Sunday, July 7, 2024

Summer Contemplative Days

Br. Timothy is away on a tour with Love Must Act to support and publicize their work with Holy Cross School in Makhanda, South Africa.

On July 1, we had another day of transitions for our community. 

In the early hours of the day, Br. Robert Hagler died peacefully at Ferncliff Nursing Home, in Rhinebeck. He had been cared for there for the last few years. Several brothers had visited him just the day before. He was unresponsive but the Brothers sang hymns, and said prayer for him. May he rest in peace. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

On Tuesday, we chanted the office of the departed for our Brother. His funeral will be at the monastery, on Tuesday, July 16, at 11 a.m.

Br. Robert Hagler, OHC - Rest In Peace


On the day of Br. Robert's death, exactly 12 hours later, we welcomed Mr. Ben Hansknecht who arrived from Michigan to try his monastic vocation with us. We helped him move in. We received Ben as a postulant at matins two days later. You may remember Ben as a one year intern at the monastery, five years ago.

Community life ebbs and flows. The Holy Spirit is mightily at work through it all.

Ben's reception as a postulant. From top left, clockwise: in the background, Br. Robert James, Superior, receives Ben as a postulant and puts him into the good care of our Formator, Br. Josép (behind Ben); Ben being examined as a prospective postulant; Ben embracing the brothers, after being received (embrace by Br. Mpumelelo).

On Monday, we went ahead with our Fourth of July (transferred) cookout plan. As usual, Br. Josép was our grillmaster. He got help from Br. Anthony for a delicious cabbage salad and from Br. Francis for lemon cream pies and brownies. Any weight management plan had to wait for another day...

From Tuesday to this Sunday, we went into greater silence (round-the-clock) and a simplified liturgical schedule for our summer contemplative days. We were accompanied by numerous guests seeking the extra quiet of these days.

Monastery people. From left, clockwise: garden hydrangeas and hostas gracing a desk; brothers enjoying the "July Fourth" cookout (Bros. Mpumelelo, Ephrem, Bruno, Carl and Anthony); Br. Bernard and David Williams at his reception as an Associate.

On Thursday, we received David Williams, of New York City, as our latest Associate. David's husband had accompanied him for the occasion. Have you ever considered if you belonged in our Associate program? Contact Br. Bernard for a conversation, or more information.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Home sweet home

After a fantastic journey, it's always good to come back home to reflect on what was experienced and to value anew what constitutes our daily lives. We are delighted that our Br. Mpumelelo Khambule, our South African novice, is with us in West Park for a few months.

In the blooming column, it's the turn of hydrangeas that are giving generously.

Everyone has returned to their regular jobs. Our men in formation are meeting for classes again. We caught Br. Ephrem giving such a class to our men in initial vows (aka junior professed brothers). His charges are in both St Benedict's Priory in South Africa and in Holy Cross Monastery in West Park. So these meetings gather on zoom. Our junior professed brothers are Francis Beckham, Aelred Kriel, Josias Morobi and Bruno Santana, Would you please hold them and Br. Ephrem, our "Junior Master" in prayer as they continue to grow in their monastic vocations.

This Satuday, we were happy to welcome Krystal Knapp, of Princeton, NJ, in our Associate program.
This weekend, 14 Associates are getting together online with Megan Yost for a formation centered around her academic research on conflict and comfort for LGBTQIA+ Christians.

Monastery people. From top left, clockwise: hydrangea bouquets in the church (two pictures); Br.Ephrem leading a formation session for our initially professed brothers on both sides of the Atlantic; Br. Bernard and Krystal Knapp, our newest Associate (Br. Anthony, in the background).

This weekend Love Must Act was organizing a reception with Ms. Nicola Hayes, the Principal of Holy Cross School in Makhanda, Eastern Cape Province, SA, who is visiting the US this week. The reception was held at Huntington House (up the hill from the monastery) and appealed to local clergy and friends of Holy Cross, as well as Holy Cross monks. It was a pleasure to hear from and see how Holy Cross School continues to flourish and yet needs ongoing support from as many donors as possible.

