Friday, April 08, 2011

Portsmouth Abbey.

Portsmouth Abbey is a community of Benedictine monks residing on the shores of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. Founded in 1918 by monks from Downside Abbey in England, Portsmouth Abbey sponsors a coeducational boarding school which competes in athletics (and, I suppose, in admissions) with my sister's high school alma mater. I made brief retreats at Portsmouth Abbey before I entered the Society of Jesus and after making my First Vows; it's been a number of years since I have been able to return to Portsmouth, but I still recall the monks and the monastery with affection and hope to return there.

Facing the same issues of aging, diminishment, and numerical decline that affect many religious communities, the monks of Portsmouth Abbey are making a concerted effort to draw new vocations. Support for this effort comes from the Monastic Renewal Program Office, a unit of Portsmouth Abbey School tasked both with strengthening the Benedictine identity of the institution and with helping to promote monastic vocations. The above video and others posted on YouTube are part of this effort; I am impressed with the videos and I hope that they do some good. I also pray for vocations to Portsmouth Abbey and to monastic life in general, and I hope that you will join me in remembering this intention. AMDG.


At 3/27/2015 10:57 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Basically, it’s an aged community that doesn’t have new people entering.
It’s a sad set of circumstances that has been developing for years.
The fundamental issue comes down to those in charge of the Abbey, the Abbot.
You can launch an internet campaign, put signage in the Providence airport and shout from the bell tower and draw monastic candidates by the scores. But even with all of the vocational discerning visitors, there remains the question of why they don’t come back and stay.
When an abbot is elected from within the order of a declining monastery, you haven’t changed the core reason for the declination, at best; you have patched an old tire with an old patch.
I met and spoke with a postulant at the abbey who was from Hawaii. We spoke briefly about the reason for the decline and I inquired that perhaps I should ask the abbot. He responded “they will never tell you”. Now this was a troubled young man who related that he did not know from one day to the next if he would leave. He said it is very hard here. His whole attitude was very disturbing. I spoke with some of the monks and priests who were beautiful people, the emblem of Christ. There was something wrong there, I can not describe it or put a point on it but it troubled me. The truth is and spoken by one monk, “we have nothing to offer”. Without realizing it, he hit the nail on the head.
The only way for the abbey to flourish, is to remove and replace the abbot and his subordinates with an abbot from another flourishing abbey to root out the problem.
My prayers are with them.


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