MONCKS CORNER—Trappist Father Gerard Jonas Palmeres professed solemn vows at Mepkin Abbey recently, making him officially a monk of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
His profession, like that of all Trappists, came after several years of discernment, prayer and study.
Father Gerard Jonas, formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Lipa in the Philippines, professed his perpetual vows on Dec. 3 in the presence of Abbot Stanislaus Gumula and the other monks of Mepkin Abbey.
The ceremony was attended by Father Gerard Jonas’ mother and three sisters, according to Father Kevin Walsh, vocations director at Mepkin Abbey. His father, who was 93 at the time, was unable to attend because of health reasons and passed away shortly after. The entire family, however, was able to see the priest’s simple profession of vows in 2013.
The Archbishop of Lipa and several priests from the archdiocese also were present, and several members of the Filipino community from Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek came to show their support for the new monk.
Father Gerard Jonas was born and raised in the Philippines to a devout Catholic family, and became more involved in his faith after dealing with a childhood illness. He was ordained a diocesan priest for the Archdiocese of Lipa in the Philippines on Nov. 20, 1991. He served as a parish priest for a short time but then was appointed chancellor of the archdiocese, Father Walsh said.
Father Gerard Jonas learned about Mepkin Abbey from Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, who served as the Archbishop of Lipa before being named Archbishop of Manila and made a cardinal.
Cardinal Rosales had once visited Mepkin Abbey as a monastic guest. The monastic guest program at the monastery allows men to live alongside the monks and experience the monastic way of life, Father Walsh said.
“Monastic guests are with us for the seven formal times of prayer we offer each day and participate in our physical manual labor,” Father Walsh said. “They take their meals with us in the monastic refectory, eating in silence and following a vegetarian diet.”
Father Gerard Jonas was intrigued by the archbishop’s account of his experiences at Mepkin and began to wonder if he also wanted to follow a monastic life. He received permission to take a sabbatical in 2008 and explore monastic life in North America. He visited six monasteries, including Mepkin, and then after a period of discernment decided to return to Moncks Corner for a three-month observership. He then started his formal application to enter the order and began his life at Mepkin in 2010.
He completed the normal process of discernment and formation, which includes one year as a postulant and two years as a novice. He professed his simple vows on Dec. 3, 2013.
Father Gerard Jonas’ late brother was the director of choirs for the Archdiocese of Lipa, and because of his exposure to music, Abbot Gumula asked the new monk to begin organ lessons.
“We have not had anyone to play the organ for us in a while, and he will be helping the community by playing for us during times of prayer,” Father Walsh said.
There are currently 14 men in the community at Mepkin Abbey, including one postulant and two novices.
All photos provided: Top, Trappist Father Gerard Jonas Palmeres reads from a text during his profession of solemn vows at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner.