“In gratitude that many years ago in response to a surprise phone call from Lady Abbess, Jean Morfesi made a bold leap of faith and decided to try monastic life on Shaw Island. May we rejoice with her today, now Mother Simonetta Morfesi: Infirmarian, Artist, Bookbinder and loved member of this community, as we celebrate the amazing grace of her having persevered for 25 years of vowed monastic life, committed to a constant growth, ever closer to the heart, in the personal freedom of love for which we were originally created.”
“In gratitude for the call of Kathryn Morgan, now our incomparable and beloved Mother Anastasia Morgan—Infirmarian, Blacksmith, teacher of innumerable children and young people of all ages seeking to discover the fire within them through the forge. May our joy in celebrating today be proportionate to her desire to acknowledge the grace of continual resurrection that has sustained her through 25 years of vowed life at Regina Laudis.”
“In wonder at the creative choreography of the Lord that would bring together two such different people as Mother Simonetta, volcanic Italian, and Mother Anastasia, Irish Good Samaritan, with a dash of Hawaiian, knowing that precisely in their very different gifts and temperaments they would be called to serve the Community through their Consecration, bonded fraternally in a ring of faith, dependent on each other person in the community and now given to bring forth the call of the next generation, ever closer to the heart.”
“With special gratitude to all who have poured themselves out today to make today’s celebration the wedding feast it promises to be.”
Mother Abbess Lucia's Prayers of the Faithful at Jubilee Mass
And the men who hold high places, must be the ones who start to mold a new reality, closer to the heart, closer to the heart. The blacksmith and the artist reflect it in their art. They forge their creativity closer to the heart, closer to the heart.
Lyrics from Closer to the Heart by Rush, quoted in Father Iain's homily at the Jubilee Mass
2015 marks the Silver Jubilee Year of Mother Simonetta Morfesi and Mother Anastasia Morgan who celebrate 25 years of Vowed life at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. On Saturday, September 12th, family, friends and community members joined the monastic community in celebration. Father Iain Highet, Pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in Norfolk and St. Joseph’s Church in Canaan, was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass offered in the Abbey Church of Jesu Fili Mariae. Father Robert Tucker, Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Litchfield, Father Robert Blyman of the Diocese of Rockville Center, Long Island and Monsignor Thomas Mulvanerty of Amityville, Long Island were concelebrants. We were blessed with the presence of Mother Shaun Vergauwen, F.S.E., Mother General, and Mother Miriam Seiferman F.S.E., Vicar General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Our longtime friends Brother Jude, O.C.S.O. and Brother Amadeus, O.C.S.O. of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts participated in the Mass and celebration.
Mother Simonetta (née Jean) was born in Flushing, NY to Margaret and Frank Morfesi and was raised in West Hempstead, Long Island. She has a very large Italian family—her grandmother had 13 siblings, so Jean grew up surrounded by many second cousins. Living on Long Island she spent most weekends at the ocean beaches.
After graduating from H. Frank Carey High School, Jean attended Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY and graduated in 1970 with an Associates of Arts Degree. At an early age Jean was attracted to the Arts and took courses in calligraphy, monastic architecture, photography, and Chinese brush work. While working at various jobs in an accounting firm, a law office and an insurance company, she spent her free time taking in the Arts, something which fed her artistic soul.
Jean was introduced to Regina Laudis through her sister, Mother Rachel Morfesi, a member of the Monastic Community. In the summer of 1980 while travelling up the coast of Oregon with a high school friend she visited Our Lady of the Rock, the Regina Laudis Foundation on Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. She responded to the community there: Mother Therese, Mother Miriam, and Mother Elizabeth Marie. She loved the land—one could see the bay from the monastery. It was hay season and she had her first experience of working the land. Having just finished an oriental brushwork class in NYC, Jean was captivated by the Japanese architecture and landscape of the monastery with bamboo, a moss rock garden and plum blossoms. She found peace at Our Lady of the Rock and entered there as a postulant in 1981. She entered Regina Laudis in 1982 and was clothed in the monastic habit in 1984 on the Feast of St. Scholastica, receiving her religious name, "Sister Simonetta". She made Perpetual Profession in 1996 and was Consecrated in 1998.
