirmary rooms where wheelchairs can be rolled outside for fresh air, but in the heat of the summer or during winter’s coldest days, those who are ill cannot be taken outside.
The beautiful, peaceful landscape of almost 100 acres where the monastery is located, includes walking trails, a small lake and well-kept grounds that the sisters take care of daily. The chapel at the monastery is open to the public to come to for prayer or to attend daily Mass. Sister John said it does not matter anyone’s religious affiliation, just so people are aware that they are there to help and to pray for others.
“The community is so generous to us, and we in turn give back to the community,” she said. “This is a sizable generator and people have already started giving to us for this need. We currently have one sister on oxygen and so the need here is ongoing.”
Sister John said there are about 30 nuns who reside at the monastery and vary in ages from their late 20s to early 90s.
“This is an important mission, and people are sending us $5 or $1 and it is so nice of them to care about us,” she said. “Our mission is to help and share with others. We are organizing a raffle which will help for this cause also.”
Praying is a responsibility, she said, and the nuns practice giving the abundance that they have to help the community — not just in prayer, but by giving and sharing.
“Many people give us things that we in turn donate to others in the community,” she said. “That is the way it is supposed to work. Prayer works the same way. For instance, we used to have fried chicken given to us that was left over from an area grocery store. Now, they must throw it away and are not allowed to give it away. That is so sad. It should not be thrown away, but given to others who need it. We gave it to area neighbors whose children only get one meal a day at school.”
The monastery was established in Lufkin in 1945 on the same property, according to its website.
“Each year thousands of seedlings are planted in the pine forests of East Texas. In 1945, a special seed was sown in the soil: Dominican cloistered contemplative life,” a Monastery newsletter reads. “The years have brought sunlit skies, gray skies and some dark heavy storms. All were needed, so that with our faith and works and the faith-filled assistance and encouragement of thousands of friends, God could give the increase, producing His hidden spiritual fruitfulness.”
Sister John said she hopes to be able to raise enough money for the generator to be able to have it installed by summer, if not sooner. To donate or learn more about the monastery, go to lufkinnuns.org or call 634-4233.
Rhonda Oaks’ email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.