Pumpkin bread to the rescue

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Wednesday 22, April 2009 | Category:   Consecrated Life

In the midst of Hollywood a community of 20 Dominican sisters live a cloistered life. Only a few of them ever leave their Monastery of the Angels to buy necessities.

"We don't go around with the iPods, the music, we don't go around with the cell phone on constantly," Sister Mary Raphael, 65, who has lived in the community since she was 18, told National Public Radio’s Mandalit del Barco in an All Things Considered story.

"I've seen it when I go out shopping. They're constantly on their phone. I want to say, 'Hello? Did you say hello to God today? Did you call God?' "

While the 85-year-old community survived the Great Depression, they are now struggling through the current economic crisis. Last January, Sister Mary Raphael, who also handles the monastery’s finances, found out the community’s investment portfolio had dropped 70 percent. In addition, medical bills for elderly sisters have drained the community’s cash.

“That’s when we began to get really scared,” said mother superior Sister Mary Raymond.

To raise money the sisters have for 40 years been baking and selling pumpkin bread. They also sell various items in gift shop, like candies and greeting cards. But recently more misfortune struck: The oven broke down. The bread had been popular, even reaching a future president when Los Angeles City Council Member and Monastery of the Angels fan Tom LaBonge gave a loaf to Barack Obama during his campaign. The sisters have also started appealing to benefactors and pondering reviving the charity garden parties, bridge teas, and retreats that once attracted movie celebrities like Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and Jane Wyman.

"We're praying for everyone who is suffering in the financial slump," Sister Mary Raphael said. "And I think God let us experience it so we can know what other people are suffering, too."

Thinking back on the history of the community also serves as a source of consolation for the sisters. "It's been a long history with the sisters," said Sister Mary Raymond. "Four old ladies—not old, they were young then—had to struggle to get this place going. And they had to go out and beg, just like we're doing now, but they went from door to door."

Read or hear the full story, which includes a recipe for the pumpkin bread.

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