As farfetched as it sounds, it's not uncommon to see flying nuns in the Squamish Valley. Sister Claire Rolf and her contemporaries at the Queen of Peace Monastery, a Dominican Order that has settled into temporary digs in the Mystic Mountain Lodge while it builds a permanent monastery nearby, ride their bikes in summer and cross country ski in winter, their crisp white habits rippling in the wind.
Along with seven other nuns and two nuns-in-training, Rolf's monastery makes up part of an ancient Catholic order that's relatively new to the West Coast of Canada. The Dominicans have roots in 13th Century France and boast a long tradition of intellectual and influential members such as St. Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus . Though the Dominicans had no presence in B.C. prior to 1999, Rolf's work has helped establish their presence firmly in the monastic fabric. When construction of the new monastery is finished, Queen of Peace members hope to extend their traditions of silence, peace and prayer to anyone looking for life balance.
"By their simple existence, monasteries remind people of the transcendent and essential dimensions of life," said Rolf, a former cross-country ski racer who did her religious training in Europe. "We offer monastic hospitality where seekers of any ethnicity or religion can find an oasis of silence, peace and prayer, to live for a time our ancient rhythm of life."
After stints in Surrey and Fort Langley, where the sale of their original two properties allowed them to buy land in the upper Squamish Valley, the sisters of the Queen of Peace Monastery were drawn to the Sea to Sky corridor for its dual ability to provide ample peace without being too far off the beaten path. Once finished, their new 23,000 square foot monastery will be a West Coast style post and beam structure with a cloister walk and living quarters built around an enclosed courtyard. The second level will be reserved for 20 simple monastic cells (bedrooms) where strict silence is always observed. At ground level, a kitchen, refectory (dining room), community room and library as well as an infirmary and work and service spaces will be complemented by a chapel, a conference room, a small art gallery, visiting rooms and a shop to sell monastic products. The space where the nuns will welcome guests will be discretely separate from the living space designated for the use of the community in order to preserve its quietude.
"Over the centuries we have developed a balanced lifestyle," continued Rolf. "The day is structured so as to assure that there are times for study, meditation, chant, manual work as well as recreation. It may surprise people to learn that most of our day is passed in silence; it is not an empty silence but one of listening, reflecting and caring."
Each monastery in the Dominican Order is autonomous and receives no funding from the Vatican or any other administrative organization within the Catholic realm. The nuns of the Queen of Peace Monastery live simply, maintain an organic garden and pay their bills through the sale of artwork, baking and cards.
Once finished, the new building will be able to accommodate 20 nuns and up to 10 guests.
For more information go to www.dominicannunsbc.ca/Queen_of_Peace/Queen_of_Peace__.html.