The 400 redwood trees shading the grounds of Mother of God Monastery will still reach for the heavens long after the cloistered nuns who planted them move off the 45-acre property next spring.

In an emailed letter sent to over 3,000 supporters on Aug. 31, Carmelite Sister Anna Marie Vanni announced the San Rafael monastery will close March 1, 2021. After 55 years the monastery is an apparent casualty of dwindling vocation numbers, the letter suggested.

“We are only four sisters now. We have been exploring the possibility of joining another monastery of Carmelites,” wrote Sister Vanni, the monastery’s last prioress. “Please pray for us during this period of transition.”

The sisters were informed in May after a decree of closure was issued to the archdiocese by the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, she told Catholic San Francisco. At ages 59-98, they are now looking for a new home together in another Carmelite monastery, or if necessary, apart in several, she said.

Prayer has always powered the rambling, suburban monastery built by Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken for 10 Carmelite nuns who moved from Carmel on Nov. 24, 1965.

A life of prayer is the witness of the great Carmelite saints, according to the order’s website: “When facing a ‘dark night of the soul,’ St. John of the Cross will tell you to keep praying. When daunted by the heavy lifting that true self-understanding entails, St. Teresa of Avila will tell you to keep praying. When vexed by the everyday foibles of the people around you, St. Therese of Lisieux will tell you to keep praying.”

Joining another Carmelite monastery somewhere in the U.S. is the goal, said Sister Vanni, but easier said than done. Contemplative communities are “running scared,” she said.

“They don’t want to take a lot of older sisters in because they might not be seen as being ‘vital’ and will have to close too,” she said. It is more likely the sisters will be split into pairs.

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.