The Norbertine Association is the first foundation of future Norbertine canonesses in the United States. We were founded by and are affiliated with St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County, California. At the time of our canonical erection, the five "founding" sisters were living the common life in a townhouse near the Abbey, which enabled the sisters to assist daily at Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, and also to attend various classes offered by our priestconfreres at the Abbey. In June of 1998, after receiving the Norbertine habit and religious names, and with Mother Mary Augustine having been named superior, the first five sisters of the Association began a canonical novitiate year of formation with a cloistered community of Dominican nuns in Buffalo, New York, with the support of our "Pater Abbas", Father Abbot Eugene Hayes. Having completed this canonical novitiate year, the sisters returned to the Abbey in late July of 1999. Mother Mary Augustine made her first profession on August 6, and the following month Father Abbot sent the sisters to Europe to continue their formation. From September to early November, the sisters visited seven Norbertine sisters' communities, many other Norbertine abbeys and women's communities, and the Order's generalate house in Rome. In the summer of 1999, the sisters became aware of a 476-acre property located in the mountains near Tehachapi, California, about 120 miles from the Abbey. In early November 1999, the five sisters purchased and moved into a vacant former convent of teachingsisters in a parish in Santa Ana, California, beginning to receive new postulants for the first time. The convent provided them with temporary living space while the main ranch house in Tehachapi was being renovated into a temporary convent and chapel.
Community July 07 2008
In late May 2000, the sisters, then seven in number, moved to Tehachapi. By the end of 2000, the community had grown to ten sisters, and has since expanded to twenty sisters from all over the globe as of Spring 2009, having thirteen (13) professed, four (4) novices, one (1) donata, one (1) postulant, and one (1) donata candidate. Our current monastery and chapel consists of the renovated ranch house mentioned above, three modular trailers and some storage sheds. Our community's principal goal is to be recognized by the Order and the Church as an autonomous house of Norbertine canonesses. Although our current housing situation is far from the monastic ideal, we nevertheless strive to carry out as much as possible the founding charism and spirit of our holy founder, St. Norbert. We follow the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Canonesses Regular of Premontre, observing the three evangelical counsels and the requirements of stability in cloister and ongoing conversion. Recognizing that the heart of our vocation is the solemn and reverential celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the seven canonical hours of the Divine Office in common in choir, we give pride of place to the official music and language of the Church-Gregorian Chant and Latin. Our liturgical prayer is fostered by daily periods of private prayer, especially Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Lectio Divina, and by an assiduous life of penance and sacrifice. We especially embrace and incorporate into our lives those practices which we hope reflect our deep respect for the vita apostolica and the five hallmarks of the Norbertine charism, such as the Chapter of faults, devotion to Our Lady and the Holy Souls, etc. Following our Founder, whom Popes called a "loyal son", we joyfully adhere to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, the Magisterium and our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Additionally, we are committed to our sisters' ongoing formation, which is generously facilitated by our confreres from Orange and sometimes from other communities. In keeping with the Norbertine charism of hospitality, we welcome all to assist at Holy Mass and the Divine Office, and we also have our Bethany Guest House for those who would like to spend the night or experience our way of life for a more extended period. Non-cloistered areas are available to Bethany House guests for walks and hikes. Visitors come from across the United States and further as well.
Occasionally, we also host "Question & Answer" sessions for various groups of young people so they can learn about our Norbertine way of life. As it is the Norbertine tradition to be selfsufficient and to have manual labor, from our inception we have experimented with various income-producing industries. To this end, we run a little gift shop, in which we sell specialty food and apothecary items, stationery, priestly vestments, rosaries, crocheted baptismal blankets-all hand-made by the sisters, as well as religious books and other articles. We continue our farming efforts, raising chickens, (eggs are either sold or used for the sisters and their guests) along with cows and goats. By means of a new greenhouse (2009), we hope to compensate for the long mountain winters as we grow our own fruits and vegetables, both for our use and for our best-selling jams. To help our bees, we have begun planting lavender around our property. The honey is a very popular item in our gift shop. Our dairy kitchen, which looks to be a major industry, is preparing for expansion and government approval so that we can begin selling our cheeses (we have produced close to twenty tasty varieties already) which we make from the milk of our cows and goats. Because of our very limited time and space, our efforts have necessarily been constrained, but with God's grace, we hope that every aspect of our community will reach maturity in His providential time.