According to Anne, Soeur Margarite Marie “was Aunt Helen to me, my father’s sister.” Soeur Margarite Marie spent the majority of her long life as a closed-cloistered nun living the simple, contemplative life dedicated to prayer. Anne recalls visiting her as a child and “wondering why she was behind wooden bars… why she was in jail.” Over the years Anne began to discover where it was that Aunt Helen’s freedom really existed. “It was in the soul. With the vow of poverty, the nuns own nothing. Yet they had everything. They had joy. There was peace. Many of us travel the world over and still cannot find it.”
Anne was not permitted inside the monastery, but on every visit she documented her impressions and photographed the grounds and village surrounding the monastery. Over the years, Anne grew to love the small group of women, and they became accustomed to having her there with her camera. “Meek, yet firm” this small community of women pray, day in and day out. They pray for the world, they pray for the known and unknown. They even pray for me. Who does that but my own mother?” Anne recalls that with each visit “I was filled with so much emotion by the beauty and spirit of the place. And each time when I returned home from one of the oldest cities in the Alps, I knew that I would never be the same again.”
Anne saw her Aunt Helen for the last time in November 2013. “She was just shy of her 85th birthday when I returned in January 2014 for her funeral. Once again I roamed about with my camera; this time I was freely allowed within the interior walls of the monastery.” When Anne returned from the funeral she became completely immersed in painting the imagery she had collected for decades. Through images, paintings and film, Anne has been working on a multimedia project about these nuns, which has evolved “to document, as well as acknowledge, the importance of these beloved little women.”
Anne will now share with us this cohesive body of work. Its title, Pray to Love, is a saying the nuns use frequently. Anne says, “While it is a very personal project and definitely not commercial, it also draws community. No matter what your faith, you can relate to the peacefulness and serenity.” Pray to Love includes thirty pieces with captions written by nuns from the closed-cloistered Tyringham Monastery in Massachusetts. Anne and her son, Nathan Collie, created a film documenting Anne’s experiences and the creative process, which will be projected during the exhibition.