Just a few minutes southwest of the city of Tehachapi sits a secluded patch of heaven hidden in the clouds. A peaceful atmosphere pervades the beautiful 470-plus-acre property of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph, a convent of cloistered, contemplative Norbertine nuns.

The sisters are members of a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church which dates back to the 12th century, when St. Norbert founded the Norbertine Order in the Prémontré Valley of France.

Last year, the order celebrated the 900th anniversary of its founding. In connection with this grace-filled year, the Norbertine nuns here in Tehachapi published a Jubilee Year book about the life of their holy founder, “The Life of Saint Norbert,” the first-ever hardcover English translation of “Vita Norberti B,” which is available at the monastery or online through the sisters' website (https://shop.norbertinesisters.org/gift-shop/).

This young and growing community of more than 40 sisters (with more young women discerning entrance) is led by the prioress, Mother Mary Augustine. Seventeen sisters have made their Solemn Profession, that is, final and perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, becoming totally consecrated to God for His honor and glory, and the salvation of souls.

Within their enclosure, the sisters joyfully lead a simple life of prayer and work, striving through their daily activities toward ever greater self-sustenance. As cloistered Norbertine canonesses, their principal mission is prayer, and especially liturgical prayer, interceding throughout the day and night for the needs of the church and the world, serving as the “heart” of Christ's Mystical Body, pumping the sap of grace to all of His members through their hidden life of prayer and sacrifice.

They welcome visitors and guests to join them from their small lay chapel for Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and their daily Rosary. The Mass is always sung by the sisters in Latin Gregorian Chant and the weekday Mass (8:30 a.m.) is open to the public.

In their efforts toward self-sufficiency, a requirement of all Norbertines, the sisters engage in a number of activities within the monastery. They sew and sell priests' vestments, are busy with a very popular dog breeding program, have an annual Christmas wreath and gift box fundraiser, and run their monastery gift shop and bookstore, as well as their Bethany Guest House, as part of the Norbertine tradition of hospitality.

They also have their own greenhouse and organic gardens, more than 150 chickens from which they gather eggs, and their own cows and goats, from which they use the fresh milk to make artisan cheese and dairy products, which they hope one day soon to sell to the public, after the necessary licenses and permits are received.

Visitors are welcome to browse the sisters' small monastery gift shop, open 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 5 p.m. daily, where you will find items for sale made by the sisters — such as five-decade and single-decade rosaries, homemade jams and marmalades, specialty anise-almond biscotti, granola and macaroons, body care items, aprons, baby blankets, specialty greeting cards — as well as the sisters' chant CD, religious books and other religious items, including icons, statues, medals and more. 

The sisters' most pressing project at this time is phase two of their Monastery Expansion Project: the construction of their future chapel and wing/accessory areas, estimated at about $12 million. Given the sisters’ growth and the nature of their canonical and ecclesial vocation, this project is of the highest importance. Putting all of their faith in God, the sisters trust that the funds needed will come in His time, as they continue to cooperate with His grace in bringing this need to friends and benefactors in a manner consistent with their rule and cloistered way of life.

Many new and long-standing friends have contributed to the project, including through hosting local, Orange and Los Angeles fundraisers organized and carried out by Friends of the Norbertine Canonesses. For more information, contact the sisters or to make donations, one may go to their website.

An interesting blog post provides added insights: http://www.marcusallensteele.com/the-hidden-warrior-nuns-of-tehachapi/ 

Directions: From Highway 58, take exit 148, Tehachapi 202 — Tucker Road. Go south on Tucker Road to Highline Road. Turn right; go 1.3 miles to Water Canyon Road. Turn left; go 2.3 miles to the big brown Norbertine Monastery sign on your right. Turn right onto the property, and then right at the white gate, going past the first buildings and the priests' log cabin. Continue up the road to the chapel, gift shop and Bethany House at the top of the hill.

Prayer requests and information: All are welcome to email prayer intentions to the sisters at their email prayer request line: pray_req@cybersurfers.net. To learn more about the Norbertine Canonesses of Tehachapi, visit the sisters' website at www.norbertinesisters.org

For more information, call 661-823-1066 or email norbertinecanonesses@gmail.com.