QUITO, ECUADOR (CNA/EWTN News) - Within the walls of the convent in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Ecuador, the Carmelite nuns are busy making liturgical cloths and the vestments for Pope Francis' July 6-7 visit to the country.
"For me it is a great grace because it means to clothe Our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of the pope. It's a feeling of joy I can't express," Sister María Beatriz de la Dolorosa, one of the nuns who is working on the project, told CNA.
"The bishop called us more than a month ago to see if we would be able to do the work. It was a joy for us and a grace for us to be chosen, because we live in such a small, far away location," she said.
Pope Francis will be in Ecuador July 6-7 as part of a trip to South America July 5-13. He will also visit Bolivia and Paraguay.
Four out of the 20 nuns who live in the Carmelite convent are working on the vestments and other liturgical cloths for the visit: Sisters María Lorena de Jesús Crucificado, Analía de Jesús, Sarita de Santa Teresa y María Beatriz de la Dolorosa.
"We want to point out that all the nuns had a hand in making the albs. Our desire is that the pope uses vestments made by all of us," Sister María Beatriz said.
She explained that a separate group of artisans in Cuenca is already planning to make the vestments that the Pope will wear at the major Mass on July 7 in Quito. The vestments made by the nuns will be given to the Holy Father as a gift, so that he can use them at future Masses.
According to statements made in the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, the sisters have worked for a month to make two albs, two stoles, two cinctures, two chasubles, and two miters.
"The alb and stoles were embroidered by hand, and the rest of the pieces were done by machine," Sister María Beatriz told CNA.
She added that the vestments feature Ecuadorian themes such as Saint Narcisa de Jesús, born in Nobol, as well as a white lily, symbol of Saint Mariana de Jesús, the first Ecuadorian saint, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus because Ecuador is consecrated to him.
The main apostolate of the convent is prayer, and so the nuns combine their work on the papal vestments with the Divine Office. They work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Sister María Beatriz explained that the vocation of cloistered nuns is to be "the lungs of the Church. They hold up in prayer and help spiritually sustain the priests, consecrated and lay people."
The nuns have been sewing vestments and other items for 17 years. The initiative was begun under their foundress, Sister María Elena del Corazón de Jesús, who is currently 82 years old, as a way of generating income for the convent.
Besides making liturgical vestments, the nuns make candles, altar cloths, palls, humeral veils, wine, hosts, purificators, and other products that are used during Catholic liturgies.
The majority of the sisters that entered the convent did not have any sewing skills, so the foundress spent time teaching them.
Sister María Beatriz de la Dolorosa said the nuns are very happy and enthusiastic about the pope's upcoming visit to Ecuador.
"I believe this is a visit God himself is making to all the Ecuadorians. I hope that we all reflect, and feel ourselves loved by God. Because it is God himself in person who comes to visit us," she said.