New Horizons
In gratitude for the life and call of Mother Esther Agee, true daughter of Esther and of Mary, chosen from before the foundation of the world, to find her way through many twists and turns from Tennessee to Regina Laudis, coming at last to this day when she has vowed her whole self to Christ.

In gratitude for her generous Southern roots, her strong family heritage, her many professional gifts and the many friends and colleagues who have supported and participated in her vocation through the years.
Let us pray to the Lord.

As we begin this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, knowing that while God’s mercy is infinite, we are not God, and ours is not; our love falls short so quickly and so often, may we remember to call on the intercession of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, the Ark of the Living Covenant, full of Grace, full of mercy, tireless advocate for the children of Eve, who will be there to replace our failing reserves of love when we feel fainthearted before the magnitude of humanity’s need.
Let us pray to the Lord.

With Mary’s help may we take up the challenge to give God’s mercy a human face especially when we encounter those feeling exiled from the garden that was once their home. May the gardens that Mother Esther has so lovingly brought forth on this land be places where we may be free from fear and open to hearing the message of the particular angel the Lord has sent to us.
Let us pray to the Lord.

And may the cemetery tool shed, work of so many craftsmen in collaboration and chosen by Mother Esther to be the strong emblem on her chart of Profession, remind us always of the power of one woman’s love to elevate, transform, and restore even the lowliest elements of creation to the original innocence of the garden.
Let us pray to the Lord.

Mother Abbess Lucia's
Prayers of the Faithful
Mother Alma
The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her. God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ. When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her. The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.
Homily of Pope Francis, December 8, 2015, Opening of Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy

Mother EstherOn the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015, Mother Esther Agee made her Final Profession of Vows to God through the Community of Regina Laudis. This feast day of Our Lady was chosen by Our Holy Father Pope Francis to be the opening of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. To mark the beginning of the Jubilee year, the motto of which is, “Merciful like the Father,” Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica. Father Peter Kucer was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass offered in the Abbey Church, Jesu Fili Mariae. Father Iain Highet, Father Robert Tucker and Father Douglas Mosey were concelebrants. Members of Mother Esther's family, friends and her professional colleagues participated in the Mass and Vows ceremony, as well as the celebration in the Jubilee Barn.

Mother Esther was born in Lynch, Kentucky and grew up in Tennessee. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1976. At the same university in 1985 she completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and became a Registered Nurse, subsequently working as an R.N. in Labor and Delivery, Pediatric Nursing and Psychiatric Nursing. Mother Esther then completed a Masters in Social Work at Smith College in 1992 and became a licensed Clinical Social Worker in 1995. She maintained a private practice as a Psychotherapist from 1990—2000, specializing in early childhood psychology.

Mother Esther and childrenMother Esther first came to Regina Laudis in 1987 when she was working at Wellspring Therapeutic and Educational Center in Bethlehem CT. She entered Regina Laudis in 2001 and made her First Vows in 2009. Mother Esther is an amazing worker; she gives herself wholeheartedly to any work she takes on. We get to taste the roots of her genealogy though her gift for Southern cooking and our Church is clean because of the energy and faithfulness she brings to that task weekly. But Mother Esther's passion lies with garden and landscape design. She has been blessed to have Lynden Miller, renowned public garden designer, as a professional master. Lynden rescued and restored the Conservatory Garden in Central Park as well as gardens and parks in all five boroughs of New York City including Bryant Park and the New York Botanical Garden. Lynden's capacity for creating places of peace in the city is expressed beautifully in the book Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder.
Mother Esther and Lynden
Mother Esther with Lynden Miller
He recounts the journey of a man named Deo, a survivor of civil war and genocide in Burundi, who arrived in the United States with nothing and would eventually become a physician. The Conservatory Garden offered him solace and healing.
He found places that felt private, spots of grassy or leaf-covered ground hidden by bushes. Lying on his back, looking up through leaves and branches at the stars, he felt almost at home, almost as if he'd been restored to his proper element...He would sit and sometimes manage not to think of home or horrors, but simply gaze at flowers and close his eyes and doze to the sound of the fountain, like the lapping waves on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.

church gardenSince the Medieval Period, monastic tradition has held that the monastery and in particular the monastic garden was meant to be a "paradise on earth". Lynden recognized Mother Esther's gift for landscape design and with her guidance Mother Esther has created beautiful gardens and landscapes, spaces which give us a taste of paradise on our land. Through the windows of our Church, Jesu Fili Mariae one can see the fruit of her work in the flowering trees and flower gardens. She has transformed our cemetery and in collaboration with master stone wall builder Joseph Corey initiated the rebuilding of the cemetery's stone walls. Her latest project with Joseph, Brother Kevin McElroy and the Blacksmith Shop, and carpenter Rob Schumann has been the renovation of a humble tool shed built from an abandoned culvert into a beautiful stone structure with a pine door and ash floor. The transformed culvert became the central image on Mother Esther's chart of Profession because for her it is a "door of mercy" leading her and others into our cemetery.

In his homily Father Peter integrated the many themes converging on this day. The first reading from the feast was from Genesis, Chapter 3, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Father developed the reference of the Garden of Eden as "virgin soil" taken from the writing of the Church Father, St. John Chrysostom:
The word Eden signifies virgin land. Now, such was the region in which God planted Paradise. For it is written that God planted a Paradise in Eden towards the East, that thou mayest understand that Paradise was not a work of human hands; since the earth was virgin, and had known no ploughshare, nor was it cut up by furrows; but without tillage at the Divine command alone it put forth its vegetation and trees. For this cause He called it Eden, which means virgin soil. This virgin earth is a type of the Virgin.
Father Peter noted that as Adam and Eve ate of the tree of which God had forbidden them to eat, Our Lady, the New Eve, reached out to the Tree of the Cross, bringing salvation to all as the Mother of the Living.

Receive me Lord, according to your word and I shall live, and do not disappoint me in my hope.

Father also spoke of Mother Esther having been named for Queen Esther whose story in the Old Testament is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim. Her name and that of her uncle Mordecai are derived from the names of the Babylonian deities Marduk-Mordecai and Ishtar-Esther. Concealing her Jewish faith and at the risk of her life, Queen Esther interceded for her People before the King. Father noted that Esther and Mordecai were not devout Jews but rather assimilated Jews who did not resist the Babylonian culture in which they found themselves. In wonder that God would use assimilated Jews to save His People, Father invited each of us to acknowledge that: "...we are not God, we are not immaculately conceived." But in this Year of Mercy we are called to regard our weaknesses in light of God's Mercy and to ask for God's help as we reach out with Mary to the Tree upon which God died for us.

Mother Placid's Christ
Painting by Mother Placid Dempsey, O.S.B.
Copyright © 2011
Mother Esther chose a painting by Mother Placid Dempsey for the image on her Profession card. From the time Mother Esther first came to Regina Laudis, Mother Placid was a support and strength for her. This painting was discovered in the final months of Mother Placid's life and now graces the monastic refectory. Before her conversion to Catholicism Mother Esther remembers the challenge of encountering the "scandal of the Cross" without any faith or understanding. Now her dedication to praying the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady has helped her face the Holy Cross directly. Mother Placid's painting inspires her because it focuses on the love between Our Lady and Christ during His Passion. She is especially struck by the fact that Mother Placid gave Our Lady the Stigmata, bearing the wounds of Christ in her hands, as did Saint Francis. For Mother Esther the image is a powerful expression of the "co-suffering union" between Christ and His Mother. In her words:
I chose this image for my Final Vows, my day of Spousal Commitment to Christ and to my Community because it communicates Christ's love very directly for me.

Gallery of Final Profession Mass and Celebration