Catholic Herald Staff
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. Sr. Kristine Haugen has gone to the woods to pray.
A Carmelite hermit, Sr. Kristine lived and hosted retreats at the Mount Carmel Hermitage on Hwy. 8, Amery, for more than 20 years. But now, feeling that God is calling her back to a prayerful solitude, she has moved.
“Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him,” is the description of eremitic life provided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The passage explains why the nun, who has lived at the site since 1980 (minus a six-year hiatus), does not regret selling the facility to laypeople.
“It was just too much to take care of,” she said. “It didn’t make sense to maintain it.”
A colony of hermits, called a “laura,” involves more than one hermit living in association – each dwells in a separate hermitage, but they might meet daily for Mass, for example. Unlike a convent or monastery, lauras do not have an on-site superior, and each individual is accountable to the bishop.
The Hwy. 8 hermitage once housed a hermit laura, permitted in 1995 by Bishop Emeritus Raphael Fliss, which Sr. Kristine shared with both permanent and transient residents.
Built by the hermit community in 1980, the facility was sold seven years later to an order of priests, Oblates of the Virgin Mary, to function as a retreat center. Staffing difficulties forced them to return it in 1993.
“Some of us were sent to live there,” she remembers. “At that point, there were just two of us. Within four years, we had different people trying to live with us, and they didn’t want to stay.”
So, for the next 16 years, Sr. Kristine lived alone, leading retreats and maintaining the 80-acre property. She painted, sewed vestments, shared her musical talents with members of Our Lady of the Lakes, Balsam Lake, and recorded two CDs.
It was a lot of busyness for a nun who longed to be alone with her God, “to live a life of prayer by myself.”
Winter has been quiet at her new hermitage eight miles out of Luck.
“That’s the idea, to find a solitary, quiet location,” she added.
Sr. Kristine is discerning God’s plan, taking “time without projects, without work, so I can pray and discern … how God wants me to live in my hermitage.”
She plans to continue painting. Her recording with Rachel Peterson, “I Call Your Name,” was a culmination of their work together at Our Lady of the Lakes, and she doesn’t plan to continue singing at church.
It’s “an expression of love for God in one way,” she said of the CD. She’s also discerning whether she’ll continue sewing vestments.
“It’s about how God wants you to live your life,” she explained.
They kept hoping a religious order would buy the old property, but in the end, it didn’t happen.
“It’s just going to be in private hands now,” said Sr. Kristine. “They’re going to keep the cross up at the gate.”
The timber-framed chapel is being moved to a Carmelite hermitage in Houston, Minn., because Sr. Kristine couldn’t take it. From now on, she’ll be retreating into “a deeper life of prayer.”