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 participating actively in our home communities as circumstances allow.
Our lifestyle resembles the vocation of single mature women in the earliest Christian communities, such as widows, who were devoted to prayer for the community and offered spiritual support, guidance, wisdom, and comfort wherever needed. Their spiritual and practical services were a reminder to all that each person has intrinsic dignity and contributes to the community regardless of social standing, wealth, and other measures of value in secular society. For these reasons, devoted widows were highly respected for their loving concern for others and their prayers, which were considered especially powerful by the members of the early Church1. Although their roles were gradually absorbed over time by ordained deaconesses and monastics, circumstances today suggest that single women who adopt a role aligned with this ancient vocation, renewed and adapted to modern conditions, could provide spiritual help and strength to churches and local communities today.
We are inspired by our patron, Saint Anna the Prophetess, who prayed for every visitor to the temple and whose wise, observant heart recognized the infant Jesus as the Messiah. Our community has chosen Mary, the Mother of Jesus in her mature years after the death and resurrection of Jesus as an additional model for our lives. 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 one who prays, an Orante, depicted in this 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 follow the example of Prophetess Anna, Mary the Mother of Jesus, early Christian widows and single women, and the medieval beguines by offering prayer, loving concern, and spiritual support 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 single 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 allows us to remain free to be responsive and creative within our own environments to the inspiration of Jesus’ concern for all humanity.
Our community is shaped by Benedictine values, personal responsibility, prayer for all, support for one another, and love for our kind and gentle Savior whose love for us enables us to offer compassionate acceptance and hope 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-like sisterhood while making our unique contributions with flexibility, joy, and gratitude in our families, neighborhoods, churches, workplaces, and localities.
Our community welcomes single Christian women whose religious tradition includes the values of spiritual hospitality, gentleness toward others and oneself, prayer, and acceptance, as expressed in the Rule of Saint Benedict.
As an ecumenical group, each woman is obliged to be a faithful follower of Jesus according to the traditions and practices of the denomination to which she adheres. We understand that a variety of factors, including health concerns, church closings, transportation, and other conditions can interfere with church attendance, but where possible, each member attends and receives the services of her chosen church on a regular basis and contributes her prayers and spiritual gifts where appropriate. Our Christian ecumenical character compels us to be accepting of the spiritual paths undertaken by the other members.
Like the Beguines who inspire us, our fidelity to this calling 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 monthly gatherings over the Internet, whenever possible.
The Community of Saint Anna treasures the privilege of being present in prayer to others and witnessing to the understanding and kindness of God through this calling.
1Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, 4.3.
2 Rule of St. Benedict, c. 530-560 AD