Mother Simonetta has been responsible for the monastic book bindery since 1990 and studied under her beloved Master Bookbinder, Joanne Bliss, until Joanne's death in 1995. With her training in calligraphy she illuminates official documents such as Mother Abbess' Oath of Fidelity created at the time of her Abbatial Blessing. With her attention to detail Mother Simonetta guides the nuns in the painstaking process of creating their ceremony charts, writing out their vows with indelible ink on sheepskin parchment, canonical documents meant to last for centuries.
Since 2003 Mother Simonetta's main work in the Abbey has been in the Infirmary with Mother Anastasia and Mother Jadwiga. She coordinates doctor appointments, keeps records, handles daily health issues, and is an interface with professional health practitioners. Although not trained as professional nurses, the Infirmarians are "monastic caregivers" whose mission is never more tangible than when they accompany each member of the Community through her final days and transitus to the Father.
Mother Anastasia Morgan (née Kathryn) was born to James and Geraldine Morgan in Connecticut but her life was one of constant movement. When she was seven her family moved to Minnesota but soon headed to the Hawaiian Islands, a place very close to Mother Anastasia's heart. Her parents had both been in the Air Force in the Pacific theater during World War II. Her father, Captain James Morgan, was a pilot, flying B-24's during the war and then deployed to Korea, first to instruct a new generation of flyers and then to lead the "Mosquito Squadron", men who flew alone in old Spitfires over the hills of North Korea and China, doing the necessary reconnaissance for the Army. Geraldine Morgan was a registered nurse from Jamaica, Queens, NY who joined the Air Force with her best friend. She became a First Lieutenant, flying casualties from the front and caring for them on the long flights to military hospitals in Japan and Tripier Hospital in Hawaii.
In 1966 the family moved to the beautiful town of Kailua. Kathryn attended the Sacred Heart Convent School in the Nuuanu Valley for two years. She loved the school, teachers, and friends she made from every ethnic and cultural background. She came to know and cherish the Hawaiian Spirit of Aloha which can bring together very diverse cultures into the possibility of creative collaboration. From 1966-1970 Kathryn attended St. Anne's High School, a Maryknoll mission school in Kanehoe. There she made friends she has never forgotten: "There is nothing more I'd love to do, then to find some of these friends; I've kept them in my heart always."
James Morgan worked in the clothing retail business and facing financial constraints, moved his family to Redlands, California in 1970. There Kathryn learned to ride horseback. Her father's employment soon took them to Orlando, Florida and to Kathryn's regret the family left the "...perfect house, nestled among orange, grapefruit and pomegranate groves of Redlands." It was in Orlando that the world of the Morgan family was shattered by the news that their mother had Multiple Myeloma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Kathryn, then a senior in high school, had to break the news to her younger brothers, Brooks and Terrance. The family moved to New Jersey to stay with relatives so that Mrs. Morgan could receive treatment at the Veterans Hospital in Philadelphia. During the period of her mother's illness Kathryn withdrew from college at Rutgers, Camden campus where she was studying pre-med to care for her mother. At age 18, she worked and ran the home, trying to hold the family together as their mother, "...the glue that held this gypsy crew together..." diminished. Geraldine Morgan died in her husband's arms on June 10, 1973. This devastating experience very much formed Mother Anastasia into the woman she is, on whose strong shoulders many rely for comfort and friendship.
In 1976 Kathryn "stumbled upon" Regina Laudis. She started coming regularly to stay at the guest house and participating in the rhythm of prayer and work of the community. During this time, she was introduced to persons in relationship to Regina Laudis on a similar search and they eventually formed the Organic Community, a lay Catholic community committed for life.
