Dealing with a family member in cloister monastery


Hello all,

I am having an issue staying in touch with my older sister who’s been a cloistered nun for a few years. We are both in our 20s and we used to be close in our childhood, but I havent visited or written to her since her first year in the convent. We live in different continents and as a student I haven’t been financially able to go visit her (and Ive also been busy). However, I also realize that I barely have any interest in keeping in touch with her. I’ve been agnostic all my life so I don’t have much interest in faith or whatever she deals with, and I don’t think she hasn’t any interest in my secular life. Also, both of our lives have been mostly uneventful, so I simply have little news to tell her and assume my parents tell her about me. I don’t even talk with my own parents about my personal life, and it would feel weird to talk to each otjer as adults after growing apart since I was a teenager.

We did speak recently over the phone and she was upset. I used to miss her, but now I dont feel much for her. I slightly resent her for going away, but I mostly approve of her doing her whatever she wants and I don’t want her to feel upset. I simply dread having to contact her, and I don’t really derive any benefit from it.

Right now I don’t know if I should write to her, and if I should be honest about what I really think of her or if there’s something else she should hear. If it was for me I could go on indefinitely without speaking to her again.

I welcome any advice or comments from those of you who’ve had similar experiences.



Having a friend or family member enter a cloistered monastery can be difficult. I have a friend who also became a cloistered nun, and staying in touch can be hard. I send her letters, but she is allowed just a limited number of letters and/or visits, so I don’t hear back from her often. My letters feel a little funny to write because they focus so much on what I’m doing or what various friends may be up to. I can ask what she thinks about something, but I know I’m not going to get a response so that influences what I write.

I thought my letters were kind of pointless, but she assured me when I saw her that she enjoys getting them, in part as a sign of our friendship and in part to remind her that there is life beyond the monastery walls.

I’m sure your sister would enjoy hearing from you, even if you just send a short note saying “I’m thinking of you” or “I hope everything is going well.” If you start to write to her, you may find that she’s a good person to share things with since she won’t be in a position to turn around and tell anyone else what you’ve said.

Even if your life is uneventful, you’ll have things to share – something you’ve come across in one of your classes or something amusing or a bit about what you’re doing and how you’re spending your time.

Best wishes as you sort this out.


You are very blessed to have a sister that is a cloistered nun. I can imagine how much she is praying for you and your family. Get in touch with her and thank her.


I guess you could ask her basic general questions like "What do like best about your new life? “Is it hard to adjust?”
“How do you spend your day?” “What do you do for recreation?”
“Do you have any funny stories to tell?”

I have heard that the bonds between family members often become stronger when one enters the cloister.

You now have someone who is praying for you and your family. This is a very good thing.

I am sure she would live to hear from you.


*Dear sis,

I am sorry that you were upset when last we spoke. But let’s be honest, I don’t really have any interest in hearing anything about what you do on a day to day basis. We both live uneventful boring lives, and I am really not interested in hearing about anything that you are interested in. I am in my own little world, and you are in yours. Maybe we should just keep it that way? I don’t get anything out of talking to you or knowing you, so what’s the point?

Have a nice enough life,
Your younger sibling. *

I do not suggest you write that by any means. But are you really thinking that someone has shared your experience?

I don’t know what kind of family life you and your sister experienced that you care so little for her. You don’t say anything about an argument or anything, you merely say that you are not interested in your sister. And you only care about how you feel.

Maybe you should stop just thinking about yourself for a change. Try and think of something to ask her about just for the sake of helping a human being who happens to be your sister. Can you not speak about a holiday or other family time that you remember with fondness? Or a funny thing that you shared when you were younger? Reminiscing can go a long way toward making a connection with a family member.


Monastic life is not easy during the first few years. Right now she is being tested and taught humility which is crucial for her mission. Things will ease up for her as she approaches her permanent vows.

The last thing I would do would be to giver her the impression you no longer care about her. It is understandable that you miss her, and you do miss her as evidenced by your opening post. As you get older, your relationships with family will become more important. Try not to pass any personal bitterness you might be feeling now, on to her. What she is doing is NOT easy by a long stretch, and any kindness you can show her right now will giver her strength that she needs.


The only reason you think monastic life is boring is because you’ve not kept in touch with your sister.

