LOS ANGELES — For 90 years, the Convent of the Angels has been home to the St. Dominic Cloister of nuns who lived, prayed and baked the famous pumpkin bread on a sprawling four-acre site tucked into a hillside in the heart of Hollywood.
In recent years, however, the number of nuns living in possession has dropped from a high of 45 to fewer than six, part of a trend in religious institutions across the country to shrink religious orders and congregations. With the last few sisters relocated in the fall of 2022, neighbors and supporters of the monastery were worried about the future possession of the property, many came to visit the spiritual oasis.
And what some call a modern miracle, it appears that the monastery of the Angels was preserved after all. The Dominican brothers of the Western Province announced that they have joined with the Dominican nuns to ask for proposals to restore the monastery and leave the chapel and the pumpkin bread business intact.
“Our sisters have loved the Hollywood Hills convent and we look forward to working with the brothers who are interested and the neighborhood so that the blessing of our beloved monastery continues for all,” Sister Maria Christina Behlow, former prioress of the said monastery, said in a statement.
The proposed petition will be paid at the beginning of April.
“We want it to be open to every creative and interesting idea out there and to evaluate our due diligence in every angle in maintaining the monastery,” said Chris Hanzeli, head of strategic initiatives for the Dominican friars of the western province. “We have joined the community to protect the treasure of the monastery for generations to come.”
The brothers and nuns can’t predict what purpose they will come up with, Hanzeli said, but they are committed to keeping the chapel a sacred place for the community, maintaining the pumpkin bread and carol business and maintaining the broader neighborhood property. thus “it can be a blessing to all.”
To oversee this process, the Dominicans are working with Dominic Dutra, a Fremont-based real estate agent who has spent the last 15 years helping religious communities across California use their properties in creative ways.
“The faith-based institutions have declined in terms of their numbers, and now they have a lot of surplus or less land,” Dutra said. Instead of selling their high-value properties, many of these organizations want to ensure that their land serves the greater community.
“For we look to people of faith, while we want to give God the ability to stop and show us that miracles can still happen,” said Dutra, who is a Christian. “This is really a priority – to inject some hope and a positive perspective into the world.”
The Monastery of the Angels was founded in 1924 and in its early days was supported by some of LA’s wealthiest families, including the Dohenys, the Dockweilers, the Van de Kamps and the Hancocks.
In 1934, the order to disperse Hollywood moved the estate that had been the air of my master Joseph Giroux, which he bought for only $100. Fourteen years later, Catholic women in Los Angeles raised funds for the sisters to build a new convent, chapel and office complex on the same site, designed by the famous architect Wallace Neff.
Because then in the monastery the faith of all served as a spiritual refuge.
“And when we welcome people into it, we see how they slow down and have peace and have a welcome,” said Kim Cooper, a cultural historian who led the group to the monastery. “LA is a huge lake and the water is cold and deep. There are a few rocks on the ground, and one of them is the Monastery of the Angels.
Along with her husband Richard Schave, Cooper is one of the founders of the Convention of Angels Foundation. The group, which has no affiliation with the monastery or the Dominicans, was formed in January 2022 to keep the monastery in Los Angeles sacred space, including raising enough money to buy it if needed. Now its members are hoping to submit their agenda.
“Hollywood was founded as a city of parks and churches,” Schave said. “Now is the chance to go back to the roots of Hollywood.”
Dutra said there will likely be a deadline of 90 to 120 days after the RFP is released for individuals and organizations to submit their qualifications and ideas. The brothers and sisters will be able to determine which direction they want to go in the next six months. But if they have spent more time, they will receive this.
“We want to do this right,” he said.
The property is owned by the Monastery of the Angels, but Dutra said he is also consulting with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Vatican, neighborhood members and others as part of the decision-making process.
But he warned one thing: Not everyone will get what they want.
“Of course there will be push and pull – for a long time we will have to meet the interests of the sisters because they are older and require greater care,” he said, “but we want to be transparent and respectful of everyone. as much as possible interests.”
Establishing a new long-term plan for the monastery is likely to be a multi-year process. A similar project that Dutra worked on with the Sisters of the Holy Family in the Bay Area took seven years from start to finish, but the results were worth the wait. The sisters’ 15-acre property was converted to a 5.5-acre open space park, which is now part of a national conservation area, while also creating 47 new housing units for the sisters.
“The church is vulnerable to this decline, and it’s easy to get caught up in it and think, ‘Oh, this is the end,'” said Dutra. “But if you think about the history of the resurrection, it wasn’t the end.”
Dutra believes that, as the real needs of religious institutions change, there is an opportunity for them to connect with the outside world and demonstrate that they are sensitive to these needs as well.
“We hope that we can show that in the midst of rudeness and divisiveness, there really is more to life than winning and losing and winning,” he said.