Medicare    Wine    English Vacation    Retreat    Maine Vacation    Candy    Rosaries   Office Supplies    Coffee    Caskets    Little Lake Sunapee    Books and DVDs

Home Contact Us Site Map Cultural Catholic - We Like Being CatholicConfession:  A Roman Catholic App

Pope John Paul II to be beatified May 1


Nativity Maze
Pumpkin Bread
Top Ten Albums
Pope Benedict XVI
Rules of Love
Joe Biden
Christian Gaza
Our Lady Fatima
Nuns Having Fun
Catholic Arabia
Catholic Siberia
Pope's Cousin
JFK Speech
Rules Road
Catholic Movies
Catholic Freebies
Catholic Nuns
More Catholic Nuns
Catholic Nuns 3
Catholic Nuns 4
Catholic Nuns 5
Elvis Nun
Hermit Nun
Olivia Nun
Vietnam Nun
Catholic Fun Facts
Patron Saints
Catholic Webs
Catholic Groups
Good Works
Pope John Paul II
Catholic Scenes
African Trip
Latin Words
Two First Names

Alone with God

Hermit Nun Lives
Life of Prayer and Solitude

By GAYDA HOLLNAGEL | La Crosse Tribune

GENOA, Wisconsin — Sister Mary Dawiczyk doesn't always know where her next dollar is coming from but she believes God knows.

"I do live by donations, and when I get low, I say, ‘Lord, I need big monies,' so it's kind of a joke between us," said the 57-year-old hermit who lives a life of prayer and semi-solitude in a bluffside coulee off Highway 35 north of Genoa.

As an example, she tells how once when she was $100 overdrawn in her bank account, a benefactor stopped by the same afternoon with a check for $300. The money was enough to cover the overdraft and put her account back in the black as well as provide her with the means to assist someone else who needed money.

"That's how it is with God," she said. "If you trust Him faithfully, He will take care of you."

Following God's call

A Carmelite sister who was raised in Connecticut, Sister Dawiczyk came to the Genoa area in 1998 after a benefactor and friend purchased the 55-acre site and gave it to her for her hermitage.

She previously was part of a small group of Carmelite sisters who live in a monastery on a ridge near Houston, Minnesota but she said she left there in 1996 because she felt God was calling her to lead an even more secluded life.

Sister Dawiczyk sought help in her quest from the Diocese of La Crosse which aided her in finding a place to stay and guided her through the formal process of discernment developed for individuals wishing to live a hermitical life in the diocese.

The process was developed by Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, President of the La Crosse-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who at the time was the diocesan director of consecrated life.

Sister Weisenbeck said she created the process for another woman who previously had come to the diocese seeking permission to live as a hermit. After researching it, Sister Weisenbeck discovered that Roman Catholic Church canon law has very little to say about hermits.

In fact Sister Weisenbeck said canon law states only that a hermit is to live a life of prayer, solitude and penance and to make a public profession of vows.

The process ended up being published in a book which has been circulated nationally and internationally Sister Weisenbeck said.

Among the requirements is that each hermit is to follow a Rule of life that they compose for themselves said Sister Weisenbeck who recently was quoted in a Newsweek magazine story about hermits.

The diocese's current director of consecrated life, Sister M. Stephania Newell of the Alton, Illinois-based Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr Saint George said there are five hermits living in the diocese.

Hermits typically are older women or men who feel capable of living a solitary life Sister Newell said.

"They realize God wants them to intercede and sacrifice for the Church in the world," she said. "There's not a stereotype. They all come from different backgrounds. The common thread is they feel called to serve God through prayer because their life is supposed to be based on prayer."

The diocese has seen an increase in the number of people interested in pursuing a religious life on all levels including several young women who wish to be members of women's religious communities, and young men who wish to become priests Sister Newell said.

"They're realizing that God has a plan for their life, that He wants them to serve the world in a special way," Sister Newell said. "They see the distress our world is in, and they want to make it better."

Sister Dawiczyk made her temporary vows as a hermit in 1997 and her final vows in 2001. Both ceremonies were presided over by the diocese's former Archbishop Raymond L. Burke who is now archbishop of Saint Louis.

A life of prayer

Sister Dawiczyk said she rises each day at 5 A. M. and spends the morning in prayer and solitude praying for everybody from nations to individuals and for the Church and its people.

Afternoons are dedicated to work and prayer. Since the hermitage has expanded from one wood cabin served by solar power to three buildings including one that houses a simple chapel in the loft and a library on the ground floor and one reserved as a guest house for individuals wishing to come to the hermitage for retreats, there always is plenty to do.

Sister Dawiczyk has done most of the painting, staining and decorating herself, aided by benefactors or friends who occasionally lend a hand.

The two main buildings are equipped with all the modern conveniences including a telephone, microwave, and a television and VCR for watching religious videos.

Sister Dawiczyk said she rarely leaves the hermitage usually for grocery shopping or doctor appointments. Her mode of transportation, both on the highway and around the 55-acre site, is a beige Ford Ranger pickup truck which was a gift from a benefactor.

For earthly company she mostly relies on a white male Siberian husky named Icon and two cats including one, a rust-and white-color feline named Tigee who lives in a lean-to attached to the wood cabin.

