Antonio J. Guerrero
Tuesday, 1 August 2023, 09:33
For four centuries nuns have been praying inside the convent of Las Catalinas in the Malaga province town of Antequera. Four centuries ringing the bells every day, overcoming crises, wars and pandemics. But there is one obstacle that proved too difficult to overcome; a lack of vocations.
The Dominican nuns must now leave Antequera, as they did in 2006 from Malaga city, from where many moved. As the years have passed, the older nuns have died and vocations have become scarce. The Vatican orders the closure of any convent with less than five nuns, and so with three at Las Catalinas, it is impossible for it to remain open - so they have now left for Jaén.
On Thursday 27 July the Bishop of Malaga, Jesus Catalá, travelled to Antequera to give a Mass of thanks to acknowledge their presence in the town. The convent will be closed, as well as the church.
Devotees of San Martin de Porres, the popular saint known as Fray Escoba, hope that the place of worship will be left open every Wednesday, when people usually go to pray to him.
So far this century, four convents have closed in Antequera. Of these, one convent is now being used as a refugee centre (Santa Eufemia), another is used by a group that helps addicts (Capuchinos) and a third has been closed since 2004 (Madre de Dios). It poses the question of what will happen to the Dominican convent.
In the heart of the town centre
The Dominican nuns have their church and convent in the centrally located Plaza del Coso Viejo, between the town archive, Post Office and town museum. In these cases, as a general rule, the convents remain at the mercy of the congregations and the churches are handed over to the diocese.
The convent could be used for social purposes or sold to be used for something completely different. The churches are usually kept for worship when there is a confraternity or new religious initiative, as in the cases of Santa Eufemia and Capuchinos. But in Las Catalinas, there is no religious movement to keep it open.
The remaining nuns said the convent could no longer be kept open due to "the generalised lack of vocations, we cannot continue being a Dominican and remain in our dear convent. We have done everything possible, but at last it is our turn to leave our beloved land where for so many centuries we have been very happy," they said at Thursday's mass.
It all began on August 11, 1639 when they arrived from Lucena to found a house in Antequera. They started in Calle Pasillas from where in 1650 they bought land in the Coso Viejo. "With the changes that have been taking place throughout history, we have no choice but to leave our beloved Antequera, which, you can be sure, we will always, always carry in our hearts," they said.
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