The prioress of a Carmelite convent occupied by five rebel nuns today called “ridiculous” charges that she has disrupted their austere and prayerful life style with such modern amenities as television and snacks.
Mother Teresa Hewitt said the changes she has introduced at the Monastery of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel have been insignificant.
“We’re anxious to have a conciliation (with the rebel nuns), and I have been here 14 months trying to do that,” she told reporters in a statement through a barred grate in a small room in the cloistered convent.
“I’m looking for grace through prayer that the Lord will give us understanding to settle this problem,” she said.
A Vatican envoy assigned to talk to the five dissident nuns left Monday without persuading them to end their protest, which entered its 15th day today.
Hewitt, the focus of the widely publicized two-week protest, said she is receiving highly critical letters from across the country.
“I have been getting a bunch of hate mail from people out there saying I’m a liberal and I’ve messed it up,” Hewitt said. “They write and tell me to lay off and go away and a few other choice things.”
Four nuns locked themselves in the monastery’s infirmary Oct. 4, saying they feared expulsion because of their disagreements with Hewitt. The next day the four rebels were joined by an aging and ailing former prioress.
They are dissatisfied with what they have said is Hewitt’s introduction of television, radio, sweets and other innovations into the convent, changes that they say disturb their traditionally ascetic Carmelite life of self-deprivation, contemplation and prayer.
Mother Hewitt called the charges “ridiculous,” saying she acquired a videocassette player for the convent for religious purposes only.
“We have had TV here occasionally before for a number of years and I want to emphasize we don’t just look at TV,” she said. “We watch religious videocassettes played on the TV.”
She said the monastery has always provided sisters with some sweets.
Father Kevin Culligan, a Vatican envoy sent to negotiate, said he spoke with the nuns, completed his investigation and would report his findings to his superiors in Rome.