As word about her hermitage has spread, Sister Dawiczyk said more and more people have come either to visit or for a retreat. A monthly Mass celebrated in the chapel often draws 20 to 30 people, she said.

Sister Dawiczyk said she doesn't charge people wanting to stay at the hermitage but most people make some kind of a donation.

She believes God must want her to have the hermitage and use it to reach out to others because her prayers about it have been answered.

"Everything I needed, I walked in and it was right there," she said. "If I'm faithful to God, He will sustain me, and He has so far."

"This is God's work, not a man's work, and everyone who comes here feels His presence so strongly," she said, adding that one need only look at the state of the world to believe that people need a place of quiet and solitude where they can find God.

"There's a spiritual warfare going on, its been going on for 2,000 years," Sister Dawiczyk said. "My main work is to witness to the one true God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth."

About the hermitage

For more information about the Hermitage of Saint Mary, contact Sister Mary Dawiczyk, W-1498 Spring Coulee Road, Genoa, WI 54632-8858; (608) 689-2753.

Directions: From La Crosse, take Highway 35 south to Stoddard, Wisconsin. About two miles past Stoddard, turn left at the second scenic lookout to Spring Coulee Road. Follow Spring Coulee Road to the bridge, turn left onto dirt road before the bridge and follow road to hermitage.

About the consecrated life


Belonging to ancient orders or new institutes or being directly dependent on the bishop, hermits bear witness to the passing nature of the present age by their inward and outward separation from the world. By fasting and penance, they show that man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God (cf. Mt. 4:4). Such a life "in the desert" is an invitation to their contemporaries and to the eccleasial community itself never to lose sight of the supreme vocation which is to be always with the Lord.

The Diocese of La Crosse has five hermits, four women and one man.

Consecrated virgins

The ancient Order of Virgins known in Christian communities ever since apostolic times has seen renewal in recent years. Consecrated by the diocesan bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church which they are committed to serve while remaining in the world.  Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the heavenly bride and of the life to come when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom.

The diocese has three consecrated virgins.

Societies of apostolic life

These pursue each in its own particular way a specific way, a specific apostolic or missionary end. In many of them, an explicit commitment to the evangelical counsels is made through sacred bonds officially recognized by the Church.

There are four priests who are members of a Society of Apostolic Life in the Diocese of La Crosse.

Consecrated apostolic religious

These men and women consecrate themselves to God through the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience in accordance with a specific charism and in a stable form of common life for the sake of carrying out different forms of apostolic service to the people of God.

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

Religious community of women based at St. Rose Convent, 912 Market St., La Crosse.

Purpose: The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration consecrated their lives to God who calls them to live in community in order to be signs of the unity of a life in Christ and an instrument for extending the kingdom of God. Centered on the Eucharist, the Sisters follow the Gospel after the example of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Third Order of Saint Francis

Saint Joseph Congregational Home, 1300 Maria Drive, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Purpose: To minister to unmet human needs such as health
services, education, social work, respite care, administrative/clerical work, spiritual direction, counseling, pastoral care, services for the homeless/AIDS victims/abused women.

Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr Saint George

Provincial House, Alton, Illinois; local convent, Mater Redemptoris Convent, La Crosse.

Purpose: To make the merciful love of Christ visible.

Benedictine Sisters of Pontifical Jurisdiction

1190 Priory Road, Eau Claire, Wis.

Purpose: To seek God through communal, liturgical and personal prayer and through work. Work includes ministering to the people in the local church and promotion of gospel values.

Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest

(American Headquarters), 429 Grand Avenue, Wausau, Wisconsin

Purpose: Members of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest make available the Mass and sacramental rites as well as other special devotions according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

Consecrated Contemplative Life

These institutes completely devote themselves to contemplation composed of men or women and by their lives and mission imitate Christ in His prayer on the mountain bearing witness to God's lordship over history and anticipate the glory which is to come.

Order of Cistercians

Our Lady of Spring Banks Abbey, 17304 Havenwood Road, Sparta, Wisconsin

Purpose: A monastic order with a great variety of apostolate including education, parish work, house industries, retreat, spirituality.

There are five men in this community in the Diocese of La Crosse.

Public Association of the Faithful

These men and women are a newer community in the Diocese of La Crosse who are in the process of reaching full recognition by the Church.

Institute of Saint Joseph

11386 Hwy. Q, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Purpose: The members embrace a mission " make God present to the world and the world present to God," by promoting and pursuing the universal call to holiness as diocesan priests, laity-single and married-and monastic men and women who live according to the nine elements found in the life of Nazareth: Silence, contemplation, poverty, chastity, obedience, prayer, study, work and charity.

They have nine priests (mostly diocesan), two men religious, one woman religious, 27 married, and 15 single members.

For more information about any Roman Catholic religious vocation, contact Sister Stephania Newell at the Diocese of La Crosse, Office of Consecrated Life (608) 788-2690.

Published - Sunday, July 17, 2005, in the La Crosse Tribune.  Reproduced with permission.

Gayda Hollnagel can be reached at (608) 791-8224 or at

Have you visited our Catholic Nuns' pages?   




Copyright © 2003-2010     Home | Sitemap | Contact Us