ST. BENEDICT — Bells pealed high in the tower at Mount Angel Abbey Jan. 1, celebrating both the Solemnity of Mary and the independence of Monasterio Benedictino de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
The Cuernavaca monastery was founded in 1965 as a daughterhouse, or missionary offshoot, of Mount Angel. The move to independence for the Mexican Benedictines came following work by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll of Mount Angel.
Abbot Damian Jentges founded the Mexican daughterhouse after a request from Cuernavaca Bishop Sergio Méndez Arceo, a well-known human rights supporter. Mount Angel Abbey’s Father Ambrose Zenner and Brother Boniface Arechederra were sent to Mexico to begin Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.
Now, the monastery at Cuernavaca has 12 monks in final vows and 17 in formation. In addition to the daily practice of prayer, the Mexican monks operate a retreat house, bookstore and farm. They grow avocados, coffee and corn and tend honeybees. The monks run a bakery that produces chocolates, cookies and yogurt. Three priests of the monastery teach in the local seminary, where many monks study.
The Cuernavaca monks celebrated their independence Jan. 1 with a midnight Mass. The presider was the prior, Father Evagrio Póntico López Álvarez. The official decree of independence was read with joy at the liturgy.
Abbot Jeremy and the monks of Mount Angel Abbey offered congratulations to the monks of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles and called the new status an “exciting new chapter.”