Project Canterbury

An American Cloister

The Life and Work of the Order of the Holy Cross

By Shirley Carter Hughson, O.H.C.

West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press, 1948.

Chapter XVI. Mount Calvary, Santa Barbara.

THE latest venture of faith on the part of the Order of the Holy Cross is the opening of the Mount Calvary Monastery at Santa Barbara, California, in the diocese of Los Angeles. History repeats itself. Early in the century the calls for work in the Southern States were so numerous and urgent that it was clear that we had to establish a house in that part of the country. St. Michael's Monastery and St. Andrew's School were the result of that venture. The same thing has occurred on the Pacific Coast. For some years past the importunities have so increased that no other course was to be considered.

In October, 1943, at the request of Bishop Lewis of Nevada, the Order sent two Fathers to Nixon, in that diocese, and until Easter, 1947, we were engaged there in an interesting work among the Piute Indians, besides being able to respond to many calls for missions, and retreats in the dioceses in that section of the country. Nixon, however, did not seem [113/114] to be the best centre, and a very advantageous property was secured at Santa Barbara. The life is now being lived there, and opportunities are multiplying for service to the Church on the Coast. Santa Barbara is central and already there is abundant evidence that the monastery will prove an admirable and desirable location from which to minister to the parishes in a radius of many leagues around.

The religious history of southern California is one of the most interesting and romantic to be found in America. It was colonized by Religious Communities in the eighteenth century, and there still hangs about it the aura of the old Franciscan days, and it can perhaps be said to have the most idyllic memories that are to be found anywhere on the American continent. We are not presuming to take up the work where the saintly friars of two centuries ago left off, but if we can give ourselves to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, it may be that we shall be able to cooperate with the Church in preparing the ground for another and equally enduring tradition of life and holiness.

The house at Santa Barbara which has been secured, stands in a residence district just outside of the city. The mountains guard the horizon to the east of it, while to the west the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean affords a breath-taking panorama from an altitude of 1250 feet above the water. The acquiring of this property seems to be a definite dispensation of Providence. Just at the time that we [114/115] felt the necessity of taking some action looking to this foundation, a wholly unexpected legacy gave us the purchase money, and at the same time our attention was called to this admirable opportunity. The house was built nearly twenty years ago, but left unfinished by its owner. The original plan was for a luxurious establishment, quite unsuited for the simple needs of a monastery. It will now be finished in plain construction, the work being done gradually as our means make it possible. Eventually, and we trust that this will be not many years, it will provide accommodations for the members of the community, and cells for a score or more of retreatants. A great work of the Holy Spirit is now made possible in a section of the country which has very little in the way of accommodation for retreats for the clergy and laity. We are confident that it will prove a "hostel of hope" for many souls through the coming generations.

We crave the prayers of our friends that we may be able speedily to convert the gift that God has made to us into a veritable fortress of the Holy Ghost, for the honour of His Name, and for the help of many souls.

Project Canterbury