A reader of “Ashram Diary”, Danielle Darbro, sent a question about the sisters at Ananda Ashram “on the other side of the road” from Saccidananda Ashram. Here’s my reply:
Hello, Danielle. Yes, the sisters at Ananda Ashram follow the same spirituality as the monks, based on the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Camaldolese Constitutions and the special customs handed down from the three founders of Shantivanam: Jules Monchanin, Abhishiktananda, and Father Bede. Since the Camaldolese Benedictines favor a more solitary monastic life (for those who have a full experience of life in the monastic community), Ananda Ashram offers a hermitage setting for the sisters and their guests. The sisters “across the road” were founded by Sister Marie-Louise Coutinho, who passed away earlier this year. She had been there for more than forty-five years. She was initially formed in a Franciscan community dedicated to health care for the poor, and they permitted her to transfer to Shantivanam and make Benedictine vows. There are still sisters at Ananda who continue the hermitage-ashram and welcome people for silent retreats there. I am personally grateful for Sister Marie-louise’s hospitality and for the wisdom with which she guided her ashram and also helped the brothers across the way.
(I could say much more about Sister Marie-Louise. I do miss her and my brothers at Shantivanam, with whom I spent extended periods over the course of twenty years. I hope to express my gratitude for her and for them in some posts to come.)