TEHACHAPI — The Sisters of the Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph are hard at work preparing for their annual Christmas Wreath fundraiser, which is celebrated by faithful supporters as 1,400 wreaths sold last year.
This year, the Sisters say they have even more reason to rejoice as it marks the 20th anniversary since the founding of the local monastery, and the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
"We wish to express our gratitude for your faith-filled friendship and support, which continues to help us build this first American community of Norbertine canonesses," said Sr. Mary Norbert.
The holiday wreaths are artfully constructed by the Sisters, and arrive with the heavenly scent of fresh pine. They are adorned with red, specialty bows donated by the Friends of the Norbertine Sisters. Each wreath features six pine cones, with both frosted and regular to choose from, which the Sisters hand collect during the summer months from the forest surrounding the monastery.
For the past 16 years, the sisters have sold their wreaths in addition to their gift boxes via the internet to homes across the country. Each year, the Sisters are told by their customers that their wreaths last longer than any others.
Ordering the wreaths has become a family tradition as well.
Said Sr. Mary Norbert, "A lot of families will order them, and they will say, 'OK mom and dad, when are the wreaths coming?'"
Most importantly, all of the above is done by the Sisters with and in prayer.
"Please be assured of our daily prayers for you and all your intentions, as we remain grateful for your prayers for us, especially for our most pressing need: our future chapel," said Sr. Mary Norbert.
The Christmas Wreaths are sold for $50, plus sales tax and a flat $15 UPS shipping rate. Wreaths will also be available for delivery/pickup around Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, in time for the First Sunday of Advent (Dec. 3), and in mid-December.
In addition to the balsam wreaths, the sisters are offering their Christmas gift boxes, filled with gift shop favorites such as two jars of jams or jellies, two bags of tea containing herbs from the monastery gardens, and packages of almond-anise biscotti, almond macaroons and walnut-almond granola.
"It is very healthy and very good, as well as the apothecary, which is all made by the Sisters," said Mother Mary Augustine.
Christmas Gift Boxes are sold for $55 per box, plus a flat $10 UPS shipping rate. Gift boxes will be available for delivery or pickup in mid-December.
A downloadable order form for the Christmas gift boxes and balsam wreaths, in addition to some of the many items sold in the gift shop, can be found at norbertinesisters.org. Gifts can be delivered directly or picked up at the Bethlehem Priory, located at 17831 Water Canyon Road. For more information, call 823-1066 or email email@example.com.
Orders can also be placed by using the eScrip program. To sign up, go to escrip.com, click "sign up" and type in the group name "Norbertine Association of St. Joseph."
The Sisters also accept prayer requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.