We Celebrate our friends and benefactors.
Our gratitude to all our friends and benefactors over the years knows no bounds. In the 1980's the Holy Spirit raised up groups of men and women in various parts of the world who were strongly attracted to Cistercian monasteries, not to live in them but to visit regularly and to be led to God through the wisdom and prayer of a particular Cistercian community. In 1987, a group of lay men and women formed around our community. The Associates of the Conyers Cistercians now number over 60 people who gather monthly to receive monastic teaching and are committed to practicing what they learn about prayer and Christian love. Their friendship has added a new dimension to our own lives and service.
Throughout the 900-year history of the Cistercian Order, our monasteries have depended on generous benefactors for providing land and sometimes buildings for new foundations. Without the help of benefactors, this monastery will not have been built. Our archives from the 1940’s show records and letters from many who gave generously to build this monastery.
In his homily on October 3, 1990, the fifteenth anniversary of the dedication of the monastery church, Fr. Charles Zell recounted the many who helped with the construction. He said: “When I think of all those who helped with even a few shovels of sand or rock, I don’t think you would be able to squeeze them all in this church. When I’m in this church, I see all those people who over the years gave a helping hand in the building. I see them all around me.”
As we celebrate 70 years of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, we look around the monastery grounds and give thanks to those who have given of themselves either in work or financial help. Perhaps the story of a boy who contributed to the monastery just days after the monks arrived in 1944 is representative of all who supported the monastery with their financial gifts.
A Benefactor's Gift.
Two days after the monks arrived, a letter came from a ten-year-old African-American boy named Emory McClinton. He was a fourth-grade student at Our Lady of Lourdes school in Atlanta. The school was staffed by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Emory’s letter and donation was described in The Catholic Digest, August 1944. Emory wrote in his letter: “When Sister told the class about you all Trappists coming to Georgia we all wanted to know about you all. I saw your picture in the paper and it said you all holy, hard working men had nothing to live in but a barn. I wanted to bring Sister some money to send to you all so you could build a nice house. You must be cold. I am sending you a nickel I earned myself to help you. I tote groceries on Saturdays and I get paid for it. I am going to send you some more as soon as I have it saved. I am an altar boy and I will offer my Mass for you. I hope the people will help you all. I will go to see you sometime.”
Fr. James Fox, the superior, wrote back to Emory thanking him for his prayers and contribution. We still have Emory’s letter. His kindness is a reminder to us monks that our monastery is not about “us,” but about “we.” We owe much gratitude to the many who have become a part of our monastic family. In recent years, the friendship and support of the Knights of Columbus Georgia State Council has been an asset to our monastery. Our gratitude is our prayer of thanksgiving.
We do not know if Emory ever came to visit the monastery. If he visited today, he would see that we have indeed built “a nice house.” We invite everyone to visit us and see our newly built Heritage Center which tells the story of not only our monastery, but of the history of monasticism. You will see the actual barn converted into a monastery. You will see photos of the pineboard monastery built with our own timber and lots of hard work. We invite you to visit and pray at our abbey church where we give praise and glory to our loving Triune God. And perhaps if you listen intently to the prayerful silence you too may hear our Lord’s words, “whom do you seek?” May God bless you.