September Song

It has been a long time since any news items have been posted so it might take a while to catch up on what has been happening. We will just move chronologically backwards in time, and not attempt to report events with respect to their importance or significance. The instigation for resuming this belated communication was the resumption of the regular Information Meetings in the community. It has been several months since the last “regular” meeting, but the intention is to resume them at monthly intervals.

The meeting on September 21st reported on various efforts in progress that had begun some time ago. A “Come and See” vocational program is scheduled for October 27th to 29th. We have not held one of these since the Covid virus forced a shut-down of all forms of hospitality. We are cooperating more fully with our sisters at Mississippi Abbey in vocational promotions.

A long-time employee (23 years), Larry Smith, will be retiring at the end of September. He had been employed at our carpentry shop and provided wood-working craftmanship for community needs. Trappist Caskets will now take over that work. Our grateful thanks to Larry for his service over the years. Br. Paul Andrew gave a tour of the monastery to around 14 employees of Trappist Caskets to familiarize them with the life of the monastic community and increase mutual understanding within the branches of our one family.

Produce continues to come to the kitchen from our garden, and the orchard is the next target for harvesting. We will be getting help from a couple groups who will split their bounty between them and us.

Moving back in time. The community had its annual picnic with the sisters of Mississippi Abbey on September 14th. This is usually held on July 16th, the anniversary of the founding of New Melleray. But scheduling conflicts forced it back to this later date. The weather was perfect and many were able to have lunch and conversation outside on the porch adjoining the infirmary. The conversation outlasted the eating.

Our Brother Robert Simon died (81) on August 16 of this year. He had been in a local nursing home for the past two years and needed skilled assistance. He had been the community organist and welcomed visitors in the porter’s office of the guest house. In healthier days, he was an avid bicyclist. His funeral was delayed until the 23rd of August so that his family could attend.

Two other members of the community are now in Stonehill Community Care Center. Br. John O’Driscoll had asked to enter because of difficulties of mobility due to his blindness and Parkinson’s. We had been trying to care for Br. Gilbert who is suffering from dementia, but we were unable to find help during the night hours. In fact, he seems to be thriving with the increased stimulation from an active social environment.

The most significant events were the visit of the Abbot General at the end of January, our visitation from Dom Peter McCarthy in June, and the meeting of the Commission of the Future in July. The death and loss of membership has created a fragile situation in the community and there is a need to look at the possible alternatives ahead. While there is a good spirit and life in the community (Abbot General), we lack resources in formation and leadership. Chief emphasis has been put on strengthening relationships within the community and creating a more welcoming environment to receive new members. Several steps to implement this have already been initiated. In the absence of a common work, monks tend to work separately and little emphasis had been put on even informal communication. We have begun several forums for sharing at personal levels and plan a more formal level of discussion of the core monastic values which bind us as a community. We are also interacting and cooperating with the sisters at Mississippi Abbey in areas of initial and on-going formation.