Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Lady of Springbank Update


What's going on?
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A friend sent me an email informing me that the abbey is indeed being dissolved.  Brother Stephen, the former blogger for the group has left.  The few remaining monks are having an estate sale the last weekend of July - next weekend.  Included in the sale will be religious art, expected to be sold rather cheaply.  The property is set to be auctioned within a month or so.  Fr. Bernard, the former prior is said to be 'on sabbatical'.
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Like I said, I'm not surprised the abbey is closed, but this is the quietest suppression of an abbey I've ever heard of.  Earlier this year the monks were busy with the renovation of their chapel and the addition of furnishings.  Now all of that is apparently up for sale.  There are a few canons governing the 'alienation'  or sale of religious goods and properties, to insure that it isn't just a garage sale.  In religious houses it appears the competent superior has the responsibility to oversee the alienation of goods and property, in the absence of a prior, I wonder who that authority would be?
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Perhaps those who attend the sale will find out more details.  I checked online but I haven't come across any ads for the sale.  It seems a bit strange.
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In an earlier exchange with one of the monks I was told that my discussion dealing with Gregorian Mass contracts could damage the abbey's reputation and upset the confidence of donors to the abbey.  I wonder what the donors think now?  How could a well endowed abbey go from riches to rags in such a short span of time?  And no one notices?
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Photo: Springbank chapel interior, Christmas 2010.

23 comments:

  1. Terry--Do you know if Bro. Stephen has merely left the Abbey or left religion altogether? Did he transfer elsewhere?

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  2. I don't - I would imagine since he was not professed he simply returned to the lay state.

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  3. Oh, Terry. So sad. It seems that the enemy is truly after priests. We have to hold our priests in prayer these days... Thanks for the update.

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  4. Satan didn't mismanage finances. Human beings are quite capable of that on their own.

    Don't blame "the devil" for your f*ck-up.

    Signed,
    Sister Mary Sunshine

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  5. To my knowledge there is only one other house of O. Cist. in the USA and that is in Texas. It is nothing like the former Spring Bank. I question if this is where the remaining monks will go or will they go to Europe. I also question what will happen to the cemetery which was moved from Oconomowoc in the 80's when the old abbey was sold. Tis a shame that all this has come about, however nothing is forever in this world... Jacob Hallenstien

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  6. Rabbi - there are also one or two Cistercian abbeys in Canada I think. I too wondered about the cemetery.

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  8. So was there financial mishandling in the sense of, "They are so spiritual they don't know how to pay their bills on time or balance a check book?" Or was it just plain greed?

    This is really sad. The documents of Vatican II state that contemplatives are the heart of the Church. If that is the case, they are more necessary than even good bishops (both are necessary) in the task of rebuilding the Church. Losing another monastery is a great loss.

    I read an article last year that claimed the contemplative communities in France were full and that people were being turned away. I can't find the article now (hate that), does anyone have any info on this?

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  9. Clark - I don't really know.

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  10. Damien1:01 AM

    The "guesthouse" is on the market for 250,000$

    http://www.edinarealty.com/WI/Sparta/54656/homes-for-sale/17304-Havenwood-Road-63855416

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  11. You mean the Barbie Dream House? Wow!

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  12. The international list of Cistercian houses (on the order's website in Rome) lists small O. Cist. houses in NJ and PA and a Vietnamese monastery in CA, in addition to the abbey in Dallas.

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  13. Hello. Back in 1973 I was a postulant at Spring Bank in Oconomowoc. Those were good days. All of life ahead of me and enfolded within heavenly grace. My question is does that complex of buildings still exist or are they all razed? The chapel was gorgeous! Also when did they move away from that site? Thanks, Bob James

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  14. Hi Bob - I'm not sure what happened to the abbey you were at - or why they moved. The abbey had a website with that history but their website is down as well. Sorry.

