Monastery of Nuns of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans)
Prague - Lysolaje
History of our CommunityThe beginnings of our community go back to the early 1980's. At that time, Czechoslovakia was still under the totalitarian communist regime, during which churches were persecuted, religious communities were forced to go more or less underground or at least their activities were greatly restricted.There was only one community of Dominican nuns in our country, which was living in a ‘Charity’ house in a small village, Moravec. (This community was later transformed into what is now the monastery of Dominican nuns in Znojmo.) They were constantly watched by the communist secret police (StB) and were not allowed to receive new candidates, so we can say that the community was destined to die out together with many other religious communities in the country at that time. However, it happened that, at that very time, a Dominican father, Fra Jiljí Dubský, was appointed as parish priest of St Giles’ church in Prague. He gathered around him a group of young people attracted by the Dominican spirituality. Some of these boys and girls decided to join the Dominican Order in secret, others became lay Dominicans (so-called Tertiaries), while yet other girls made contact with active Dominican Sisters and Dominican secular institutes.
Among those who wished to fulfil St Dominic's ideal, there were a few young girls who longed for the contemplative way of life. It was virtually impossible for them to join the only existing community of nuns at Moravec so, acting on the advice of the Czechoslovac Dominican provincial, Fra Dominik Duka, they tried to establish a new community which would combine Dominican contemplative life with the conditions of life under the communist regime of the time. The sisters lived separately at first; later some of them lived together in a small house in the Spořilov district in Prague. They went out to work, some of them studied, and they wore civilian clothes. All of them carefully concealed the fact that they belonged to the Dominican Order. They met together in secret for common prayer, they studied together with other members of the Dominican Order and tried, as much as possible, to live the Dominican contemplative way of life. Their spiritual counsellor was Fra František Švercl OP from Jablonné v Podještědí. Our community owes him a great deal In February 1987, our community was approved verbally by Fra Damian Byrne, Master General of the Order.
In 1989, the year of the Velvet Revolution, four sisters (including two novices) were living in the house in Spořilov, and a few other women interested in our way of life visited the community regularly. At the beginning of 1990, the Dominican Fathers recovered part of their St Giles priory in Prague, so they handed over to the Sisters the house in the Lysolaje district in Prague, where the Brothers had been living during the period of communism.
During the communist regime, the Sisters had been living under a special statute adapted to the illegal conditions of their life. This statute opened the way for each Sister to decide at some future date either to become a traditional Dominican nun or to continue in creating a new and more open form of Dominican contemplative life after the fall of communism. Therefore, at the beginning of 1991, our community divided into two, and the Sisters who wanted to live a different way of Dominican spirituality moved to another house. The Lysolaje community could now gradually become a classical monastery of Dominican nuns.
A significant step in this direction was taken in 1992 when the community elected Sr Zdislava Szymczyńska from the Polish Dominican monastery of St Anna as prioress. Sr Zdislava’s election was confirmed by the Sacred Congregation for Religious. The same Congregation formally approved our community as a monastery of Dominican nuns in the summer of 1993.
New candidates came. Some of them left after some time and others decided to stay. The Lysolaje house soon became too small for the young community. In addition, people from the neighbourhood began to come to services so that our small chapel became too small for the needs of the growing community. Therefore, in 1994, work began on extending the house, which is now approximately twice its original size, the additions including a new refectory and a larger chapel. The work took about a year and in May 1995 the new chapel and the whole monastery were officially blessed by the apostolic nuncio, Bishop Giovanni Coppa.
As the years went by, the life of our community – originally affected by the circumstances of the time – has come steadily closer to the regular life of Dominican nuns. Contact with other monasteries of Dominican nuns has also been a great help for our Sisters. The nuns from these monasteries have shared their experiences with us, and enabled us to grow deeper into the traditions of the Order. In 2003, we celebrated happily, together with all these who had helped and supported us for all those years, the tenth anniversary of the approval of our monastery of Dominican nuns in Prague – Lysolaje.
At present there are seven Sisters in the community. We hope that the next step will be the building of a new monastery, fully suited to our contemplative way of life.
Our photo gallery includes some photos illustrating the history of our community