Lockdown destroys nuns’ business


Not even those living a monastic life are immune to the effects of coronavirus.

The Carmelite sisters may live in a “permanent sort of lockdown” but the Covid-19 pandemic has reached behind the monastery’s high concrete wall to impact their daily life.

“We are very much in the same boat as everyone else right now in terms of adjusting to a new normal with its unprecedented realities and uncertainties,” says Sister Catherine of Christ.

Most of the nuns’ regular work at the Christchurch Carmelite convent has ceased.

The main source of income is the production of altar breads for many parishes in the diocese of Christchurch.

Other major works include the restoration of statues and various other forms of artwork – making cards and banners and painting candles for Baptisms and Weddings.

But now they are not making any altar breads.

Nor are the 13 sisters taking orders for other religious items to be made by hand.

“By our vow of poverty and trust in God’s providence, this is not something we are worrying about,” says Sister Catherine.

“It’s amazing how quickly the human person can adapt.”

“What we thought impossible and unimaginable a couple of months ago is now becoming a matter of right, how can we make this work with what we have?”

Like many other New Zealanders, the Carmelite nuns are diversifying to survive during the pandemic lockdown.

“One example is that the flour that is not being used for altar bread making is now being used to make our daily bread.”

Christchurch Carmel was founded in February 1933, when seven sisters from Sydney Carmel sailed across the sea to begin the first contemplative monastery in New Zealand.

The monastery is situated on 2.4 hectares in Halswell, around 15 minutes from the city centre


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