On December 5, Dom Brendan Freeman, OCSO, gave a chapter talk to the community at New Melleray Abbey, a monastery that was founded by monks from Mount Melleray Abbey in the American state of Iowa in 1849. Until recently, Dom Freeman had been the Superior ad nutum of Mellifont Abbey, again, a foundation of Mount Melleray Abbey.
Unfortunately, Dom Freeman has a reputation as being the superior that oversees the closure of Cistercian monastic houses. He was the superior that oversaw the closure and suppression of The Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville, Utah. And, his appointment as Superior ad nutum is usually a negative portent of the closure of a monastic house.
In his chapter talk at New Melleray Abbey, Dom Brendan observes the following:
“When I was asked to be superior ad nutum I was at a loss on what I was suppose [sic] to do, but as I watched the community over the last weeks, the longest I have been at New Melleray in eight years, by the way I saw something I missed in the initial weeks I was here. When I arrived on the 20th of September I was shocked by how much the community has changed over the years I was gone – the aging process is advancing rapidly and the question looms large over the horizon, how long can we last?”
His question: “how long can we last” is also appropriate for the Irish Cistercian houses.
This Blog exposed the sexual scandal of Dom Richard Purcell and the callous indifference the same by the Abbot General, Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO and the Bishop of Waterford, Alphonsus Cullinan. So at the time of writing Mount Melleray Abbey, does not have a named superior. The question is: why? We have recently learned that Richard Purcell was seen shopping in Dublin. Clearly, he must be adjusting to his new state with relative ease.
Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, has not elected an abbot in recent years. The superior, Dom Malachy Thompson, OCSO, has not been elected Abbot. Why?
With the return of Dom Brendan Freeman to New Melleray Abbey, it would appear that Mellifont Abbey does not have a named superior. And again, it is appropriate to ask: why?
Upon reaching the age prescribed by the constitutions, Dom Celsus Kelly, OCSO, submitted his resignation and, he has been the Superior ad nutum of Portglenone since 2019. Again, this is a foundation of Mount Melleray Abbey.
Currently, the only male Cistercian Abbey in Ireland to have an Abbot is Bolton Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare. This is the Canadian-born, Dom Michael Ryan, OCSO. This is a community founded by Roscrea.
Readers of the blog will remember that the allegations of the misconduct made against Richard Purcell were brought to the personal attention of Dom Ryan in his capacity as Father Immediate of Mount Melleray Abbey. He ignored the allegations. He also failed to respond to a letter sent by individuals that had been engaged to deal with the Purcell allegation. So, we can legitimately describe Ryan as a cover-up merchant and a company man.
Realistically, the only solution for the Irish Cistercians is mass amalgamation into one single monastery. So the question is which one will it be? My money is on Mount Melleray Abbey. Roscrea has the burden of the school; the other houses are simply unsuitable. I suspect the lands that come with these monasteries will be sold. However, I have it on good authority that the lands of Bolton Abbey are subject to a number of restrictions meaning it will return to the original benefactors should the community be closed and suppressed.
We also can surmise that Dom Michael Ryan, OCSO, is wholly unsuitable to be elected superior of a “super community” at Mount Melleray Abbey as is Dom Malachy Thompson for reasons that for the moment are best left unsaid.
Also, excluded is the former Abbot of Mount Melleray Abbey, Dom Augustine who is now living in a cottage. Again, he is wholly unsuitable for reasons that are left unsaid for the time being.
It is interesting that the return of Dom Brendan to New Melleray Abbey and the possible announcement of replacement superiors at Mount Melleray Abbey and Mellifont were not announced on the website of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. Clearly, they do not want anything appearing on my blog.
The bigger question is: do the Cistercians in Ireland have a future?