Holy Cross School reception at Huntington House. From top left, clockwise: Brothers Robert Leo, David and Timothy enjoying a refreshment; Br. Timothy presenting his involvement with the school; Bishop Stacy Sauls and Mr. Andrew Joyce of Love Must Act, with Br. Robert James (facing them); attentiive attendees as Andrew Joyce presents Love Must Act work with the school; Holy Cross Principal Nicola Hayes presenting an update on the school.

Finally, we show you a lot of flowers and plants on this blog because they are easy to photograph. It is harder to get our fellow critters to strike the pause and wait for us to frame the perfect picture. Yet we share our beautiful land with lots of  fascinating animals. Here are stock pictures of many of the mammals that we get to see at the monastery.

Some of our mammal neighbors. From top left, clockwise: groundhog; red fox; chipmunk; grey-tailed squirrel; cottontail rabbit; white-tailed deer; (center) little brown bat.

And all that is not counting the birds and reptiles. We'll get to them another time.

May you enjoy your current season and your local wildlife, wherever you are on our Spaceship Earth.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Two weeks together in South Africa

From June 2 to 18, twelve Holy Cross monks from North America travelled to our Saint Benedict's Priory in Hermanus, Western Cape province of South Africa, where we were welcomed by the six resident Brothers. We held the meeting of our annual chapter in a half day. The rest of the time we spent time together on many excursions. In the middle of our stay in Hermanus, thirteen of us travelled to Makhanda (previously known as Grahamstown, Eastern Cape province) for four days to visit our Holy Cross School. 

We had invited our investment adviser of many years, Mr. Derek Nolan to accompany us. Derek has long helped us develop and grow the two endowments that support Saint Benedict's Priory in Hermanus and Holy Cross School in Makhanda.

Travelling to and from South Africa. From top left, clockwise: 10 Holy Cross Brothers from Toronto and West Park, and our friend and investment advisor, Derek Nolan (tall guy, second on the left) about to depart on their trip; the South African flag on the whale watching boat we took from Hermanus; the tail of a Bryde's Whale; Bros. Bernard and Daniel hugging goodbye; the plane's interactive map showing the flight from Cape Town to Newark.


After several travelling difficulties on our way to Cape Town (cancelled flight, two twelve-hour layovers, one in Newark and one in Heathrow), we rested for a day at Volmoed Retreat and Conference Center which includes Saint Benedict's Priory in the town of Hermanus. We were lodged in pairs in several cottages.

Our first excursion took us to the Cape of Good Hope through stunning landscapes and pretty seaside towns. On our way, we stopped at Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty's Bay where we observed a colony of adorable African Penguins.

Excursion to the Cape of Good Hope. From top left, clockwise: group photo at the Cape; Bros. Bernard and Josias at the Cape: Bros. Robert James and Aidan at Stony Point Nature Reserve (penguins in the background); Bros. Anthony and Mpumelelo on a stop along the coastal route; Br. Anthony at Cape Point (lighthouse near the Cape of Good Hope); Bros. Bernard, Josép and Randy at Stony Point; Bros. Aelred, Josép, Anthony and Mpumelelo along the coastal road; group picture of the monks with the South Atlantic ocean.

Our next excursion was to the city of Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa and the legislative capital of the country (Pretoria is the executive capital and Johannesburg is the judicial capital). The metro area of Cape Town counts a population of  a little less than 5 million inhabitants.

We visited the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, the District 6 Museum and Table Mountain. We were lucky to have a young impassioned and knowledgeable guide at the Tutu Foundation. He mesmerized us with his recounting of Desmond Tutu's life and vision and action for a just South Africa.

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. We took the rotating cableway. Table Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in South Africa,

We enjoyed the breathtaking views of the city, the ocean and the surrounding mountains. 

