Thursday, July 21, 2011

The quiet dissolution of the Cistercian Abbey of Springbank

Fr. Bernard McCoy, O.Cist.
CEO of LaserMonks, Inc.
Prior, Our Lady of Spring Bank Cistercian Abbey
Sparta, Wisconsin
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The former LaserMonks
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Once a rather open to the world Cistercian monastery, famous for their 21st century multi-million dollar LaserMonks recycling printer cartridge business, the monastery is rumored to be quietly disbanding.  I had heard the rumors that something was off with the community before today.  I wrote about a couple of things and then took the posts down, concerned I could damage the community's reputation, albeit unintentionally. 
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Though the monks seemed to live a rather comfortable life and were in the process of renovationg their new chapel, the issue I wrote about had more to do with a liturgical matter rather than financial.  At the time I had no idea the ink cartridge business was having problems.  My misunderstanding arose because of something a former novice wrote concerning Gregorian Masses contracted with the abbey.  It led to my discussion of the practice and accountability regarding such contracts, the upshot was an unfortunate misunderstanding of what had been posted by the community's blogging novice.
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However, for the past few months I've received emails - one or two were a bit over the top - informing me that the Springbank community had been dissolved - for whatever reason.   I refrained from posting about it until now, the reason - it is currently being discussed publicly online in Catholic forums and chat rooms - a web activity I'm not into - although a reader informed me of the chatter this morning.  Anyway - I will post the following updates I have - without editorial commentary or personal speculation.  Keep in mind however, the following information is unverified beyond the links.
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Update on the home of the former "laser monks," Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey, Sparta, Wisconsin. These are 'common observance' Cistercians as opposed to Trappists who are 'strict observance' Cistercians.
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1. "Bad business decisions," said to be the cause of the closure -- that means, nothing illegal or fishy, just --it happens (they have plenty of company these days, no?)
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2. A number of the eight monks, including those most involved in the former business, agreed to be relocated to other communities of monks. One man actually asked for a dispensation of vows.
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3. One Cistercian monk will become the chaplain for the common observance Cistercian house of cloistered nuns not far away.
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4. The abbey itself will disband completely while other houses absorb the remaining monks.
(reported in a different forum by a former Spring Bank postulant who has remained on excellent terms with the monks) - Source
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I also received the following comment on another post today:
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"I am from the the International fellowship of St. Bruno. We have a discussion board at Yahoogroups, called IFSB. A member posted this morning that the Spring Bank community is disbanding, and only three monks are left. The community is in a great deal of debt, and they plan to sell off assets, and the monks are going separate ways." - Kevin
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So there you have it.  As time goes on I'm sure more stories could emerge - although monastics are very good at keeping secrets and maintaining cloister when they want to.  One hears very little concerning what precipitated the closing of Abbey of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme now that the deed is done.
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BTW - debt is never good for the stability of any religious house.
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Photo:  Fr. Bernard with the abbey dog. 

8 comments:

  1. Hmmm. I wonder who the former postulant is on the link. And I wonder which monk is acting as Chaplain to the sisters (wonderful community of nuns, btw). And who's being dispensed, who's going where, etc. Not many choices in the Common Observance world, at least this side of the pond.
    That dog in the picture was named Luxor (now dead from diabetes, needed daily insulin injections).

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  2. I get the nun's newsletter - it appears Fr. Robert is their Father Immediate.

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  3. +JMJ+

    You know, I didn't even see the dog until you pointed him out. And I'm usually really good at that.

    PS -- Captcha is "soldme." (Bwahahahahahahaha!)

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  4. This is very sad news. I had heard so many great things about these guys. In fact, my spiritual director (a very orthodox priest) had suggested them to me back in the mid-90s.

    I''ll remember them in prayer. Must be a huge disappointment to have your community fail.

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  5. Their behavior over the bankruptcy seems to indicate there's more going on. I am afraid to look into it further....

    I can tell you this, they have a Facebook page that is updated by a current/former employee which seems to indicate they are trying to rebuild their enterprise. It appears to be updated daily. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/LaserMonks/22986499724

    They continue to point folks to a website www.wholetoner.com which apparently is the replacement for the previous operation. Today the moderator posted:
    "We are moving to our new location. If our phone is not answered, that is why. Thank you for your patience. 888-347-2878"

    Also it looks like they now ARE answering phone calls at that number. It's unclear how much the monks are involved at this point.

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  6. Hello all,
    I found out the other day from a friend that this disbanding was happening. I could not get my head around what I was reading.
    Now I was checking online and found this site.
    I have a couple of questions. 1) what about the Abbey that was built? What happens to the edifice and the property it is on. I also recall The Monks had a tree farm. did they discontinue that?
    What about Abbott Bernard? Is he still there?

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  7. Rick, to my knowledge the properties are to be, or have been sold. I am told fr. Bernard is in Ireland, serving as a chaplain to nuns. I can't confirm any of that however.

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  8. I heard that they were caught burying bodies with no identification. Also my husband and his friends were out there a few months ago at night and there were no lights on. We cruised out tonight and immediately drove off due to a strange light on in the basement

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