SAINT LOUIS ABBEY AND PORTSMOUTH ABBEY COLLABORATION
More than sixty years ago, the monks of Ampleforth Abbey responded to a call from a group of Catholic lay men and women from Saint Louis, Missouri, to assist them in the mission of educating their sons to be prepared to enter the most competitive colleges and universities in the United States. Ampleforth’s generous response to that call established Saint Louis Abbey and Saint Louis Priory School. In our time, Saint Louis Abbey has received a similar call from the monks of Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island, to assist them in revitalizing their monastic community, which is declining in numbers and increasing in age. The monks of Saint Louis Abbey see this as a unique opportunity to “pay it forward,” and to do for another monastic house of our English Congregation what was done for us.
Portsmouth Abbey was founded in 1918 by Downside Abbey, a fellow monastery of the English Benedictine Congregation, and thus shares many similarities of tradition and spirituality with Saint Louis Abbey. Over the course of the past several years, Portsmouth Abbey and Saint Louis Abbey have grown closer to one another, especially through their joint sponsorship of the Portsmouth Institute for Faith and Culture, whose purpose is to offer programs on Catholic thought in contemporary culture.
The collaboration to be established between our two monasteries will entail sending some monks from Saint Louis to reside at Portsmouth for varying periods of time. While this will have some impact on the numbers of monks residing in Saint Louis, it will not diminish Saint Louis Abbey’s commitment to Saint Louis Priory School as its main and central work. It is good to note in this context that, for many years, Saint Louis Abbey has been sending monks throughout the world for various kinds of study. One can view the sending of monks for periods of time at Portsmouth in much the same light.
Since our founding in 1956, Saint Louis Priory School has provided an outstanding Benedictine, Catholic education to highly motivated young men. That is and will remain the top priority of the Saint Louis Abbey and its monastic community. This is evident as we recently announced the plan to invest in the expansion and renovation of our high school facilities. This investment will enable us to enhance our science, technology, design and fine arts curriculum, provide dedicated classroom space for 80% of our faculty, as well as build dedicated space for students, faculty and monks to come together as a community.
Some may ask whether this collaboration will end with the demise of Portsmouth Abbey. In fact, the opposite is the case. The hope is that the presence of monks from Saint Louis will enable the Portsmouth Abbey monastery to regain self-sufficiency in both numbers and vigor. The same applies to the material and fiscal resources of each monastery and school – they will remain separate and independent from one another.
We believe that this is a rare opportunity to extend the hand of friendship and fraternal charity in a particularly important way to another member of our English Benedictine Congregation, and that, in doing so, we not only are responding to God’s call in this instance, but also opening up new pathways for further interchange and collaboration between our two communities and their schools. This can be a blessing for both our monasteries.
We ask the prayers of all associated with the Abbey family, as we move forward on this new venture.
Yours sincerely in the Lord,
Abbot Thomas Frerking, O.S.B.
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JOINT ANNOUNCEMENT CONCERNING PORTSMOUTH ABBEY AND SAINT LOUIS ABBEY
Portsmouth Abbey (Rhode Island) and Saint Louis Abbey (Missouri) are pleased to announce that, at the request of Portsmouth Abbey, the two monastic communities have entered into a partnership, whose aim is to foster the growth of monastic life at Portsmouth Abbey, which is currently faced with declining numbers and an increasingly aging community.
Over the course of the next three years, monks from Saint Louis Abbey will undertake visits to Portsmouth Abbey, in order to support and strengthen monastic life at Portsmouth, and to develop more fully relations between the two communities. After this initial three-year period, Saint Louis Abbey will undertake to send a group of monks to Portsmouth Abbey for a more extended period of time, with the intent to reinvigorate and strengthen monastic life at Portsmouth Abbey.
Both Portsmouth Abbey and Saint Louis Abbey believe that the ongoing witness of monastic life and our common apostolates of Benedictine education are of service to the Church in the United States, and can play an important role in the New Evangelization.
We ask the friends and supporters of both our communities to assist us in this venture with their prayers.
Abbot Matthew Stark, O.S.B.
Administrator, Portsmouth Abbey
Abbot Thomas Frerking, O.S.B.
Abbot, Saint Louis Abbey
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Who will be assigned to travel to Portsmouth Abbey over the next three years?
A variety of monks will travel to Portsmouth for various periods of time to spend time with and learn more about the Portsmouth community. Monks may volunteer to travel, or may be asked to travel as the Abbot of Saint Louis Abbey sees fit.
When will the first monks travel to Portsmouth Abbey?
Father Francis Hein, O.S.B., will be going to Portsmouth Abbey beginning in the summer of 2017, to be in residence there for one year.
Which and how many monks will be assigned for the extended time after the initial three-year period?
After the three-year period, the Abbot of Saint Louis Abbey will make the decision on which monks will be assigned to Portsmouth Abbey. The group will probably number four or five members.
Is this partnership a merger of Saint Louis and Portsmouth Abbeys?
This is NOT a merger of the two Abbeys. Both Abbeys and their schools will remain independent of each other, including their finances and other fiscal resources.
Will this partnership diminish the monastic presence at Saint Louis Priory School?
Saint Louis Abbey is and will remain committed to the mission of providing a Benedictine, Catholic, college preparatory education of the highest excellence so as to help talented and motivated young men develop their full potential as children of God at Saint Louis Priory School. The school will continue to have the monastic resources necessary to provide guidance and oversight of school operations and spirituality, as well as a vital monastic presence in the classroom. Over the past several years, a number of our monks have pursued studies outside Saint Louis, yet the Monastery has still maintained a strong monastic presence at Saint Louis Priory School. In addition, the Abbey has been blessed by a number of vocations in recent years, which have added to its numbers. Because of this, we feel confident that we can carry out this new responsibility while maintaining our presence and commitment to Saint Louis Priory School.