Table Mountain and the Tutu Foundation. From top left, clockwise: Bros. Ephrem and Mpumelelo on Table Mountain; our guide at the Tutu Foundation: a mannequin of Archbishop Tutu flying to the chandelier above our group; Table Mountain as seen from the city; Archbishop Tutu's cassock and pectoral cross; Br. Ephrem with a panoramic view of part of Cape Town in the background; another mannequin of "The Arch" on the museum's balcony with Bros. Leonard and Aidan; panoramic view of Cape Town and Table Bay (with Robben Island in the upper left corner) from Table Mountain.


Eventually, we had to attend to the serious business of our annual Chapter meeting. It took place in the afternoon to enable the Brothers who remained in Canada and the US to join the proceedings on Zoom. We had all read preparatory reports and had had a day of conference discussion the day before we departed from West Park. All this enabled us to dispatch a lot of legislative work in under three hours.

Three member of the Council of OHC needed to be elected for two year mandates. Bros. Scott, Roger and Luc were all elected on the first ballot. Bros. Aidan and Ephrem remain on Council for another year. 

Chapter and renewal of vows Eucharist. From top left, clockwise: five of our men in formation (Bros. Josias, Anthony, Aelred, Bruno and Mpumelelo): the community and Derek Nolan (on the right) after the renewal of vows Eucharist: Bros. Aelred, Aidan and Ephrem; Bros. Bernard, Josép, Robert James and Adam during the Chapter meeting; Br. Scott preaching at the Eucharist; Bros. conversing after the group photo shoot; Bros. Aidan, Bernard, Josép, Robert James and Leonard during the Chapter meeting; (center photo) Bros. Josép, Aidan and Scott on the church porch.

The next day a dozen of us and our friend Derek took an 11-hour van ride to Makhanda where they stayed four days. The day after their arrival, we took a day safari at Pumba Private Game Reserve. Our group was spread between two rover vehicles. We spotted a lot of wildlife, sometimes very close to our vehicles.

Day safari at Pumba Game Reserve. From top left, clockwise: Bros. Robert James, Randy, Bruno and Mpumelelo: close encounter with an elephant (two pictures); a troop of hippopotami ready to take a dip in the pond; a giraffe crossing the road.


The next day, we were the guests of Holy Cross School. The school was founded by Holy Cross Brothers. Some of our Brothers contine to sit on the school's Board of Trustees. The Order of the Holy Cross maintains an endowment to support part of the school's operations.

We were enthusiastically welcomed. We participated in a school eucharist. Then we were split in pairs that attended classes in rotation. We all got to attend two classes. After which, we were treated to an amazing talent show featuring spirited songs and dances.

Holy Cross School, Makhanda. From top left, clockwise: Br. Robert James distributes communion to the students; the school's entrance arch; (center left picture) Bros. Bruno and Josias with school faculty and staff; Br. Randy with students; Bros. Josias, Bruno and Leonard with students and teacher in a classroom; Br. Josias attending another class; students of the school; (center right picture) Br. Bruno with students; singers at the talent show.


Throughout our stay we had several times of relaxation together to share our impressions on all the wonderful things we experienced.

Meals and recreation times.

The Volmoed community within which the Brothers of Saint Benedict's Priory live was very hospitable and often shared in our worship. Towards the end of our stay, we had a typical South African braai together.  A braai is a South African tradition of cooking meat over an open flame, similar to an American barbecue. 

The Volmoed land is full of beauty featuring the Onrus river and its gorge, mountains and meadows. Even though it was winter in South Africa, quite a few plants were flowerring and we delighted in the local fauna too (hyraxes, troops of baboons and beautiful birds). We took quiet a few walks through the surrounding fynbos. Fynbos is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.

Volmooed grounds. And Br. Bruno in front of a local sign in the nearby town of Hermanus.

As you can see, we had an amazing time as an international community of Brothers working (a little) and recreating (a lot) together. Our commitment to each other's monastic flourishing in our respective countries and our bonds of brotherhood are all reinforced by these blessed two weeks.