On January 2, 2017 the Feast of St. Basil according the the Roman Catholic calendar, the Sisters of the Generalate invited Sister Michelina Torre, OSBM to come for a visit. Sister Michelina is Italian by birth and entered the monastery in 1950. In her 66 years of monastic life, Sister has lived and experienced a long and complicated journey. Sadly, today she is the last living member of the Community of the Contemplative Sisters of Saint Basil the Great in Albano, Italy.
History of the Contemplative Monastery of St. Basil the Great in Albano, Italy
To avoid destruction and the persecution of the Greek Catholic monastics considered uniates by the Russian czarist government, the founder of the Basilian Sisters in Albano, Mother Macrina Mieczyslawska escaped and arrived in Italy on November 6, 1845. She left from the city of Myadzyel near Minsk, Bielorussia, where all persecuted Basilian nuns were to resettle in an orthodox monastery by decree of the czar. Pope Gregory XVI accepted Mother Macrina for an audience to hear about her personal experience of the persecution of the “Uniate Church”. In Rome, Mother Macrina stayed temporarily with the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart Heart, where she found the support of prominent individuals. With their help she founded a monastery of the Roman Rite to which many young women entered.
For a while Mother Macrina resided on the Piazza Esquilino, not far from the Basilica of Maria Maggiore. Later she acquired the Palazzo del Draho in Castelgandolfo. Since this building was not suitable for a monastery, it was remodeled into apartments. In 1873 Pope Pius IX moved the Sisters into a monastery on the papal grounds in Castelgondolfo. There the Sisters spent their days devoted to prayer and physical labor.
In 1966 at the bequest of His Eminence Josyf Cardinal Slypyj, who was acquainted with the history of the monastery and the Sisters’ request they were incorporated into the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great. Today only Sister Michelina Torre remains from the monastic group. She continues to lead a contemplative life of prayer and work depending on her physical ability.
Being a contemplative community, the Sisters basically live a life based on prayer for the intentions of the Church and the well-being of the Holy Father, priests, bishops, missionaires, God’s faithful and the entire world. This is a secluded life which the Sisters live in community, praying, working, sacrificing and offering themselves to be pleasing to God. Each day begins with Matins and silent reflection, followed by the Divine Liturgy. During the day the Sisters make time for spiritual reading, personal prayer and rosary.
Prayer is intertwined with work. The daily schedule included time for recreation and an opportunity to share one’s thoughts and impressions with community. The Sisters also tended a garden. A source of needed finances was the Sister’s craftwork, especially, their hand-knitted sweaters.
The lives of the Sisters in the contemplative monastery were scheduled in such a way that there would be quiet time for prayers and for work, so that Sisters could praise the Lord throughout the whole day without any distractions.