Name of Church Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph
Address 17831 Water Canyon Road, Tehachapi, CA 93561
Phone number (661) 823-1066
Mass times 8:30 a.m., except Fridays when it is celebrated at 5:15 p.m. On Sundays, there is no public celebration of the Mass. The chapel is small, traditional and well-suited for prayer. The sisters, called canonesses rather than nuns, hope to build a new chapel. Gift shop hours are 10 – 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 5 p.m. (Closed on Friday at 4 p.m.)
Names of priests Mass celebrated by a visiting Norbertine priests. There are about 40 sisters, three of whom made solemn profession of vows in June.
Homilies St. Michael’s Abbey has maintained its orthodoxy since its founding more than 50 years ago. Its priests are both pious and professional. The sisters are as well.
Fellow parishioners Family and friends of the sisters come to visit, as well as young women discerning vocations. People can also come on private retreats.
Parish bulletin The sisters have a newsletter, FirstFruits, which they mail to friends of the community about three times a year. Email the sisters to ask to be put on the email list.
Additional observations The Norbertine Sisters, or “the sisters in the mountains” as the locals call them, are affiliated with the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California. They are a cloistered, contemplative community founded in 1997. The original five members occupied a house opposite their El Toro abbey before moving to the mountains of Tehachapi in the Diocese of Fresno in 2000. The priory is located in the mountains, amid many beautiful old oak trees, meadows and a duck pond. It has a 5,450 feet elevation, and it gets cold and snows in the winter. The grounds include a gift shop, where you can buy handmade religious items, as well as jams, honey, soaps, salves, powders and candles made from things grown on the grounds. The sisters also sew and crochet such items as totebags and aprons. Please spend some money at the gift shop, as it is the goal of the sisters to be self-supporting. If you can’t visit in person, you can buy items online through the website. The sisters operate a Bethany Guest House, which is available for overnight stays for women discerning vocations and friends of the community. The sisters’ lifestyle is rigorous, and includes eight hours of prayer a day. This includes lights out at 9 p.m., rising for midnight prayer, and rising again at 5:20 a.m.
[story updated February 17]