Dawn breaks over the monastery.
Twenty-one-year-old Lauren was in college, leading a rich and full life out in what she now calls "the World." She had a boyfriend, and plans for marriage and children. Instead of following this seemingly known path, she felt called to religious life and, after hearing God propose to her via a song on YouTube, has chosen to live her life as a cloistered nun. Since entering the monastery, she now spends her days leading a hidden life of prayer and ritual, shielded from the outside world in order to focus on the spiritual realm and a higher calling--praying to save all souls.
Radical Love is a photographic narrative of the beginning of Sister Lauren's journey within a small monastic community in Summit, New Jersey. Documenting her passage through the first seven years of religious life, this story is a window into her early love of God. This project follows Sister Lauren from her early weeks in the monastery, through her initial commitment to God in a Clothing Ceremony where she is given the religious habit, and takes a new holy name of her choosing: Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart. The story includes her First Profession at age twenty-four where she receives the black veil, and follows through to her Solemn Profession at age twenty-eight in which she receives a simple gold band, as a symbol of her vows and final commitment. The story also reveals her daily life over the years, and her interactions living within a small community of nuns who are themselves in various stages of their own spiritual paths--the same path that lies ahead of her.
The Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, are a cloistered Roman Catholic monastic community founded in 1919. Their primary mission is to pray for the salvation of souls by leading a hidden life of prayer. Some of the nuns have been in the monastery for as long as 62 years. At the time I started this project, Sister Lauren, then the youngest nun, had been there for just three weeks.