I was a contemplative nun – entered when I was 19 – and in the two years I was there:
*]Our cows got out of their enclosure and onto the busy road that bordered their fields.
*]A hot-air balloon crash landed – with passengers – right next to our huge vegetable garden.
*]Our Archbishop arranged for Mother Teresa to join us for dinner when she was in Denver.
*]Our first sheep gave birth to two lambs, and one of them had to be pushed back in because it had a turned hoof.
*]I got kicked in the jaw by a llama (my fault, I bent down to pick something up behind him - doh!)
*]While learning to cut firewood, I got hit in the head and got a nasty concussion.
*]I learned to play “tackle basketball” during recreation.
*]I learned to catch softballs in my apron because we only had one mitt when playing softball.
*]Sister Emmanuel killed a baby rattle snake outside the kitchen door with a shovel.
*]We played endless birthday and feast day pranks on each other – several involved setting booby traps over the door and then climbing out the window of a sister’s room.
*]We had to collect recently-made hay bales from the field in the dark to beat an incoming storm front – turns out the best way to find a hay bale in the dark is to bump into and fall over it.

And then there are the monastic traditions that are interesting from a purely cultural perspective:
*]Christmas traditions were so beautiful!
*]We went nuts on April Fool’s Day – because it was tradition.
*]We made our own enormous Advent wreath (same as a Christmas wreath only it’s used for Advent) by cutting branches from one of our fir trees.
We made up plays and other entertainment (one sister was an expert fiddler) for feast days.
*]We always had a lovely picnic with homemade ice cream on July 4th, and we could see the fireworks from the nearby city.

And what about the various personalities of all the sisters?

*]There was that one old nun who wrapped up in a heavy sweater and would shuffle over the windows and close them in the chapel when it was 100 degrees in the summer!

*]There was another old nun who would sit on the radiator in the winter because “some parts won’t warm up any other way.”

*]There was the sweet and unassuming nun in the kitchen who would nail you with a snowball if you passed the kitchen door while shoveling or doing other outside work.

The cloistered life is organized and has a definite routine. But it is anything but boring. There are ordinary moments of life to describe and share, just the same as there are in your own life. I mean, when I talk on the phone with my mom, we just talk about gardening and funny things our pets have done, and things like that.

Do the same with your sister. There’s is plenty to talk about without ever talking about religion. You and she live in very different cultures. As her brother, you could show some interest in hers and share some of yours.

God bless you!


I commend you for reaching out for advice. Usually, we Christians would refer to your having done so as being moved by the Spirit. He also moves agnostics, for God’s will is always going to be done, even through those without faith.

I think you could educate yourself on the way of life she is living right now. I nearly entered a cloister myself, but familial matters kept me in the world. I set myself a course of informing the world of the beauty – and necessity – of the cloistered life. Here is my organization’s website:

Would you care if she had just gotten married, and was having problems adjusting to her new way of life? I am admittedly shocked that there was such a nonchalant/apathetic attitude toward one’s own flesh and blood, though the end of the post seemed less frosty.

We Christians who have accepted Jesus as personal Lord and Savior follow His admonition to DENY yourself (don’t be selfish); take up your cross (Daily Duty) and follow HIM (treat others and yourself as He would treat others). Those who have a devotion to the Divine Mercy end up forgetting themselves and concentrating on the needs of others.

Do you have any information on where she entered? Gertabelle gave a good list of stuff that happened when she was behind the walls. You could use that as a starting point, and ask if anything like that had happened to her.

If she was upset, she has likely been severely “corrected”. Such may be seen as judgmental in society, but if a person is going to grow spiritually, then they need to know what’s wrong so they can be spiritually purified. This happens all the time in the media/entertainment industry. They’re just trying to make you a better performer. Novitiate personnel – where she’s being trained – are like drill sergeants.

My apologies in advance if anything I’ve said has offended. Peace be with you.



Just drop your sister a note on a pretty card or nice stationary now and again. Let her know what is going on in your life. Use interesting stamps for the postage.

Getting a handwritten note from a loved one is always special. I bet your sister probably holds on to it as a special remembrance---- it may be all she has to remember you by.

Please do write her.


Yes, it doesn’t have to be more than a few sentences. :thumbsup:


Although the two of you are going in separate directions, the fact remains: you are sisters and therefore you share a special bond that not everyone is privileged to have. (Trust me I wish my sister was a cloistered nun because at least she would be alive which she isn’t.) I’m sure she would welcome any contact you can give her such as short notes, a cute comic strip you liked etc. Contact is contact and its best to maintain some type of contact.


I definitely don’t think you should write to her “saying how you feel”. What would be the purpose? Your sister didn’t just go off to do something she likes and abandoned the family. It was probably very difficult for her to say “yes” to a call she was feeling and have to go so far from her family, maybe knowing the potential reactions and the way it would affect her relationships with family members.

I don’t think she would find it boring to just hear about little things that happened. That’s how relationships are built. Ask her what she does during the day, what we’re the most special things that happened this year.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Of course its up to you if you write to her but she would most likely be glad to receive a letter and write back when she’s allowed.


I wonder if the OP just needed to vent. He/she posted this question and then disappeared. Or perhaps he/she has been reading replies without logging in?

Anyway, I hope someone has been helped by this thread. :smiley: :shrug:


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