Shots have been fired at a rural Missouri abbey of nuns on several occasions this Lent, the sisters have said, with a bullet from one shooting lodging in the bedroom wall of the order’s superior. The nuns are fundraising for a security fence, while local law enforcement is providing extra security and investigating the shootings.
In a statement emailed to their supporters this week, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles said that on March 24, “just after 11 p.m., loud gunshots were heard by many Sisters in the Abbey. Some of the Sisters arose, but soon returned to sleep, as we have sadly become desensitized on account of many incidents of inappropriate activity around our monastery.”
“In the morning, Mother Abbess discovered two bullet holes in her bedroom,” the statement added. A bullet entered the exterior wall, “punched a hole beneath the Sacred Heart picture,” and pierced the opposite wall, stopped by the shower on the other side.
The priory’s abbess, Mother Cecilia “was sleeping several feet from the bullet’s trajectory,” the statement noted.
This is not the first time the sisters have been shot at - in fact, the shooting was the third this Lent.
Mother Cecilia, the priory’s abbess, told The Pillar by email that the first shooting this Lent happened Feb. 17, on the evening of Ash Wednesday. The shots that night seemed to come from the country road that runs along the north side of the sisters’ property - the same place as the shots fired in the most recent incident.
A few after the Ash Wednesday incident, “another shot was fired, seeming (to come) from within our property, at the west wall of the church,” she added.
The sisters were also targeted in an incident in August 2019, when some sisters were “shot at in our own backyard by someone who had entered the property, spent about 45 minutes here, shooting intermittently the whole time. The two sisters actually heard the bullets fly past their heads,” Mother Cecilia said.
There was also an incident in 2010, before the sisters had moved to the property, she said. That year, someone shot at a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, shooting the life-size statue of Mary in the waist.
Aside from the bullet holes in Mother Cecilia’s monastery cell, the other damage sustained in the Lenten shootings include damage to some trim around a door, and a bullet hole in the stone of the sisters’ church.
No sisters have been injured in the shootings.
The sisters’ property is rural, about seven miles outside of the small town of Gower, Missouri.
Gower, with a population of 1,554, is not otherwise known to be a high crime area, “so these events are very much out of the ordinary,” Mother Cecilia noted.
Mother Cecilia said the sisters do not yet know who the perpetrator is, but the incidents are being investigated “diligently” by local sheriffs and law enforcement. The Pillar contacted the Gower Police Department and the Clinton County Sheriff’s office, but did not receive a response by press time.
“It is clearly targeted at us,” Mother Cecilia said. “Whether it is someone doing this ‘for fun’ or out of pure malice, we don’t know.”
The incidents are “extremely disturbing,” she added, since it seems the sisters are being targeted by at least one person, or even multiple people.
In their statement, the sisters said the shootings “are exceedingly good reminders to heed St. Benedict’s words to ‘keep death daily before ones eyes.’”
Besides taking the shootings as a real “memento mori” (an object that reminds one of their inevitable death), the sisters are also taking the opportunity to beef up their security. The sisters are fundraising for 3,000 feet of security fencing around their property, which they estimate will cost more than $200,000.
Local sheriffs are also providing extra surveillance of the area, and Mother Cecilia said the sisters are also in the process of setting up camera surveillance of their property. The sisters also have “a couple of very protective dogs,” she added.
“We are all doing very well, and trusting even more in God and the protection of the angels - and the solicitude of friends, neighbors, and law enforcement officers too!”
The Benedictines of Mary are a young and growing religious community of sisters who live a “hidden life” in imitation of the Virgin Mary, particularly in her last years of life on earth.
Their abbey is particularly dedicated to praying for priests and the sewing of vestments and altar linens. The sisters are perhaps most widely known for their music, and have recorded nine CDs of sacred music.