This has been a busy time for Fr. Brendan, our superior. In the middle of May, he traveled to our daughter house in England, Mount Saint Bernard. Dom Joseph, the abbot, had submitted his resignation which was accepted by the Abbot General and his council. Mount St. Bernard is facing a number of critical issues and the responsibilities were taxing Dom Joseph’s physical and emotional health. In addition to the problems of diminishing human resources in the community, the buildings of the monastery are in drastic need of repair. They no longer meet requirements of the local fire code. Electrical wiring is inadequate, the roof needs replacement, etc. The monastery was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, a noted British architect (“God’s Architect”) and is listed on official registrars.
After consulting with the community, Fr. Brendan appointed Fr. Peter Claver (81) as the new superior. Fr. Brendan was invited to attend the Regional Meeting of the Isles which was held at the same time. He returned to be present for the scheduled meeting of the Commission for the Future of New Melleray Abbey, May 31st and June 1st.
The Commission for the Future is a group of five experienced persons, together with two monks of the local community, who are invited to assist the community to look realistically at its situation, not only from a human point of view, but especially from the point of view of faith. An experience of fragility should be accepted as an invitation of the Lord to choose life by entering into the Paschal mystery. (Statute on the Accompaniment of Fragile Communities) The members of this commission are: Dom Peter McCarthy, OCSO (our delegated Father Immediate); Dom Gerard D’Souza, OCSO, of Genesee Abbey, Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB (retired archbishop of Dubuque and currently residing at Conception Abbey, MO); Mother Rebecca Stramoski, OCSO, abbess of Our Lady of the Mississippi; Mr. David Schueller (a long-time financial advisor of the community); and Dom Brendan Freeman, superior of New Melleray and Fr. David Bock, representing the monks of the community.
The Commission met for two days in an attempt to assess the difficulties and realities the community is facing. It shared its observations and discernments with the community in a meeting at the end of the second day. All the members of the Commission were present for any questions or comments. The following day, Dom Peter met individually with all the monks who were free to give their personal responses and reactions. The whole discernment process led by Dom Peter was universally affirmed as constructive and realistic. The Commission will return again next year to reflect with us on our responses and developments.
The major thrust of the report was to direct the community’s thinking and planning to anticipate an even smaller community of ten monks in the near future. A serious issue is our capability of receiving and offering an integral monastic formation to new entries. Do we have the resources to provide leadership from within the community? We have already been adjusting our liturgy and the use of buildings and space to the decreased population in the community. The positive ground of hope for the future is the unity and mutual support that presently exists among us. Our challenge is to reimagine the ways we live together as a place of eminent, continuous formation so that our structures do not overburden us but serve the spirit which unites us in Christ.
Fr, Brendan again left on June 15th to attend the U.S. Regional meeting at Villa del Mar, California. This is a retreat house which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. He is due back home on the 24th. Our new Abbot General, Dom Bernardus, has been attending all the regional meetings in preparation for the General Chapter (Part II) from September 1st to 25th in Assisi, Italy. No doubt the choice of Villa del Mar as the venue for our regional meeting was intended to provide a consistent cultural ambience for the discussions. Bona sera.