A lot of times when you read stories in the news about clerical vocations, they’re not very happy ones. Most talk about how numbers are down, churches are struggling to get by with fewer ministers, and other things like that. Here at Priory, the monastery is bucking the trend, and has actually had so many new vocations that the new facility they built when I was a student here has reached capacity. In conjunction with the alum who professed his solemn vows last weekend, we’ve had a lot of very positive news here when it comes to vocations, and good news is always more fun to report.
If you’ve heard construction sounds coming from the monastery over the last couple weeks, you might’ve thought the racket would disturb the monks. But the construction is the result of a “problem” that’s actually a blessing — an increase in vocations has led Saint Louis Abbey to run out of living space.
Four guest rooms on the second floor of the monastery (on the corner closest to the Junior School parking lot and the dining hall) are being converted into cells for the monks. The guest rooms were used for visiting monks and clergy, and included very little furniture or space but provided a private bathroom. Permanent monastery residents have a private sink but use communal bath facilities, and by removing the private baths from the guest rooms, there will be more space for personal belongings, desks, and other furniture. The Abbey donated materials from the removed baths to Habitat for Humanity.
“We didn’t want to discourage new vocations because a potential new monk didn’t see a place for himself in our monastery, “ Father Gregory says. “We want to have an empty room for them to see that could be theirs.”
Until new monks occupy them, the rooms can continue to be used as guest space, in addition to the space currently used for lay visitors in the monastery’s Guest Wing.
There are currently 33 monks in the Abbey, 2 of whom live in the downstairs rooms that were built into the monastery for elderly monks. With the four new rooms, capacity will increase to 35 in the regular spaces on the second floor.
Father Gregory listed four qualities of a religious community that young people are looking for as they seek a place to live out their vocation, all of which Saint Louis Abbey provides:
- Regular, structured religious observance
- Orthodoxy, or remaining in line with the Church’s teachings
- Traditional religious practices such as wearing a habit
- Meaningful apostolic work like teaching
In addition to those qualities, he says two other factors play a large role in the surge in vocations at the Abbey: A young core of monks who new vocations see and relate to, causing a “snowball effect,” and the monthly all-night prayer vigils for vocations. “Since the vigils have started, we’ve seen a marked rise in vocations,” he says.
The Abbey asks for your prayers, too.
Prayer for Vocations
O Mary, our Mother,
intercede for us before our Father in heaven,
that those whom the Spirit is calling
to serve as monks in our Abbey
may hear his voice and answer his call.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.