Documentary filmmaker coming to Sycamore

Researcher, oral historian and filmmaker Abbie Reese is coming to Sycamore to present the program, “Monastic Silence and a Visual Dialogue: Life Among the Poor Clare Colettine Nuns.”

Through photographs, audio and video, Reese will share aspects of the hidden monastic life, the nuns’ motivations, and their internal journeys in this Illinois Humanities Council program.

The talk will be at 1 p.m. Oct. 25 at St. Mary’s Memorial Hall, 322 Waterman St.

As members of an exceptionally strict religious community, the Poor Clare Colettine nuns make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure. They observe monastic silence and seek anonymity.

Reese, a writer and documentary filmmaker whose work draws upon oral history and ethnographic methods, has conducted research with a community of 20 Poor Clare Colettine nuns in Illinois, resulting in a book, “Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns.”

Her collaborative film-in-progress, “Chosen,” will tell the story of a 27-year-old former blogger and painter who is now a cloistered nun-in-training.

Reese’s presentation will examine the self-selected subculture of cloistered contemplative nuns, which is facing the possibility of extinction. It will introduce individual nuns, such as “Sister Nicolette,” who considered becoming a pilot or airline attendant. “Claustrophobic in an elevator” and proficient in Latin, Sister Nicolette worried when she first felt called, since “cloister” shares the same root as “claustrophobia.”

The Poor Clare Colettines regard their enclosure – which one nun’s 4-year-old great niece described as “the Jesus cage” – as a source of freedom rather than confinement.  It keeps the world out so that they can devote themselves more fully to interceding on behalf of the world.  Thus, this presentation addresses deeply human questions about personal and group identity and about relationships among individuals, communities and society.

The program is free and open to the public. It is made possible through the generosity of the Illinois Humanities Council.

For information, call Jan Benson at St. Mary’s School at 815-895-5215.