The Rosary Pilgrim - A Unique Periodical for a Unique Shrine
A pilgrimage group in front of the old monastery in 1920

A pilgrimage group in front of the old monastery in 1920

In 1920 a group of women from Paterson, New Jersey asked if they could come to the monastery and hold a procession on the exterior grounds. They left, promising to return, thus beginning the tradition of pilgrimages at our monastery which in later years would draw tens of thousands of pilgrims from across the country.

The pilgrimages to the monastery continued to grow organically after that first pilgrimage from Paterson, and by January of 1921, the bishop had given permission to construct a grotto on the grounds for the use of the pilgrims. This grotto was completed and blessed at the first public Rosary Pilgrimage held in May of 1921.

The second Rosary Pilgrimage was held in October of that year, and at that Pilgrimage, Fr. Thomas a Kempis Reilly O.P., the preacher for the occasion, christened the monastery “Rosary Shrine”, an unofficial name which has stuck! On this same occasion, the Sisters began printing a magazine which they entitled “The Rosary Pilgrim".

The monastery chronicles describes the advent of the Rosary Pilgrim:

The Rosary Pilgrim is the little magazine which is to serve as the organ of the newly established League [Rosary Pilgrimage League]. It is edited by Mr. Edwin Leman, an Editor of the well known Catholic News, and will be published bi-monthly at a yearly subscription price of fifty cents.

The first issue, a booklet of eight pages, was distributed on the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. It was full of spirit and life.

As a Catholic periodical, the Rosary Pilgrim published articles on popular piety of the time, stories of saints, upcoming public events at the Monastery such as the Rosary Pilgrimages, as well as other articles that explained to the lay faithful what the life of a cloistered nun was like, or even advertisements for the handicrafts and pickles produced by the nuns! The Rosary Pilgrim had a special emphasis on promoting devotion to the rosary, especially through encouraging pilgrimages to the shrine. In the early days of the monastery, as many as 20,000 pilgrims came to attend the Rosary Pilgrimages, and pilgrims came regularly on their own to make private pilgrimages as well. However, as time passed, pilgrims to “Rosary Shrine” began to decline, and eventually the Rosary Pilgrim stopped publication. In 1992 when the community was looking for a name for the community newsletter, “The Rosary Pilgrim” seemed to be a fitting choice, and has served as the title for our newsletters up until a couple years ago, when the prohibitive costs of printing and mailing led us to change formats yet again. However, with our October and May Rosary Pilgrimages, the tradition of the Rosary Pilgrimages still continues!

Below, take a look at the very first Rosary Pilgrim published October 1921 - as the chronicles describes, “full of spirit and life”!

100 Years of Praise

1919 – October 2 – 2019

The founding sisters in 1919, on the front steps of the first monastery. Two lay sisters are missing from the picture.

The founding sisters in 1919, on the front steps of the first monastery. Two lay sisters are missing from the picture.

Today, on the feast of the Guardian Angels, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our monastery. One hundred years ago today, on that October 2 in 1919, the group of fourteen founding sisters left their monastery in Union City (then called West Hoboken) and traveled to Summit, taking up residence in a large house recently purchased from a Mr. Ter Meer, at 63 New England Ave. Mother Mary Imelda of Jesus was to be the first prioress of the young community, and her own blood sister accompanied her to the new foundation – Sister Mary Emily of the Infant Jesus.

Our Chronicles describe the day:

The Feast of the Guardian Angels, the second day of the month of the Rosary, had been set as our day of departure from West Hoboken, to found a new Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. So about nine o'clock in the morning this little band of fourteen left the monastery. Those who made up this privileged group, were Reverend Mother Mary Imelda of Jesus, Foundress, Sister Mary Teresa of Jesus, Sister Mary Emily of the Infant Jesus, Sister Mary of the Passion, Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, Sister Mary Angela Dominic, Sister Mary Veronica, Sister Mary Hyacinth of the Sacred Heart, and Sister Angeline [postulant], choir Sisters; and Sister Mary Lucy of the Rosary, Sister Mary Pius of the Rosary, Sister Mary Patricia of the Trinity, Sister Mary Rita of the Passion, and Sister Mary Alphonsus of the Rosary, lay sisters.

Two of our good benefactors Mr. Conboy and Mrs. Curly together with Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified's cousin, were kind enough, and indeed felt highly favored, to transport us in their automobiles to this our new Monastery. The weather was not fair [pouring rain all day], but we were all happy, especially since we knew that we were carrying out God's plan, we were on our way to do big things for His Honor and glory. Mrs. Curly and Mrs. Fitzgerald accompanied us.

Before leaving the Town of West Hoboken, we paid a visit to the Passionist Monastery, and Reverend Father Dominic the Rector kindly lit up the beautiful edifice, and enrolled us in the newly established Confraternity of the Passion, giving each of us a pretty scapular medal.

When we arrived here safe and sound about eleven o'clock, Mr. Ter Meer the former owner of the property welcomed us very graciously, and we found our new home a charming place.

As it was near noon, we thought it well to prepare a little lunch. We had brought ham sandwiches, pickles, and cake with us, so that it was really only a drink which had to be made. Having erected a temporary table with our large drawing boards and boxes, we sat down on boxes and other conveniences to eat our first meal in our new monastery. It was one of the bed-rooms on the second floor which served as our dining room.

After dinner we filled the mattress slips with straw and as our planks were not ready for use, we arranged sleeping quarters on the floor.

Late in the afternoon Reverend Father Murphy our chaplain paid us a visit, and blessed all the rooms.

Our second meal was taken on the same home-made table, but in our nice little kitchen.

