A former country mansion in Co Meath is set to be transformed into a monastery as part of a $1 million development by two Benedictine monks.
The monks in question – Dom Mark Kirby and Dom Benedict Anderson – are planning to relocate from Tulsa, OK in what they describe as “a call from God.” The new Monastery will be based at Silverstream in Stamullen.
The Irish Examiner reports the monks purchased the property, which dates from 1843, along with the adjoining church.
Two aspiring monks, a 25-year-old from Oklahoma and a 31-year-old from Meath have been living alongside the monks with a view to joining the new community.
“All money comes from donors, people who come forward and offer to help. We generate barely enough income to pay the weekly grocery bill through the bookshop. But the local people have been extremely supportive and kind, bringing us bread, scones, eggs, and donations of vegetables,” Dom Kirby said.
His grandmother, Margaret Gilbride Kirby, emigrated to the US from Finisklin in Leitrim in 1912, a century before his arrival in Ireland last year.
Dom Andersen, who became a monk in June, told the Irish Examiner, “We don’t have any grand schemes as if this monastery is functioning through our own ingenuity. Far from that, we rely on God for everything. That’s the only explanation as to why two monks from America would drop everything and move to Ireland, because we believe that God has called us here. And we ask God everyday, ‘Please don’t leave us hanging!’”
The monks' work in the monastery involves editing prayer books in Latin and English, much like the scribes in ancient Irish monasteries, but with a digital twist.
Dom Anderson said, “My work in the monastery is desktop publishing and book design. I suppose that would make me and my Macintosh a kind of digital scriptorium,”
Competent in social media, Dom Benedict set up the priory’s website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
The monks adhere to a rhythm of daily prayer, dating back to the 6th century including matins at daybreak (5 am), lauds at 8am, and mass at 10am. Vespers is followed by supper, then compline (conclusion of daily prayers) and the monks maintain strict silence through the night until morning.
“The purpose of a monastery is to cause people to stop and say, if this place exists and these men are living the way they are, then there is a God and he is worth it all,” Dom Kirby said. A major part of the Benedictine ethos is centered on hospitality. The monastery regularly receives troubled visitors “out of the blue”.
The monks spent their first winter in Ireland living in temporary cells as the main house has no functional heating. To date, they have spent almost €100,000 ($130,000) on renovation works, including the installation of a bookstore in the old gatehouse.