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  15. I was a postulant twice with this community of monks: once in 1987 and then again in 2002. I have to say that I am not surprised that this community has closed. They have not been able to keep more than 2 vocations since Vatican 2: Frs. Robert and Bernard. The lack of fraternal charity that I experienced there, and the lack of any sense of direction, forced me to leave each time. I have never been exposed to a community where there was such disorganization and lack of simple Christian monastic values. I did have a beautiful friendship with Fr Gregory, one of the older monks, for years; his goodness gave me the hope that things could change. I pray for those who are left, who have to continue their lives elsewhere, and for all their friends. This is truly sad... there was so much potential in that little community!

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  16. Thanks Br. Benedict - I was aware of the 'under-current' as well.

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  17. Mrs. J.R. Dowling1:43 AM

    They did manage to keep the suppression of this abbey very, very quiet.

    I understand that Fr. Bernard found a position as a chaplain for a house of Cistercian nuns in Ireland and was therefore able to avoid his "sabatical". I have to wonder if they knew of his history when they hired him? Let's hope the nuns make out better than the monks at Spring Bank did.

    It's really a shame because the community really did seem to have many very positive attributes.

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  18. Anonymous12:45 PM

    I, too, was a postulant at Spring Bank. I'm saddened to see the monastery closed, but, like Br. Benedict said, not surprised. The older monks (Fr. Gregory, Fr. Blaise) were straightforward and solid.

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  19. Spring Bank was the place where I dreamed of making my vocation someday, after I was done with my Master's degree. I have often thought I had the calling, but was never sure. The idea of Spring Bank was a beautiful refuge to me in my hectic and uncertain life. I have never visited the Community but I dreamed of doing so one day. I am deeply, deeply saddened.

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  20. I was in Oconomowoc in 1977 for postulancy, then went to Hauterive for novitiate, leaving in 1979 to go back to the lay world.

    Even while at Oconomowoc, there were probelms, or so I noticed. Like a constant pulling in different directions. If I would have stayed, my vows of stability would have been for Hauterive and not Spring Bank.

    Hauterive was a real monastery, and not because of the abbeys age, but because of the community. Community makes a monastery, not how old it might be.

    There are still times I think I should "stayed it out", but at the time, living in a foreign country the rest of my life was not and appealing thought.

    I am also very saddened to hear about the disbanding of Spring Bank.

    I drive a truck, and was able to get through Sparta a few times. Fr Blaise came out to meet me, and we'd sit around and talk about everything. He is a great man, with a heart of gold.

    God Bless,
    Mike Knierim

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  21. The more I think of it, the more I think that God's providence is at work here (of course... it's at work in all human events!). The monks of Spring Bank were lost in materialism and middle-class values (just look at the Barbie Dream House guest house, their million-dollar plus vacation home perched high over the Mississipi Valley that they used as a "desert" house, the cocktail parties before lunch on feast days, the dogs and horses worth hundreds of dollars, and a hundred other things I could mention). I don't think God could get into their heads and into their hearts, even after years of existence. They were too lost, and couldn't find their way, so they died off.

    Whatever happened to the monks, and what is the official reason given for the suppression. Does anyone know?

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  22. The more I think about it, the more I see that God's providence and judgment at work. These monks were quite lost in middle-class materialism (just look at the over-fancy guest house, the million dollar plus vacation home perched high over the Mississippi Valley that they used as a "desert" house, the thoroughbred horses dogs worth thousands of dollars that were their "pets", the cocktail parties before lunch on feast days, and hundreds of other things I saw during my postualancies there). And when you add the homo-erotic undercurrents, and gross lack of Christian charity towards each other, you get a disturbing picture.

    I don't think God could get through the crust of materialism they had built up around themselves. I mean, they even considered turning the monastery property into an eighteen hole golf course and opening a four-star restaurant to make money, before Laser Monks took off.

    I mean seriously, what were they thinking? And I have to ask myself what I was thinking in going there... I was too blinded by the Gregorian chant and my friendship with Fr Gregory to see the signs that were everywhere, saying: This place is unhealthy.

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  23. In case anyone's curious, here are pictures of the former Spring Bank Abbey as of today, 9-1-2013. I live about 30 miles from there and was looking for an excuse for a motorcycle ride.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/w9fcc/sets/72157635333279105/

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