Solemnity of the Dedication of the Church of New Melleray
Today is the 47th anniversary of the dedication of our beautiful Church. It is also the 174th anniversary of the founding of New Melleray.
The roots of our worship in this holy place go back to our founders from Mount Melleray in Ireland, and before them to Melleray in France, then back to Citeaux, to Cluny and Monte Cassino, to John Cassian and the monks at Lerins off the coast of Southern France, to the cenobitic tradition of St. Pachomius and the eremitical tradition of St. Anthony the Great in Egypt. Back even to the martyrs of the first three centuries, and to the Church of the Apostles. Back to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose love of the Father by his life, death, and resurrection is the source of our grace to worship in spirit and truth.
The first six monks arrived at New Melleray on July 10th of 1849. Br. Kieran, the community’s historian, wrote that it was “very fortunate it was not the 10th of January or else their impressions regarding Iowa would have been very different. The wild uncultivated prairies at that hot season presented a delightful appearance, one vast waving sheet of green grass.” The cornerstone was laid on July 16th,1849. Br. Kieran wrote that “there was no imposing ceremony in laying the corner stone of the new monastery, for it was not a stone, but an oak sill squared in the woods, with the abbot pointing with his cane to the location of it.” They built a house 60 feet long and 20 feet wide, with one small room for a chapel in which to worship together.
Within ten years 63 members came from Mt. Melleray to join New Melleray. Seven of them were priests, the same number Bishop Loras had for the whole of Iowa and beyond. Two of the monks became bishops, Clement Smyth who succeeded Bishop Loras, and James O’Gorman, the first bishop of Omaha. Of those 63 only one left the community. The second contingent of monks arrived at New Melleray on Nov. 27th,1849. Kieran wrote: “We proceeded to our new home which when contrasted with the home we left in Ireland was a sad affair, the country at that season had a desolate appearance, bare, snow covered and chilly. We slept that night in a heap of straw in a new shed. The sheeting was sufficient to keep out the snow but let in the frozen breeze.”
These are our founders, men invited by Bishop Loras not to minister in his vast diocese, although heaven knows he needed such men, but to worship the Father in spirit and truth.
We are their successors. We see the beauty of their labors all around us. May we, like them, not be unsettled by physical or mental illness, by hardships or fatal diseases, by fragility or lack of new members. Our founders have left us a wonderful legacy. On behalf of all of us present here today, I give thanks to our founders and ask their intercession that we may also be worshippers in spirit and truth in the church of New Melleray.