Carmelite nuns send Christmas cheer

The Carmelite Nuns in Reno carry on a 64-year-old tradition of making Christmas cards.
Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 4:21 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Say the word “nun” and an image of women clothed head to toe in a traditional habit undoubtedly comes to mind.

But these days the Carmelite Nuns in Reno have ditched the habit, as well as the typesetting and printing press to make their annual Christmas cards.

The nuns have modern equipment these days. Sister Ann says cutting the paper is easy with a laser. Her twin Sister Susan says this machine helps fold and flatten the cards once the designs have been placed on them

While the process has become easier for the sisters who are in their sixties, seventies and beyond, the basis for the operation has remained the same for 64 years--sell enough cards to sustain the monastery--so far, so good.

“So it is a work and a ministry really,” says Sister Ann.

Sister Ann says orders start coming in online around October.

The card designs and the verses inside come from the sisters themselves. There are favorite scenes for customers like a manger scene with Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. But the sisters do introduce a new picture or drawing every year.

Make no mistake there are very practical challenges these women face this time of year. Logistics specifically where a customer may want one certain card here. Three cards there, Another card from a storage box. Quality control is strictly adhered to but isn’t intuitive.

And while the eleven sisters belong to an order that is dedicated to a life of prayer and communion with God, they too have experienced the unspiritual realities of paper and envelope shortages.

COVID put an end, if at least temporarily, to their annual open house where they would sell their Christmas cards and welcome the public.

“We had all the cards up there so we had a huge selection,” says Sister Ann. “But mostly it was the interaction with people. We loved the interaction of seeing people. And sometimes it was that only one time. But every year we looked forward to seeing people we had not seen for a while,” she says. Sister Ann says 95% of their sales are now online. Who knows what the future of Christmas cards will be or what they will look like?

The Carmelites have faith they are capable of meeting the challenge.

Come February the group will select designs and verses for 2022 and begin the process all over again.

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