PRAYER LIFE: Antebellum Estate Home to New Monastery – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

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By G. MARK LaFRANCIS

NATCHEZ – The vast, majestic oak trees and manicured lawns of Edgewood, just off Airport Road, beckon those who visit to enjoy its serenity.

Thus, it seems, Edgewood became a natural setting for a monastery, the new headquarters of a chapter of the International Institute of the Incarnate Word, a Catholic religious order of priests and missionary brothers.

“Thus, the monastery is a place where he (the monk) can find solitude where he has everything he needs, and, and it is the place where he can direct his whole life towards God, through work, by prayer, by silence,” said Reverend Charles Yaklin, member of the order and local superior.

The institute will occupy part of the property, which is owned by Jerry and Hedy Boelte. Including Father Charles, there are four monks living there who come from all over the world.

The establishment of a monastery at Edgewood was, in a way, decades in the making. Hedy Boelte attended and organized many religious retreats and prayer groups in her Roman Catholic life. “Ever since I was little, I always wanted to do things for others based on my Catholic faith, so I was born to serve. And in doing so, I worked with the nuns in my school and my priest. And I love my Catholic faith more than anything.

The moment of significant religious transformation for Boelte came in 1987 when she attended a retreat. “I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and was called to dedicate the rest of my life to the service of Jesus through Mary. Starting prayer groups, organizing retreats, giving testimonies, serving God by living a fully devoted Catholic life was the result of this desire to work for the Kingdom of God. The monastery is the pearl of great price and we will continue to pray, serve and trust.

She started what could be described as a religious stepladder, with each new rung creating a new opportunity for her to invest her life and possessions in serving the Lord. All the while, she said, she was praying for direction. “Whenever my husband bought a property as an investment or for land and wildlife protection, I always dedicated that property to a saint. And I asked the saint: ‘What are we going to do with this property?’ »

For years Boelte has sponsored retreats, prayer groups and events at these properties and at Edgewood, but the concept of the 100-acre property becoming a monastery came to fruition several years ago when she and her husband traveled to Wyoming where they own a ranch. There she discovered the Institute of the Incarnate Word and the monks. After a series of meetings and consultations, including with the Reverend Scott Thomas, pastor of St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez, the wheels were in motion for the establishment of Edgewood Monastery.

“It’s beautiful,” Father Charles said of his first impression of Edgewood. “So we’re seeing how we can make our mission work in this beautiful place to foster a movement toward prayer, which is really what we’re trying to do.”

Father Charles said the monks will pray for the entire Natchez community, not just Roman Catholics. “Yes, absolutely, for everyone. God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. So we pray for everyone.

He said other monks might arrive and become part of the local monastery. Although the order is contemplative and members spend a considerable part of the day in prayer, there will be opportunities for interaction with the community.

Retreats and prayer groups are already in the planning session. “As a rule, we will stay here in the house and work in the field here, but we have to do the grocery shopping, for example. So you can see us at Walmart; it’s happened several times already, but other than that we try to stay put.

Father Charles said his journey in religious life had taken many turns until he said he discovered his vocation with the Institute of the Incarnate Word, a missionary religious congregation established in Argentina in 1984, which now has missionaries working in over 40 different countries. Its members are priests, seminarians and brothers, the majority of them being part of the “apostolic branch” of the Institute, generally working in parishes. The four monks who now live in Natchez belong to the “contemplative branch” of the Institute and contribute to missionary work through their prayer life.

A brochure about St. Joseph’s Monastery and the congregation states, “We want to be rooted in Jesus Christ. We want to love and serve Jesus Christ and help others to love and serve Him. The Eucharist is the center and the root of our consecration as religious.

Father Charles adds: “Seven times a day, we go to the chapel to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a way of sanctifying all the hours of our day by interrupting our activities and returning to the chapel, to pray, to be in the presence of God, and thus prolong the mass each morning throughout the day. The pool house has been transformed into a chapel for the monks and the celebration of mass for the community. Special additions to the chapel will be made soon, Boelte said.

A monastery in Natchez may seem unusual, but monasteries exist all over the world. Father Charles said: “Monastery comes from the Greek ‘monos’ which means alone. Thus, the monk lives alone, even if he can be in community. He spends most of his time in solitude and not to be away from others, but to be in silence with God.

Father Charles said a mass in Spanish is being considered as well as regular weekend masses. Additionally, the monks plan to produce items for sale as a means of supporting themselves in Edgewood.

The monastery will host a “day of recollection” on Wednesday, January 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., which includes Mass, lectures, Eucharistic adoration and time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lunch will be provided by the monks. Registration can be done by sending an email to [email protected]

More information is available on the saintjosephmonastery.com website.

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