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Dominican sisters in Hollywood … with rosaries

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Dominican Sisters at the Monastery of the Angels in Hollywood, Calif. (photo/Victor Aleman)

A cloistered convent in the city of Hollywood may seem out of place — but even the stars of Tinseltown need to hide away and pray sometimes.

Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds and Norma Foster were old visitors to the white adobe cloistered convent that is situated just off the Hollywood Freeway, and less than one mile from several tawdry shops and strip clubs.

“Show me anywhere but Hollywood,” the foundress of the Monastery of the Angels, Mother Mary Gabriel, is quoted as saying when she began looking for a location for a convent. But the Holy Spirit had other plans when she discovered a location that made her say, “It’s perfect.” She later realized that the property was, indeed, located in Hollywood.

The convent has celebrated many public processions through the streets of Hollywood over the years, in a public testament of their faith. At the beginning of October, the faithful participated in yet another procession, this one in honor of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the beginning of the Month of the Rosary.

The rosary has a special significance for the order of Dominican sisters. “It is foundational to our order,” said Sister Mary St. Pious, who joined the order in 1953. St. Dominic, the order’s founder, was given the rosary during a vision of the Blessed Mother in 1214 A.D. Their traditional habit is accompanied by a large wooden 15-decade rosary worn at the waist.

Every day at 4 p.m., the nuns gather to pray the rosary in the convent’s chapel. It’s important to focus on each mystery of the rosary, Sister Mary St. Pious explained. However, she added with a smile, at times she does feel tired and may inadvertently find herself nodding off.

“But God understands our weakness,” she said.

Although they live their days largely cut off from the outside world (they speak with visitors through an iron grate), the sisters keep in touch with the troubles around the globe through the many prayer requests that regularly pour in. These requests are remembered each day during Mass and the recitation of the rosary. At the moment, the nuns are focused on praying for those affected by recent devastating earthquakes and hurricanes.

Another frequent old visitor to the convent was a priest who may soon be canonized by the church: Father Patrick Peyton, the founder of the Family Rosary Crusade. Sister Mary St. Pious remembers him saying the words he became most known for: “The family who prays together stays together.”

Father Peyton was one of the first pioneers of evangelization through mass media, speaking on the radio, film and television to encourage Catholics to pray for the Blessed Mother’s intercession through the rosary. His zeal earned him the title “The Rosary Priest.”

Sister Mary St. Pious encourages couples experiencing difficulties to pray the rosary together, saying that many married couples she has known have reported an experience of peace and calm after taking up the daily recitation of the rosary.

The devotion is for everyone — the educated and uneducated, the young and the old can join in praying the rosary, said Sister Mary Jordan. Sister Mary Gabriel encourages families to pray the rosary with their young children — an opportunity to instill the habit at a young age.

Toward the end of a recent interview with Angelus News, the nuns begin to check their watches. It’s almost 4 p.m., the time reserved for the rosary.

A small group of laymen and women gather in the public chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is venerated. Through an iron grate, they can recite along with the Dominican sisters, praying aloud the decades of the rosary, praying for Los Angeles, for the Church and for the whole world.

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