There has been a bit of a hiatus in the posting of new information. A new method of entering posts has been introduced and the poster (boy) needed some education and upgrading. The flood of events has itself delayed posting. Add to this a severe case of procrastination, and the result could have been predicted.
Moving backwards in time, we can begin with last Sunday’s joyful event of the reception of a new novice. Fittingly occurring on Laetare Sunday, Br. Charles Ross received the novice’s habit as a member of the community. Together with the habit, he chose to be henceforth called “Br. Philip.” The novice has the option of retaining his baptismal name or assuming a new name to signify the fundamental change that monastic life and conversatio will demand of his person. Br. Philip is 43 years old and most recently lived in Clinton, Iowa. He served in the U.S. Marines for four years and then worked as a mechanical engineer. He visited New Melleray a number of times before deciding to join the community. He is mature, deeply committed to following Christ and to placing his trust in God as he meets Him in our community life. We ask prayers that the grace and Spirit of Christ may be alive in his life.
On Tuesday, March 22nd, our senior monk Fr. James O’Connor (97) fell in his room. Although sometimes a little shaky in his movements, he walked unaided and freely explored first floor areas of the monastery. The severe pain he experienced demanded that he be brought to the hospital for X-rays, and a small fracture was discovered. This was repaired by an operation that evening, and he came through with flying colors. However, his hearing is severely impaired and he was unresponsive to therapy. Since we would be unable to provide the care he would need, he has been transferred to a local nursing home in Cascade. We will have to see if he can resume walking and sufficient independence to return with us.
Most will have seen the notice of Fr. Xavier’s death on March 3rd. He had been becoming weaker due to the spread of his cancer and was finally unable to stand by himself. He was bed-ridden for the final two weeks of his life. We called in Hospice to assist in caring for him. He died in the evening as the community was singing the office of Compline: Lord, now let your servant go in peace. Since the guest house and church were still closed because of the presence of COVID in the community, we celebrated a private funeral service and will have a memorial for him later in the spring. Because of a heavy rain, we had to delay the actual burial for an hour after mass was completed. The skies temporarily cleared and we were able to conclude our service. Knowing that the church was closed, he himself expressed the wish for a memorial mass to be celebrated when his family and friends could attend. He was widely known in the area and directed a number of AA and addiction groups.
Last year, the annual community retreat had to be cancelled because of the COVID virus. But this year, we were able to resume this practice from March 18th to the 23rd, under the direction of Dom Innocent Ugyeh, the superior of our Cistercian monastery of Calvaire, Canada. As his name may indicate, he is of Nigerian birth but has been a member of Calvaire for some years. He was very energetic and enthusiastic and offered conferences which focused on the ways in which the Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christians and monks.
After two years of escaping attacks of the COVID virus, six monks tested positive for the virus. Two were severely ill. We closed the guest house and church and curtailed our monastic schedule to limit personal contact and spreading the virus. We celebrated Lauds, the Eucharist, Dinner and Vespers in common. All the other hours were prayed in private. Several monks did gather at 3:30 a.m. in church for Vigils, but found their own ways to pray the office. We then reopened the church and guest house on March 21st, after our retreat had concluded.
Fr. Brendan was able to attend the General Chapter (Part I) at Assisi from the 2nd to the 23rd of February. The main business was the election of a new Abbot General, Dom Bernardus Peeters of Tilburg, Netherlands. New members of his council were also chosen. Part II of the Chapter will be held from September 1-29, 2022. Communities are being asked to prepare house reports which will be read and discussed at this Chapter. Those who participated in this Chapter seemed very enthusiastic about the spirit of cooperation and openness that pervaded the meetings.