Embattled Cardinal Finds a Friend
Religious Compound to Be His New Home

By Liz Halloran
Hartford Courant [Hartford CT]
February 17, 2003

CLINTON, Md. -- It is a simple act of friendship, not a grand scheme, that will soon bring Cardinal Bernard Law from his scandal-buffeted life in Boston to live in this wooded, idyllic Catholic nuns' compound about 25 minutes south of Washington.

"I offered and he accepted," said Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, the superior general of the Sisters of Mercy of Alma, a 60-member, Michigan-based order devoted to service through teaching, health care and spiritual work.

"I was actually a little surprised - pleased, but surprised - that he accepted," she said this week. "We've known him for years and he's been a good friend to us and to many, many religious communities."

Law, 71, who in December resigned as the powerful head of the Boston archdiocese amid allegations that he failed to remove abusive priests from the ministry, will serve as chaplain for the seven nuns who live in the order's Maryland convent. His arrival date has not yet been set, said Sheridan, who lives in the order's Mother House in Alma, Mich.

The nuns also have small convents in Bethlehem, Conn., and Jackson, Minn.

A lightning rod for anger and betrayal felt by Catholics over the continuing priest sex abuse scandal, Law has been on vacation and retreat since he stepped down, periodically venturing out to give depositions in ongoing abuse cases in Massachusetts.

Calls to the Boston archdiocese for information about when Law plans to make his move to Maryland and how long he'll stay were not returned. In a statement earlier this month, Law said, "I am very grateful to the Sisters of Mercy of Alma for their kind invitation to be their guest during this time of transition. ... It is my hope to be of assistance to the sisters as a chaplain."

When he does come to Maryland, he will make his home in a 3,000-square-foot brick house a few hundred feet away from the nuns' 10,000-square-foot convent house. The buildings sit on a 15-acre wooded compound of gentle hills, a meandering stream and simple wooden crosses.

"It's a place to heal," said Vincent "Cap" Mona, a local entrepreneur who built the two buff-brick homes in the late 1970s and with his wife raised five children there. Mona's mother-in-law lived in the smaller house.

"It's just an awfully beautiful property, and we had an idealistic life there," said Mona, who gave the homes and property to the nuns several years ago after one of his sons died of cancer in his early 20s and the family decided to move.

The Monas filled in the swimming pool on the property and created a prayer garden for the sisters. Chapels were built in both homes, which are set far back from the road.

Mona, a great supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, said he found it interesting that his former home was going to "embrace such an important person. He'll be in good hands with the nuns, who do good work and are wonderful people."

As Sisters of Mercy, the nuns have taken a vow of service, often working as teachers or health professionals. The sisters living in Maryland include a medical student, a philosophy student, an employee of the Washington archdiocese, one who works at the National Shrine, and one who is a coordinator for the Council of Mother Superiors, Sheridan said.

Kenneth Wilson has lived in the neighborhood of '50s-era brick ranch houses since 1962, and this week said he was not aware the nuns would be welcoming a somewhat famous person.

That anonymity may have been what Law had in mind when he agreed to come to this unlikely place - just south of the Beltway and not far from Andrews Air Force Base - where peace and reflection are a way of life.

"We have felt this whole situation painfully and, without making any judgments, this is what we could do for him," Sheridan said. "There's not that much to say. Nobody asked us, and it's just one of those very fortunate things."

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