Mepkin monks invite visitors to immerse themselves in Trappist lifestyle

MONCKS CORNER—Their website states that the monks of Mepkin Abbey de­vote their lives to “prayer, spiritual study, work and hospitality”. This year, the abbey is expanding its hos­pitality with a program that invites people to stay, learn and work there for up to a year.

Mepkin Abbey receives thousands of visitors annually, according to Father Joe Tedesco, who is in charge of the Mepkin Affiliate Program. Through it, the monks have built upon the 40-year-old Monastic Guest Program to provide more ways for both men and women of any faith to learn the benefits of a monastic life.

The affiliate program “evolved out of a community discussion we had about the number of visitors we are getting who are really interested in prayer and our lifestyle that leads to prayer and a deeper way of life that they can live in their life — a con­templative approach to life,” Father Tedesco said. “We started brain­storming as a committee … about what we could do to help people enter into our dynamic for brief periods, so they can learn the techniques and take them into their lives.”

The program comprises three separate levels, each of which offers different degrees of immersion: the original Monastic Guest Program; the Monastic Institute; and the Mo­nastic Residency Program.

The Monastic Institute, which is open to both men and women, is currently accepting applications for a month-long event scheduled for June 28 to July 30.

“The men and women will really live our life, but it will also be a seminar month to learn about the Benedictine way of life and the special essential elements of our particular Cistercian life, or Trappist life, that seeks to live a life of contemplation,” Father Tedesco said.

He said the abbey has invited a Benedictine monk from San Francisco and a superior from a monastery in Belgium, each of whom will conduct a two-week seminar. The upcoming session of the Monastic Institute can accept up to 15 participants.

The Monastic Guest Program offers men the opportunity to live the monastic life at Mepkin for one month, or up to three months, Father Tedesco said, and provides frequent tours of the grounds and gardens.

The third part of the affiliate program is the Monastic Residency Program, which offers men a year­long stay at the abbey.

“It’s great for students in a gap year, for divinity students finishing up and needing to really spend some time in prayer before beginning their ministries, people who are on sabbatical, people who have retired and are able to do something they’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to that,” he continued. “We don’t anticipate a lot of people for that program because a year is a lot to work out in your life, but we’re happy with the interest we’re generating.”

All affiliate programs are offered at no cost and are open to people of any faith.

Mepkin Abbey is an integral part of the Lowcountry, having opened its doors in 1949, according to Mary Jeffcoat, communications director. It was founded by the monks of Gethse­mani in Kentucky.

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