Monday, August 26, 2013

An Oasis Of Tranquility

Union City is hilly.  Like San Francisco hilly.  I thought I was going to die riding my bike through this city.  We had to stop every block on the uphills just so I could give my leg muscles a rest. 

I'm good on the flat surfaces, but for these hills I'm seriously thinking about that electric bike motor Ed's been talking about.  I initially shunned it because if you're going to ride a bike, ride a bike.  But I'm an out-of-shape 45-year-old and although I really anticipate using bike riding as exercise, I want it to be a leisurely activity, not a Tour de France-esque hill climb.

I was happy to get to the top of the hill in Union and see this church.  I let out a sigh and a Thank God, because I was able to stop and hop off my bike to give my legs another much needed rest.
The sign outside the church reads:

Monastery of the Perpetual Rosary

"The Blue Chapel"
Erected 1912-1914

On December 21, 1891, the first community of the Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary was founded in West Hoboken (Union City), New Jersey.  In New York Harbor, four sisters of the Perpetual Rosary arrived from France.

They were met by the founder of their cloistered order, Father Damien Marie Saintourens and proceeded to their new home.
The monastery was completed 1914.  Here the nuns would follow a disciplined routine of household chores and prayer, based on a schedule known as the Liturgy of the Hours, praying for those who did not pray.  From this first American Monastery of the Perpetual Rosary, 21 others throughout the nation would rise.  Today the Blue Chapel remains an oasis of tranquility in Union City and a reminder of the City's rich historical heritage.
The nuns who lived here were cloistered, generally keeping to themselves.  They needed permission to leave the grounds and when they did, had to stay in designated areas.  They were respected and loved by the surrounding community.

The monastery was definitely showing its age. The gates outside were rusted and peeling.
The 14th Street Gate

The chapel was abandoned in 2008 after the number of resident nuns and finances dwindled.  In 2010, it was in included on the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites list put out each year by Preservation New Jersey, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and promoting New Jersey's historic resources.
The Blue Chapel, which takes its name from the blue tinted windows that were part of the original chapel, faces an uncertain future.  Within the 12-foot-high bluestone walls that surround the 1.4 acre parcel of property, are the graves of 65 nuns. 

There was a proposal to renovate the building and make it into apartments, but the community opposed the idea. 
Perpetual uncertainty seems to be the order of the day for the monastery as it seems there is no longer anyone praying for its survival.
Several pieces have been written about the Blue Chapel. 

I found a New York Times article dated December 1998.

An article about the artistic nun, Sister Mary of the Compassion.

And a story with tons of pictures in this piece from The Jersey Journal.

Pretty interesting stuff.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2012: Clouds Over The Whitestone
2011: Room And Board
2010: Filler And Fluff
2009: Ghost Town
2008: Second Only To Feet
2007: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
2006: Heading South With One Wayward Goose
2005: Red Texas Sunrise

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