Return of the Native

Our community had the opportunity to welcome the visit of its former abbot, Brendan Freeman, on May 22nd.  He had been unable to make a return visit for the past three years.  Since 2018, he has been serving as superior of Mellifont Abbey in Ireland.  He was back in the States to participate in the annual meeting of the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Each year, this Institute sponsors a presentation in the area of contemplation and  social consciousness.  Fr. Brendan has been arranging for a Cistercian to offer this conference for the past ten years.  This year’s presentation was given by Dom  Bernardus Peeters, OCSO , the abbot of Tilburg (Netherlands).  His topic  was the Cistercian theme of “Lovers of the Place”  which he developed through ecological reflections.  A panel discussion in the afternoon expanded on the contents  of the paper.

The loosening of restrictions created by the pandemic allowed Fr. Brendan to spend a week’s  visit with us and give us a  Chapter presentation on his experience at Mellifont Abbey, as well as informal personal interactions in the community.  He was given a royal  reception during a day’s visit to Mississippi Abbey, the details of which have not been made publicly available.  He was also able to visit his surviving sister in Des Moines .

Fr. Brendan will also pay a visit to the five remaining monks of Holy Trinity Abbey in Utah.   He had been appointed superior there from 2013 until its closing in 2018.  These last monks chose to remain together at St. Joseph’s Villa in Salt Lake City. rather than relocate to another monastery.  It is a pastoral visit to give them support and assurance of the care of the Cistercian family.

On the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, we celebrated a communal anointing of the sick in our Chapter Room.  Fr. Stephen gave a brief   exposition and catechesis on this sacrament as the grace of God’s mercy touching our desire to be cleansed and healed of all effects of sin and to be comforted in the sufferings caused by illness and advanced aging. We are all helped to accept in faith our movement through death into new life. Eight monks received the anointing and blessing  administered by Fr. Ephrem, surrounded by the prayers and support of the rest of the community.  

On an even more down-to-earth topic:  repair on the culverts draining the north wing of the monastery was completed without the need to dig up the road in front of the monastery.