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Sisters to sow deep roots in Loomis with large convent

New priory will hold 100 women, has an estimated cost of $30 million
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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A group of Roman Catholic sisters, who wear traditional habits, are in the process of building a large convent in Loomis. The Domenican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, are planning a 100-sister convent, called a priory, on 40 acres of land on the corner of Rocklin and Barton roads. The land was purchased by Joan and Fred Cordova and donated to the sisters. Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker is in charge of the Loomis project. Handwerker said the facility will be built in a California Mission style. The priory will be located on the center of the property and will be barely visible to passersby, she said. She said soccer and softball fields will be built for the use of the sisters, along with a 135,000-square-foot, two-story priory and chapel. The building will have a separate area for new sisters who are in the formation process, and a second side for professed sisters who have made their vows and are out teaching. According to Handwerker, the facility is estimated to cost $30 million and will likely be built in phases as money is raised. “We’re going to build something that will last 200 years. Most of the property will remain in a natural state,” Handwerker said. Handwerker and sisters from the religious order have appeared on the Oprah Winfrey television show twice in features about the order. Handwerker said the mother house is in Ann Arbor, Mich., but the sisters are running out of room and are expanding into California and Texas. Handwerker said three sisters live in the Loomis convent – a home converted to house up to four sisters with communal living areas, a public area and small chapel and separate cells for each woman. Cells are small rooms that contain a bed and desk. Handwerker said five other sisters are living and working at a Catholic school in Sacramento. Sister Thomas Augustine Becker lives at the Loomis convent. She said women who enter the order take “vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to God and their church.” She said, “Sisters live a simple life of prayer.” According to the order’s website, the sisters are devoted to “Prayer, study, preaching, liturgy, monastic observance, community, mobility, vowed life: the essence of the Dominican life consists largely in an ordered integration of all these elements.” The road to becoming a sister is long. Becker said it takes nine year of study and prayer before women officially become sisters and they can choose to leave the order at any time during the formation process. Sister Catherine Marie Compton also lives at the Loomis convent. She grew up in Bakersfield and attended the University of California, Los Angeles. “I spent my freshman year at UCLA immersed in typical college life. I rejected God and was miserable,” Compton said. The sister said she then joined a Catholic youth group and “knew she wanted to serve God.” Becker said new sisters spend their first year as aspirants studying, praying and training to become sisters. They wear a simple uniform. The women then become postulants for two more years, wear white veils, study church doctrine and are called novices. After three years, the sisters take their first vows and receive a black veil. After five years, the sisters will take their final vows. Kathy Kerdus, town planning director, said the project will likely go before the planning commission this summer for a use permit. ----------------------------- DOMINICAN SISTERS OF MARY, MOTHER OF THE EUCHARIST What: 14-year-old Roman Catholic community of women, dedicated to teaching, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Average age: 28 Number of members: More than 100 Growth: In the process of building priories in Loomis and Texas Contact: 652-5001 Information: sistersofmary.org