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Archdiocese of Baltimore welcomes new order of nuns

The Archdiocese of Baltimore added a new religious order of nuns Tuesday, its first in decades and one that began as an Anglican community.

The All Saints' Sisters of the Poor left the Episcopal Church for the Roman Catholic Church two years ago. By a decree from the Vatican, they are now an official diocesan priory, or order, the same designation carried by the School Sisters of Notre Dame or the Daughters of Charity.

"We feel we have broken ground," said Mother Christina Christie, leader of the community and a nun since 1966.

Yesterday, All Saints' Day, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, all 10 members of the Catonsville convent individually professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience "for the rest of my life in this world." Then each signed her profession at the altar before nearly two dozen priests and bishops.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien chose Nov. 1, the sisters' patronal feast day, to officially receive the community into the archdiocese.

"This is a great day and a great gift to the church in Baltimore," O'Brien said to the congregation. "Few bishops have had such an opportunity."

The sisters and their chaplain, who was ordained a Catholic priest in June, felt they were "drifting farther apart from the more liberal road the Episcopal Church is traveling," Christie said. One of the leading factors in their decision to leave the faith was the decision by Episcopal leaders to sanction the ordination of gay men and women.

Several times during the Mass, O'Brien praised the nuns' "long journey of faith," one that he said, "was not without distress."

Nuns from several different orders in the archdiocese attended the service to support their new sisters.

"We are happy after so many years of knowing them that they are joining us," said Sister Concetta Melton of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, whose convent is practically a neighbor to All Saints'.

For the newest community, it will be business as usual in their lives of prayer and service, said Christie. Now that they are an official religious institute, they can re-open their novitiate and welcome new candidates to their community. Since their change of denomination, there have been several inquiries, she said.

"We are not expecting a mad rush to join us," she said. "But we will take those that God sends us."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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