The late Bishop John Steinbock, in one of his last acts as bishop of Fresno, sent his letter to Rome, approving the foundation of the Norbertine Sisters of the Bethlehem Priory in Tehachapi. The sisters, who now are 20 in number, began as a group of lay women who wanted to become Norbertine canonesses in 1996.
They rented a house in Portola Hills across from the abbey, and began living an apostolic life of prayer together. In 1998, the five original members were clothed in the habit in our abbey church and moved to a temporary house – the former convent at the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Santa Ana, where then pastor Fr. Rick Serra took them in warmly.
After a piece of land was procured for them in Tehachapi, Fr. Gregory and a group of helpers, both Norbertine and laymen helped prepare the housing on the new property, situated in the low Sierras – a stunning setting. The sisters grew rapidly in this secluded site and now number 20, living a life of cloister, prayer and manual labor.
Nine of the twenty will make solemn vows in the cathedral of St. John on January 29, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Fresno. The Abbot General, Thomas Handgretinger, will be on hand from Rome to officiate at the Mass, and the sisters will give their vows to Abbot Eugene Hayes, our abbot, since he is their founding prelate. This is a great day for the Roman Catholic Church in California and for our Order throughout the world.