New retreat center and chapel dedicated at Mepkin Abbey

MONCKS CORNER—The monks at Mepkin Abbey broke briefly from their quiet monastic lifestyle to celebrate their new St. Francis Retreat Center and the Father Francis Kline Memorial Chapel. The Aug. 25 dedication included a Mass, musical performance and choirs.

Abbot Stanislaus Gumula said the completion of the 16-room retreat center is the fulfillment of a dream begun in 2004 by several brothers, including the late Abbot Francis, to whom the chapel was dedicated. Abbot Francis’ parents, Joe and Vanetta Kline, drove from New Jersey to participate in the event, along with his two brothers Ron and Mark.

“This dream become reality enhances our ministry of hospitality, so central to the monastic tradition,” Abbot Stan said, adding that it allows them to serve the spiritual needs of others who “come seeking a place of safety in which they can let go and listen to the still small voice within.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and Bishop Emeritus David B. Thompson attended the dedication along with donors and benefactors of the abbey, many of whom were friends of Abbot Francis.

In his homily, Bishop Thompson spoke warmly of the legacy of Abbot Francis, found in the music of the pipe organ, the resources of the library, and now the retreat center.

“Father Francis always reached out to all and he does it in a special way now at his retreat center. Even today he reminds us, ‘If there is no salvation, there is no ultimate meaning to life,’” Bishop Thompson said. “In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be just passing through towns and villages. Father Francis would remind us that we cannot let Jesus just pass by in our lives. Jesus stops, looks, listens, teaches, consoles, heals. The abbot’s retreat center is to help the many realize this.”

In addition to the bishops and Abbot Stan, several others spoke, giving thanks and praise to the many people whose contributions made the center possible.

In his prayerful remarks, Father Guerric Heckel said, “Holy One, on this dedication day make this house a home. May the spirit of Francis Kline and his great capacity to make everyone feel that Mepkin was their home, permeate this space so these very buildings may welcome home all who come here.”

Mepkin Abbey offers private retreats for individuals or groups who want to absorb the spirit of monastic community, “where prayer is valid, where the Gospel is lived, where the struggles of life are faced in the light of faith,” Abbot Stan said.

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