"Wow, so what’s it like living in a convent?”


 Gabrielle serves as a counselor at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco. 
She shares community with the Dominican Sisters of San Jose.

DV Gabrielle Smith

             I feel compelled to answer the one question that I’ve been asked on a regular basis these past few weeks by students, coworkers, old friends, and family members alike.  Regardless of who I’m talking to, we’ll be about 4 minutes into a conversation when the person inevitably asks, “wow, so what’s it like living in a convent?” 
            The intonation and expression on their faces make me feel like I’m telling them a big secret.  What really goes on in there?  Do you pray all day everyday?  I guess the curiosity comes from there not being as many convents as there used to be or people have a general image of convent life in their heads from “The Trouble with Angels” or “Sister Act” or some such similar movie.  Unfortunately, I have no hot insider gossip to share, so instead I usually settle for a vague “uh good…pretty regular,” before launching into the details of having my own bedroom, living with 12 other people (10 sisters and 2 other volunteers), having a social hour every Friday, and commuting to school (located right next door to the convent).  From there the response is usually split—half pressing me for more details about rules and responsibilities, the other half move onto other subjects of conversation, maybe slightly dissatisfied with my less than juicy response.   
             So, what’s it really like?  Well, there definitely are rules and there has been a learning curve in terms of what community living means and how that’s different from the average college dorm or apartment living.  With so many people living together, expectations are necessary for the convent to function smoothly. Overall, it is quiet.  It is peaceful.  As a volunteer and non-sister, I feel lucky to occupy such a unique position, experiencing both religious and non-religious life simultaneously.  On the one side of my bedroom wall is the insanely loud traffic of the outside world of Guerrero St. and then I walk into the hallway and it is completely silent because the upstairs is a place for contemplation and prayer.  It is always peaceful, and you wish that we could somehow implement this level of peace outside the convent in the rest of our world.   
A San Francisco sunset with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge