Abbey of Regina Laudis
|Mother house||Jouarre Abbey|
|Diocese||Archdiocese of Hartford|
|Founder(s)||Mother Benedict Duss, O.S.B
Mother Mary Aline Trilles de Warren, O.S.B.
|Abbess||Mother Lucia Kuppens, O.S.B.|
|Prior||Mother Olivia Frances Arnold, O.S.B.|
The Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis was founded in 1947 by Mother Benedict Duss, O.S.B. and Mother Mary Aline Trilles de Warren, O.S.B. in Bethlehem, Connecticut. This monastic foundation was one of the first houses of contemplative Benedictine nuns in the United States. Mother Benedict and Mother Mary were both nuns of the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame de Jouarre in France. Mother Benedict had grown up in Paris and studied medicine at the Sorbonne. Until the monastery of Regina Laudis gained abbatial status, it was a dependent priory of Jouarre Abbey, a 7th-century monastery northeast of Paris, France.
The abbey is home to an "exquisite museum quality, 18th century Neapolitan Crèche," according to the website of the Town of Bethlehem.
Near the main entrance, the "Monastic Art Shop" of the abbey is a store open to the public year-round. Products include crafts and food, such as pottery, candles, woven and knitted goods, wool from the convent's sheep, granola, iron work hand-forged at the abbey blacksmith shop, cheese, honey, vinegar, herbs for seasonings, hot mustard, perfumes, skin creams, cards, books, medals and other religious art objects. The abbey also has CD recordings of its nuns performing Gregorian chant.
A Protestant industrialist by the name of Robert Leather donated to the nuns land that became the heart of its present property of 400 acres (1.6 km2). Leather was a "devout Congregationalist" who cherished a pine-covered hill in town as a place of prayer, and he wanted it held intact and in perpetuity as a sacred place.
A 1949 movie, Come to the Stable, starring Loretta Young, was based on the story of the nuns establishing the abbey in town (a children's hospital in the movie). The movie depicts how the nuns were taken in by Bethlehem artist Lauren Ford.
"Mother ... met with many obstacles, (but) support from the Church came from many, most especially the Papal Nuncio to Paris, the future Pope John XXIII, and Cardinal Montini, who would later become Pope Paul VI," according to the abbey's website. "Through a friendship of many years Pope Paul VI offered inspired wisdom and astute practical advice, suggesting from the beginning that if the new monastery was to attract the dedication of American women, they must be encouraged to have a professional basis for their contemplative life."
Since its foundation as a priory in 1947, the monastery has grown to include some 37 nuns. The Monastery of Regina Laudis became an independent abbey in 1976. On February 10, 1976, Mother Benedict Duss, O.S.B. was elected the first Abbess of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis and became the first nun in America to receive the abbatial blessing.
In the late 1960s the abbey, in conjunction with its Jesuit spiritual adviser, Francis Prokes, formed a number of lay communities. As these communities grew through the 1970s and 1980s, the abbey and Prokes drew the attention of the press for practices and behavior that critics considered manipulative, authoritarian, and "cultlike". The Abbey was featured on ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s West 57th and was investigated by the Vatican in the early 1990s. As a result of the investigation Prokes was forced to leave the Abbey in 1994 and other restrictions were imposed.
On May 13, 2001, Mother David Serna, O.S.B., prioress of the abbey, became the second Abbess of Regina Laudis.
On February 1, 2015, Lucia Kuppens, O.S.B., was elected the Third Abbess of the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Kuppens is a student and lover of Shakespeare with a Ph.D. in English from Yale University. She has been coordinator of the Monastic Studies and Monastic Internship Programs of the abbey for almost thirty years. She has always insisted that intellectual life be grounded in the practicals of everyday incarnational life. She has been Cellarer of the Abbey, responsible for the maintenance of the Abbey property and buildings since 2001. Her day to day experience of our growing community trying to live within inadequate space and facilities, inspired her to propose our New Horizons renovation project for which she is Monastic Project Manager. Abbess Emerita David Serna has long acknowledged Mother Lucia's "comprehensive vision" which has predilected her now as "Mother Abbess" to lead Regina Laudis into the future.
The community is known for its commitment to the arts, most notably in the performance of Gregorian Chant. Because of the acting background of Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., the abbey now sponsors annual summer theatre productions.
Hart has worked with fellow artists, including James and Dawn Douglas, to found The Act Association, a group that performs at The Gary-The Olivia Theater, an open-air venue which seats about 200 people. The theater was built in 1982 with the help of actress Patricia Neal. Productions have included plays by Shakespeare, Sartre, opera and musical reviews. Patricia Neal and James Douglas appeared in Love Letters in 1999.
The Abbey is also home to Sister Noella Marcellino, O.S.B., an artisanal cheese maker with a doctorate in microbiology, who has specialized in the study of cheese. She was featured in the PBS Documentary The Cheese Nun. Mother and Subprioress Maria Immaculata Matarese also lives in the Abbey; she is a lawyer and had served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Arts at Regina Laudis
The abbey has been noted for its commitment to the arts.
- "Mother Benedict". Abbey of Regina Laudis. Archived from the original on 2013-02-23.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-08-17. "The Abbey of Regina Laudis" Web page of the Town of Bethel Web site, accessed August 17, 2006.
-  "Foundation History" Web page at the Web site of the Abbey, accessed August 17, 2006
- Tomasson, Robert E. (1987-08-12). "Church Scrutinizes 3 Groups of Nuns". New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- Fox, Margalit (2005-10-10). "Mother Benedict Dies at 94; Head of a Cloistered Abbey". New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- Rourke, Mary (2005-10-05). "Lady Abbess Benedict Duss, 94; Co-Founded First Abbey for Benedictine Nuns in the U.S.". Los Angeles Times.
- Abbey of Regina Laudis website
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
-  "The Gary-The Olivia Theater" Web page at the Abbey of Regina Laudis Web site, accessed August 17, 2006.
- Boynton, Cynthia Wolfe (30 December 2007). "Nuns Pursue the Arts, With Ex-Actress’s Lead". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2016.