LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As the morning bell rings at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in North Lufkin, 23 Dominican nuns begin to file into their chapel.
The 9:25 a.m. prayer service is just one of seven the sisters will say in one day.
"Our main mission is to pray for the whole world. We pray for the people of East Texas, but also for the needs of everyone," said Sister Mary Rose, cloistered Dominican nun. "And, not even people, but natural disasters and other big world events."
While these Catholic nuns have been praying and living in Lufkin for over 70 years -- you've probably never seen them around town.
Their Dominican order that began 800 years ago in France, dictates they stay cloistered. That means the sisters only get to leave their campus for medical or business reasons.
"It is mainly for the fact that we are trying to create a place of prayer, and, in order to have this place of prayer, we need to have a space that is silent, so that we can hear the word of God and really be in touch with God throughout the day," said Sister Mary Dominic, a cloistered Dominican nun. "It doesn't mean that we are forgetful of the outside world."
It took a leap of faith for the sisters to get to East Texas.
"Our monastery was founded from a monastery in Detroit, Michigan, in 1945. The nuns wanted to make a foundation in Texas. And the Bishop of Texas had invited them to come down. And he wanted them near him in Galveston. The sisters really wanted to be missionaries, so they wanted to go to East Texas," said Sister Mary Rose.
The sisters decided to hop into a car and found their way to Lufkin over 70 years ago.
"They sort of had something in mind, so they were looking for the place. And, eventually, they found it here in Lufkin," said Sister Mary Rose.
The sisters began their life in East Texas around a farmhouse off Lotus Lane in North Lufkin. The sisters worked hard to become part of the East Texas faith community.
"Especially when the sister first came. I think it was quite a shock for East Texas. And I think it was something of a shock for the sisters as well. I believe at the time Catholics were a very small part of the population," explained Sister Mary Rose.
Soon they discovered the East Texas community was more open than they originally believed.
"Even though our way of life might seem strange or different, there is a common understanding of the love for the same person, our Lord and savior," said Sister Mary Rose.
Decades later, a handful of founding sisters still call this monastery home.
While prayer is their main mission -- and a large part of the day -- the nuns do get a chance to express themselves through hobbies like woodworking and strolls around their 80-acre campus.
It's a sprawling campus that houses these 23 sisters, but remains open to anyone.
"So, that is part of our preaching here in East Texas. That if you drive by the monastery or see the monastery sign, you're reminded of God," said Sister Mary Dominic.
While they're a mystery to many East Texans the sister of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus say their door is always open for prayer or any help you might need.
"The common element that we have with the faith community in East Texas is the personal love for our Lord Jesus Christ and a great appreciation for prayer," said Sister Mary Rose.
"We are blessed that people love us, and we know we love them too. And, we pray for them every time like we promise to pray for the need," Sister Marie Augustine, a cloistered Dominican nun.
The public is welcome to pray with the sisters at the Monastery's chapel. The liturgy hours are weekdays at 5:50 a.m., 9:25 a.m., 11:35 a.m., 2:40 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. and on Sundays at 5:50 a.m., 9:25 a.m., 11:35 a.m., 2:40 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
You can find more details here.
Mobile users, click here to see the founding Lufkin nuns' photos album.
KTRE summer intern Haley Squires contributed to this story.