Who are the members of the Community of Saint Anna, and how do we live our vocation?
The Community of Saint Anna is a developing religious community. Our community has adopted a modern version of the lifestyle led by the Beguines in the middle ages: drawn by the compassion of Jesus, we center our lives on prayer for all and listening “with the ear of the heart” to the needs of the world while remaining self-supporting, committed to the spiritual care of one another, and active in our home communities. Much earlier, the vocation of widowhood in early Christianity involved a similar lifestyle and was highly respected, as the prayers and loving concern of respected widows, young and old, were considered especially powerful for helping members of the early Church 1.
We are inspired by our patron, Saint Anna the Prophetess, who prayed for every visitor to the temple and whose gentle heart recognized the infant Jesus as Messiah. Likewise, we have chosen Mary, the Mother of Jesus as a model of mature womanhood. Tradition tells us that Mary dedicated herself to prayer after Pentecost, testifying to her lifelong motherhood and cherished position in the new Christian community. She is the perfect example of an Orante, one who prays, as depicted in this beautiful ancient medallion (Constantinople, ca 1100) where she is shown with uplifted hands and a joyful expression in her eyes.
As members of the Community of Saint Anna, we aspire to offer similar gifts to the communities in which we live, work, and pray. We witness to the caring love of Christ by receiving all as Christ and listen[ing] with the ear of the heart, (Rule of Saint Benedict2). By embracing this vocation, we hope to grow in love for all, without exception.
The Lifestyle of the Community of Saint Anna
The Community of Saint Anna is a new religious community designed to meet contemporary needs of women, churches, and society. Under the guidance of monastics and religious who are aware of changing dynamics in modern society, our community provides an alternative to traditional women’s orders, although we resemble them in some ways. Our more flexible approach to religious community has been modeled on the lifestyle of the Beguines, adapted to current circumstances. Like these holy women before us, we desire a religious life that is fully dedicated to prayer, the service of compassion, and to the building of a mutually supportive community, while remaining free and creative within our own environments.
Our community welcomes single Christian women whose religious tradition includes the monastic Benedictine values of spiritual hospitality, gentleness, prayer, and community.
As an ecumenical group, each woman is obliged to be a faithful member of a parish within her own denomination, adhering to its practices and requirements, and to be accepting of the spirituality of other members.
Like the Beguines who inspired us, our fidelity is not maintained by vows, but by a commitment of the heart that is strong and authentic, but does not extend to the unique consecration and requirements that vows imply.
As a non-residential community, members may live wherever they choose to reside. The non-residential nature of the community places an obligation on members to maintain bonds through technology and attendance at occasional gatherings, whenever possible.
Our community is shaped by Benedictine values, personal responsibility, prayer for all, support for one another, and a deep desire to offer a compassionate presence to anyone we encounter. These features of the Community of Saint Anna make it possible for us to become a vibrant, supportive, and loving beguine sisterhood while making original contributions with flexibility, joy, and gratitude to our parishes, workplaces, and communities.
The Community of Saint Anna treasures the privilege of being present in prayer to others and witnessing to the understanding kindness of God through this calling.
1Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, 4.3.
2 Rule of St. Benedict, c. 530-560 AD