Last year, I was privileged to interview the well-known convert and apologist Rosalind Moss before her move to the Archdiocese of Saint Louis at the invitation of Archbishop Burke. This past year has seen the very beginnings of the establishment of this order, which, when canonically erected, will be known as the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope.
Sister Rosalind Moss: Good question. The first year in St. Louis has been, in one respect, very wonderful. I love the city; I love the people; I love the Catholic community. The reception for me here has been outstanding. The enthusiasm of the people has been more than I could have hoped for. All is well. The thing that has been less wonderful in one sense is that it has been clear, if I might say it this way, that the enemy has not wished this to happen. I have experienced a bout of spiritual warfare concerning the development of this new community beyond what I’ve yet known in my Christian life. I think, at least for the time, that’s in the past and all now is well.
SLC:Has it [that spiritual warfare] mainly been a practical set of difficulties that you didn’t anticipate or has it been in the interior life? Are things going well for you spiritually?
RM: I would have to say it has been both practical and interior. There have been a few months that have been extraordinarily difficult both from within and without.
I’m about to leave for a one-year novitiate which I will be spending with the Sisters of the Visitation in Tyringham, Massachusetts. They are a cloistered order, founded in 1610 in Annecy, France by St. Francis de Sales (who is my patron), in conjunction with St. Jane de Chantal.
SLC: Two great saints.
RM: Tremendous. In fact, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of their order, the sisters have planned a pilgrimage to Annecy this summer and I’ll be going with them. It’s going to be an enormous gift.
Let me say that one thing I’ve gained through this time, it seems, is 15 years of education in 6 months. God is showering His blessings upon this venture at present almost beyond what I can hold. Probably, the greatest blessing I have received is a deep trust in God that I’ve always spoken of – I can teach it – but He has given me that trust on an even deeper level so that, in a sense, I no longer say, “not my will, but Thine, be done,” because I don’t even wish a will anymore. I’m too stupid to know what’s right.
SLC:That whole truth about relying too much upon your own effort.
RM: Yes. I can say that I’ve lived through a sort of death. It is where God has brought me. I don’t desire a will of my own – I want only His. I know that in His will is absolute peace, absolute freedom, absolute safety. I know a peace now beyond anything I’ve known, and I’m free. Our Lord knows that it is suffering that brings us to a place of such peace and freedom. He is faithful, always working all things together for good.
I want God to lead this new venture for Him, and if He leads me elsewhere I will happily go.
SLC:Have they treated you well at St. George [the parish that provides her convent residence]?
RM: There’s no question they have. Father Robertson is a very beautiful priest with a heart to evangelize the world. He is very happy that I’m here, that we’re here, and he is supportive of the year’s novitiate I’m about to embark on. Still, Father and the parish will be equally happy when I’m back and can see us move ahead.
RM: Oh it’s more than livable! We’ve had over 100 volunteers helping with all kinds of construction, painting, carpeting, the donation of furniture, etc. We recently discovered some hefty plumbing and electrical matters that will need repair—the result of the building being vacant for so long.
SLC:You’re dependent upon donations?
RM: One hundred percent. At the moment, we have no other source of income.
SLC: Do you have a website?
RM: Yes, at least a page holder at present. The address is: http://www.motherofisraelshope.org/. We’re hoping for it to be active within the month. Our first newsletter is at the printer and will also be available on the website.
SLC:Let me ask you a question – I literally have no problem with this but people bring it up from time to time when I post on you – about the canonical status of the order as it exists or will exist and the use of the term “Sister” for yourself, if you could just lay that thing to rest?
RM: No problem. Under Archbishop Burke, who initially invited me to St. Louis for the purpose of founding the new community, we were due to become a public association of the faithful on September 14th last. Following His Grace’s departure to Rome on August 22, we went into a holding mode, so to speak, awaiting the appointment of a new archbishop to Saint Louis. Bishop Robert Hermann, the Archdiocesan Administrator—and, I might add, a most kind and wise bishop—was not in a position, canonically, to move us forward (although His Excellency was most gracious in celebrating a Holy Hour for the community on September 14 in prayer for a future day and for our new archbishop).
Blessed be God for the appointment of Archbishop-Elect Carlson to Saint Louis. We join His grateful flock in happy anticipation for all Our Lord will do through that good and holy bishop of the Church. Alas, Archbishop Carlson’s installation of June 10 follows the start of my year’s novitiate on June 1. God’s ways and timing are oft times past finding out, but always perfect. Unless our Lord has other plans, I will look forward to meeting Archbishop Carlson upon my return next summer.
As far as calling me “Sister,” normally, in most communities, a woman is called “Sister” the day she enters as a postulant, using her given (not yet her religious) name. Archbishop Burke, while yet Archbishop of Saint Louis, gave me permission to use the title of Sister for me and for the beginning women of the community. Bishop Hermann also has addressed me as Sister, as have many superiors of religious communities with whom I’ve counseled. I have been under obedience every step of the way; nothing is in question.
SLC: And you’re not using your chosen religious name.
RM: Not until it is proper for me to do so. The postulant garment (not habit) I wear, including the postulant veil, was taken and blessed (by Father Robertson at St. George) with full permission as well. I will not take the full habit until it is proper for me to do so.
SLC:I’m certain of the propriety of your course of action and I’m glad for the opportunity to clear up the matter.
RM: Every once in a while folks contact me about confusing or errant things they’ve read on the web or in other modes of communication. Generally, I do not get involved in such things. It is difficult, if not impossible, to control rumors or assumptions people make. Also, there is too much work to do in establishing the new community for me to counter every thread of misinformation.
SLC: Have you heard anything from Archbishop-Elect Carlson? Has he given you any indication on what happens next?
RM: No. I’ve not met or spoken with Archbishop-Elect Carlson, nor, as I mentioned previously, do I expect to prior to the end of my novitiate. Bishop Hermann is pleased about the year of novitiate ahead, which I am entering with his full approval as well as the approval of Bishop Timothy McDonnell, the Bishop of the Springfield, Massachusetts diocese in which the Sisters of the Visitation reside.
SLC: What are you looking forward to most in your upcoming novitiate?
RM: Two things. First, to grow deeper in the interior life, deeper into a life of prayer. I think there is nothing greater that I personally need and nothing greater that this community needs for its foundation. Second is my desire to sink into the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales in whose spirituality the women of the community will be formed.
SLC:During that time are you sort of incognito? Are you still doing apologetics?
RM: With the permission of the Visitation nuns, I will continue ”From the Heart” on Catholic Answers Live on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from the monastery in Tyringham. Apart from that I have one speaking engagement, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, July 31-August 2. Archbishop Burke will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the dedication of the church at this most magnificent shrine. All are welcome! Information on the conference can be found on the web under Queen of the Americas Guild. Outside of that one engagement and the trip to Annecy, I will spend a year in prayer, study, and formation under the obedience and guidance of the Visitation Sisters.
I think it’s going to be a heavenly year, one I am looking forward to more than I’ve looked forward to almost anything.
RM: Let me add one thing to what we’ve said. There will be lots of work going on at the convent in St. Louis during the year I’m away. We would be happy for all who wish to assist in some way to give Dawn a call at the convent (314-352-5683) and to feel free to jump in at any time.
SLC: The Catholics out there who will read this and are supporters and well-wishers of yours – what prayer intention would you ask of them during your year’s novitiate?
RM: That God would deepen my life of prayer and love for Him, and do with me and this new community whatever He wishes. In my heart I desire only what will bring God honor and glory, and that we be fitting vessels to reach out to every soul who has yet to know the full measure of His love.
SLC: Thank you and God bless you.