Kathryn entered Regina Laudis in 1981 and was clothed in the monastic habit in 1983, receiving the name "Sister Anastasia", meaning "Resurrection". She made Perpetual Profession of Vows in 1997 and with eight other professed members of the Community including Mother Simonetta received the blessing of Consecration on the Feast of St. Benedict, July 11, 1998.
In her monastic life, Mother Anastasia has worked predominately in the laundry, infirmary and the Abbey's Phoenix blacksmith shop. As Infirmarian Mother is an expert at removing ticks and has spent innumerable hours with community members, guests and interns in the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital. Her good cheer and stability during medical emergencies has merited her the name of our Irish Good Samaritan. Mother Anastasia finds great joy in her work at the blacksmith shop where she has trained many young people in blacksmithing, for her "...an ancient craft grounded in the mysteries of fire, air, earth and water." She sees this work as a medium through which young people living in a virtual world today can be awakened and become engaged in reality through forging black metal.
The 1st Reading chosen by the Jubilarians was from the Book of Sirach, Chapter 38So with every engraver and designer who,
laboring night and day,
Fashions carved seals,
and whose concern is to vary the pattern.
His determination is to produce a lifelike impression,
and he is careful to finish the work.
So too the smith sitting by the anvil,
intent on the iron he forges.
The flame from the fire sears his flesh,
yet he toils away in the furnace heat.
The clang of the hammer deafens his ears;
his eyes are on the object he is shaping.
His determination is to finish the work,
and he is careful to perfect it in detail.
In his homily Father Iain presented the wonder of "two such very different people" celebrating 25 years of vowed life together. As different as the gifts of Mother Simonetta and Mother Anastasia are, they both share in the work of being Infirmarians for the Community. Father noted the words of Jesus in the Gospel: "I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them." So too each of us has heard the words of Mother Simonetta and Mother Anastasia, acted on them and been changed by them. The mystery Jesus was presenting was that of a "positive dependency" which may seem negative in today's culture which stresses "independence". In true dependence on another one becomes like the tree that bears good fruit, Mother Simonetta in the book bindery, Mother Anastasia in the blacksmith shop; one dealing with minutiae, the other with the larger picture. But together they share the difficult mission as Infirmarians of taking Community members unto eternal life.
Father expressed the wonder of how each Jubilarian was led to Regina Laudis: it was someone else who pointed the way to their vocations. They listened and followed their hearts. So too for each of us, if we move from the heart we come to the great mystery of who we are called to be in the Body of Christ. Father raised the question: "In 25 years have you come closer to the heart of who you are?" This inspired Father to sing the song Closer to the Heart by the Canadian band Rush!
After the homily Mother Simonetta and Mother Anastasia renewed their Vows. They chose this collect from their Consecration Ceremony which was prayed by Father Iain during the Ceremony:
Let us pray. Lord God, Father of Innocence, who called us out of darkness, may we be so penetrated, body and soul, by your divine light that we may have the grace to stand together as a ring of faith and, being enflamed by Christ’s love, manifest your radiance to all who cry out for incorporation into the Body of your Son.
The Mass was followed by a joyful celebration at the Jubilee Barn. The day was sunny and cool. Guests mingled and ate inside the decorated barn, on the porch, or at tables on the grass. The parents of Mother Anastasia's blacksmithing students outdid themselves to make the meal and party memorable. Chef Salvatore Apicella donated his time and expertise making a delicious meal. Other parents hired the Litchfield County bluegrass band Switch Factory. Abbey friend and Shakespeare scholar Deborah Curren Aquino regaled us with her tale of meeting Mother Simonetta for the first time. Many enjoyed the display of each Jubilarian's genealogy, monastic journey and handiwork. It was a time for old friends to meet again and the celebration fulfilled Mother Anastasia's wish that "Everyone relax and have fun!"
Gallery of Jubilee Mass
Gallery of Priests, Religious, Families and Friends who celebrated at the Jubilee Barn
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