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Barricaded Nuns Get Support Call From Mother Teresa

October 11, 1988

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Nobel Peace laureate Mother Teresa of Calcutta has telephoned five Carmelite nuns barricaded inside a monastery to offer support for their cause, a sister of one of the nuns said.

The nuns have been locked inside an infirmary since Oct. 4, saying they feared eviction from the monastery because of their complaints that the new prioress was instigating too many changes at the Monastery of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

The introduction of television, snacks and videotaped movies were some of the changes to which the nuns objected.

The nuns received the call from Mother Teresa Monday night telling them not to feel deserted by the church, said Doreen Ercolano, the sister of one of the nuns, Sister Maria.

″The phone call from Mother Teresa put new wind in their sails,″ Ms. Ercolano said.

Mother Teresa assured the nuns she would speak to Pope John Paul II on their behalf when she meets him in Rome in a few weeks, Ms. Ercolano said.

The five nuns denied reports Tuesday that they are disobedient.

Sister John of the Cross, a spokeswoman for the group, said she and the other four are awaiting word from the Vatican as to how they can settle their standoff with Diocesan and Carmelite officials.

″At this moment, I think they are trying a lot of pressure and a lot of scare tactics, but we will not be intimidated,″ Sister John said in a telephone interview. ″We are confident in the higher authorities in Rome.″

Sister John said the nuns were upset after Paterson Diocese Bishop Frank Rodimer took the ″highly irregular″ move of putting Mother Theresa Hewitt in charge of the monastery without consulting the 13 nuns who live there. She said the nuns are supposed to elect the next prioress.

Tim Manning, a spokesman for Mother Hewitt and Rodimer, said church officials decided to appoint someone to run the monastery because tensions there were already high. He did not elaborate.

In her first public comment on the situation Monday, Mother Hewitt said some of the changes under fire from the nuns were instituted by some of her predecessors, including allowing television and magazines in the monastery.

When the nuns were given official dismissal warnings in June, they hired the Rev. Milan Mikulich to defend their effort to remain in the cloistered order, Sister John said. She said Mothertery. A fifth nun later joined them.

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