In the evening though very tired, we recited Matins very piously in what is now our refectory, sitting choir to choir observing most of the rubrics. This must have been very pleasing to God as the office sounded so devotional, and all the Sisters appeared so fervent.

Over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll share more about the history of our monastery and our sisters, so stay tuned!

New Postulant!

On Sunday, September 29th, at evening recreation our aspirant Sr. Bridget began her postulancy, receiving the postulant jumper and veil. If you remember, Sr. Bridget entered the monastery on July 3rd, but because of the new instruction for contemplative nuns, Cor Orans, she had to be an aspirant for a few months before she’d be eligible to begin her postulancy. This is because Cor Orans requires a full year of aspirancy before a young woman can become a postulant.

Madonna and Child Triptych
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Somehow this picture of the Madonna and Child triptych at the back of our chapel didn’t get uploaded into the previous blog post.
Thanks to the generosity of the devotees of our Lady who frequent our chapel the triptych was restored about 15 years ago.

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Our chapel also has a copy of the Shroud of Turin which was made in 1624. You can read more about it HERE.

80th Anniversary of the Dedication of our Adoration Chapel

On September 15, 1939, feast of our Lady of Sorrows, our adoration chapel was solemnly dedicated by Most Rev. Thomas J. Walsh, Archbishop of Newark. The nuns had moved into the new monastery building after it was privately blessed on Trinity Sunday, June 4, 1939. For some reason. Archbishop Walsh did not want to consecrate the chapel and it took some persuading on the part of Mother Mary of Jesus Crucified to get him to come and solemnly dedicate the chapel. The high altar would be consecrated 5 years later as a jubilee gift in honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the monastery.

sanctuary rosary shrine

The adoration chapel is unusually large for a monastery chapel. It is about the size of our parish church here in Summit, literally a stone’s throw away. The chapel seats about 350 people and the nuns’ choir seats 52 nuns although we have no idea where they would sleep at night! As we say, one of the mysteries of Rosary Shrine.

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From the time of the laying of the cornerstone in 1926 until its completion, the nuns probably thought that they would be left with a crypt chapel for ever. However, through the sacrifices of many, many people the chapel and monastery were finally completed although on a much smaller scale than first envisioned when the crypt of the chapel was built.

Although simple, the neo-Gothic chapel is quite beautiful. Light comes in from 15 stained glass windows, each dedicated to a mystery of the rosary. On the side which the nuns’ monastery is built, the lower windows are usually dark except for in the morning when lights are turned on behind the windows. These windows are dedicated to various saints that have particular importance to the nuns. The last window is dedicated to our Lady of the Rosary. Bl. Imelda is there because she was the patroness of our foundress, Mother Mary Imelda, OP. St. Ann is also there because it was on her feast day in 1938 that the community received the green light to resume building the monastery. The mystical marriage of St. Catherine and St. Dominic are the remaining 2 windows.

The cocktail lounge of the original Waldorf Astoria

The cocktail lounge of the original Waldorf Astoria

The original baldacchino was made of oak and was carved with adoring angels with 4 angels facing the 4 corners of the earth. It was seated on 4 marble columns which came from the cocktail lounge of the original Waldorf Astoria! The swinging doors in the back of the chapel were also from the Waldorf Astoria.

Sadly, this beautiful baldacchino was replaced in the late 1950’s with the one currently over the main altar. The grilles to the left and right of the main altar were also closed up at that time, resulting in a more beautiful nuns’ choir but affected the acoustics in the main chapel. As a whole the chapel has remained pretty much as it was when it was built in 1939. Just recently, we were offered a generous gift of a new rug for the sanctuary. We were told that the one we have goes back to the 1930’s.

The December, 1939 issue of the Rosary Pilgrim told readers (and we are most grateful that it did) that the 8 Gothic chandlers are made of alabaster glass from Turkey.

At the back of the chapel is a triptych of our Lady with the Child Jesus that is greatly loved by the people who come to our chapel. It was designed by Renwick, the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and executed by Emilio Angela.

The nuns’ choir stalls are beautifully carved. The artist who carved them thought that they would be seen by the people who come to the chapel. Instead, they remain a hidden offering to God. They certainly weren’t made for comfort! Just recently, one of the nuns noticed the carving on the wall of each side of the doors going into our choir, something most nuns had never noticed before. But more on that later!

The nuns’ choir shortly after they moved into the new monastery. Notice the 2 postulants at the novitiate window. Now, there are organ pipes on that back wall. Some of the woodwork was removed but the angels still hover over us as we chant the Divine Office. The lights, which gave little light, were removed in the 90’s and replaced with recessed ceiling lights and lights above the choir stalls. The choir stalls were made for tiny French Canadian nuns!

The nuns’ choir shortly after they moved into the new monastery. Notice the 2 postulants at the novitiate window. Now, there are organ pipes on that back wall. Some of the woodwork was removed but the angels still hover over us as we chant the Divine Office. The lights, which gave little light, were removed in the 90’s and replaced with recessed ceiling lights and lights above the choir stalls. The choir stalls were made for tiny French Canadian nuns!

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At the center of our chapel is the Blessed Sacrament solemnly enthroned so that both the Nuns in the cloister and the people in the chapel can adore Jesus. Jesus is literally the center of the monastery and of course, the center and reason for our life here at the monastery. We give thanks and praise for the privilege of joining with the angels who fill our chapel in praising God. We thank Him for the gift to be able to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to receive Him each day in Holy Communion. We are honored to be Mary’s Guard of Honor, contemplating Jesus through the eyes of Mary in the prayer of the Rosary. We are truly humbled to be blessed with such a beautiful chapel where anyone can come and be with the Lord in silence and prayer. The gift of our chapel is our great gift in return to all who come here.