Preservationists aim to acquire Hollywood Hills monastery

Newly formed group aims to maintain property as sacred space in upscale enclave

Monastery of the Angels (Google Maps, iStock)
Monastery of the Angels (Google Maps, iStock)

A newly formed group of preservationists are working to keep a nearly century-old monastery in the Hollywood Hills off the drawing boards of any developers.

Los Angeles preservationists and advocates are forming a nonprofit agency they hope can acquire the Monastery of the Angels, home of a small community of cloistered nuns at 1977 Carmen Ave., Religion News Service reported.

The sacred community, founded in 1924 has dwindled as the nuns age and some have died from COVID-19 and other causes, making it difficult to sustain the monastery’s “democratic way of life.” The Dominican nuns study Scripture and pray for those who come to them for guidance and penance.

An online petition to “Save the Monastery of the Angels” was launched last year, with advocates calling the four-acre property a “retreat” and an “oasis” in the middle of Los Angeles. It has garnered more than 4,200 signatures.

Its prioress, Sister Maria Christine, said in December that no decision had been made to sell, adding the Dominicans were “looking at many options and trying to find the best suitable resolution.”

One of those options included seeking other religious communities to manage the monastery.

“Our goal is to retain the beauty of the property and continue to be a source of spiritual enrichment for all who come to pray,” said Christine, president of the Association of North American Dominican Monasteries, in an email to the news service. “The world needs prayer and we keep everyone in our prayer intentions.,”

Preservationists aren’t taking chances.

The Monastery of the Angels Foundation of Los Angeles, the nonprofit that’s now incorporating, wants to acquire the monastery to care for and maintain the property “as a Catholic sacred space,” according to its website.

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“Losing the monastery to non-Catholic redevelopment will both deprive Catholics in Los Angeles of the ability to take spiritual nourishment from its grounds and also remove a place of prayer from a community that badly needs it,” it said.

Behind the preservation effort are Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, LA historians and preservationists who run a tour company exploring the city through an architectural, historical and spiritual lens.

The group also includes Rob Hollman, a nonprofit consultant whose clients have included PBS SoCal, Holland’s Opus Foundation and Preserve Orange County; and Brody Hale, president of the St. Stephen Protomartyr Project, which works to preserve historic Catholic churches and sacred spaces.

The group is modeling its effort after other lay Catholics who have taken ownership of and responsibility for churches and monasteries across the nation. They say overseas investors, often without a sense of community, have often targeted the area to make a buck.

Founded in 1924 by a New Jersey nun, the Monastery of the Angels has received financial support from wealthy LA families and celebrities such as the Dohenys, through the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, and the late actress Jane Wyman, through the Jane Wyman Charitable Foundation.

The nuns also bake and sell their famous pumpkin bread, peanut brittle, chocolate mints and other treats at the gift shop from within the Hollywood Hills monastery north of Franklin Avenue.

Even though Dominican nuns would no longer inhabit the monastery under their own stewardship, the group envisions keeping the chapel open for the occasional celebration of Mass, sacramental activities, 24-hour Eucharistic adoration and private prayer.

[Religion News Service] – Dana Bartholomew

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