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What's Up With the Kensington Monastery?

No chimes and no trespassing, but phone calls are welcome.

The Carmelite Monastery has been part of the Kensington community since 1950.

It is one of 64 monasteries throughout the United States. Their focus is an inner world of peace, quiet and solitude. For a more detailed look at life behind the walls at the end of Rincon Road take a look at this article from The Catholic Voice.

Located next to Blake Garden, the monastery helps to form a sort of spiritual center for the town. The grounds, of course, are private property, but until a few years ago anyone could enter the driveway and enjoy the quiet beauty. From time to time there were even public masses in the small chapel.

Perhaps what most people remember most are the chimes, or call to prayers, which could be heard all over town. The chimes are no longer heard, and rumors began about two years ago, that the last of the sisters had moved out.

That was around the same time that a chain and a “Private Property, No Trespassing" sign went up across the front of the entrance and only the local deer had access.

But the grounds are still being maintained, and while the buildings and walls ,show their age, there does seem to be activity on the site.

According to Beth Krummenacher of Gordon Clifford Reality in San Francisco, the facilities manager, there are sisters there from “time to time,” and the "Private Property, No Trespassing" signs were put up for liability purposes. “There is some rough terrain there, and we certainly did not want anyone getting hurt,” Ms. Krummenacher said.

She added that there has been some work going on there, “but not much, really.”

The sisters take their privacy and vow of silence very seriously and are not anxious to comment about what is happening at the monastery.

When I sent an email seeking comment for this article, I received a phone call back, politely informing me: “We don’t comment about the order. We are very private and just don’t do that.”

The "no comment" apparently applied to her name or even mundane details.

This produced something of a journalistic conundrum, since we were in the middle of a phone conversation that obviously was a comment.

 I noted that I respected her position and added that they were entitled to their privacy. Perhaps I’m more used to politicians who view journalists as the enemy, but I couldn’t help but ask why she had called back if she did not want to comment. “Well,” she said, “we thought it was the polite thing to do.”

I began my reporting career during the Viet Nam War when protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations were a way of life. I’m not used to polite. I explained this to her and suggested that in the future, if they did not want to comment, they should not call back, which seemed to surprise her.

I explained that they were part of the community and neighbors were curious about what was going on since the chimes had stopped and a new sign had gone up. I said most residents were just interested in the chimes – which everyone remembered for their beauty.

The earnest voice on the phone asked, “Does the town want them back?” I offered that I was not a town representative and wasn’t about to tell them what they should do, but added, “Of course, people thought they were pretty.”

My phone caller did confirm that she was a member of the order and seemed to be thinking about the whole public relations issue because she then asked if my article would include their phone number.

“We still accept requests for prayers and we offer blessings for everyone who asks," she said. "Maybe it would help people if you included the phone number.”

I agreed that it would be a great idea. You can write to the sisters at 68 Rincon Rd., Kensington, CA 94707, or call them at (510) 526-5050. Some may actually get a return call, but prayers are always offered.

Dorothy Coakley June 12, 2011 at 10:07 PM
I was wondering what was up with the Monastery, so now I know. Sort of. As a teen, we used to park in front of the gate in the evening. I'm afraid that poverty, chastity and religion were probably the last things on our (collective) minds. But we were pretty darned quiet, for what its worth. As an adult, I've gone there many times. Most notably, after 9-11. (Life's vissitudes just seem so much easier to handle after half an hour of silent contemplation. ) I've even left the occasional bunch of seasonal flowers, just to say thank you to these folk for "being there" all of my growing years. After the Japanese tsunami, I thought I'd go up to the Monastery for quiet meditation. A chain across the gate awaited. Well...I'm no trespasser and I don't have any special connections to pull strings for me, so I just went away. Blake was closed, the Monastery was closed...so I walked down the hill to visit an "old" friend at the cemetery. (You probably know her...the stone says "Gertude Costello, 196?" and its covered with abalone shells. She's in the middle of the Unendowed Section. And she and I never met in life.) That's the story...the community (even those of us from different backgrounds) *wants* the chimes. We want the chapel. And (this I promise) we will treat the Sisters respectfully. Even sign an insurance waiver if that is the issue....
Cathy Rodeheffer June 13, 2011 at 03:03 AM
From what I understand, the sisters have moved to San Francisco, at least the ones my mom knew in Kensington. She writes to them at their address there. I noticed your article from the "Catholic Voice: was from 2005 -- couldn't it be out of date?
Eric Riess June 13, 2011 at 03:29 PM
As the column, and even the Catholic Voice article noted, the sisters are very reticent to make any public comments. While the article may be 'out of date' to an extent, it puts things in context and was about the only thing I found that talked about the monastery. I think the property manager's comment that there are sisters on hand from time to time, confirms what most people assume about the occupancy of the monastery.
Louise Lacey June 13, 2011 at 05:05 PM
As a very close neighbor I really don't want to listen to the bells unless on a schedule that makes sense as it use to do. When there were only two sisters, and one mentally disabled, the bells were irregular -- sometimes in the middle of the night -- and disturbing to people who were nearby because there was no way to talk with people in the monastery about it. Louise Lacey
Dorothy Coakley June 13, 2011 at 06:49 PM
OMG, that's something I hadn't thought about! "Matins at Midnight"...sounds like a Stephen King novel!
Juanita Fernandez March 16, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Anything new with them?
Dorothy Coakley March 16, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Inquiring minds want to know....now that the UC Chancellor has stepped down, it seems possible that real estate interests will want the monastery *and* Blake House/Gardens. Most of us would love to have a heads up before either of those properties hit the market!
Jackie November 14, 2013 at 10:13 AM
68 Rincon Road Kensington http://www.68rinconroad.com

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