Given the difficult situations of the communities of Mount Melleray, Roscrea, and Mellifont, during a meeting of superiors of the Region of the Isles in Brownshill (Bernardines, England) in June, the Abbot General proposed a plan, including the naming of one Father Immediate for all three communities and the appointment of one Monastic Commissary for all three communities. Each community would continue to live where it is, but there would be one formation house for all three communities, and other structures of mutual help.
This proposal was studied in the communities and, after reflection, all three communities, by a vote of their conventual chapter, agreed in principle to accept it. Suggestions from the communities were incorporated into the plan.
The juridical status of the communities has been as follows –
Mount Melleray: Since the resignation of Dom Richard Purcell as abbot of Mount Melleray in November 2021, the abbatial office has been vacant. The Father Immediate of Mount Melleray since October 2020 has been Dom Michael Ryan, abbot of Bolton.
Roscrea: Dom Malachy Thompson has been superior ad nutum of Roscrea since 2018. Since the abbatial office at Mt Melleray (Father Immediate of Roscrea) is vacant, Dom Michael Ryan of Bolton has functioned as Father Immediate of Roscrea since November 2021.
Mellifont: Since the resignation of Dom Brendan Freeman as superior ad nutum of Mellifont in November 2021, the abbatial office has been vacant. Since the abbatial office at Mt Melleray (Father Immediate of Mellifont) is vacant, Dom Michael Ryan of Bolton has functioned as Father Immediate of Mellifont since November 2021.
After consultation with the communities, who expressed their consent by a vote of their respective conventual chapters,
(1) On July 16th, 2022, Dom Michael Ryan of Bolton delegated his responsibility as Father Immediate of Mount Melleray to Dom Brendan Freeman of New Melleray Abbey.
(2) On July 16th 2022, the Abbot General, with the consent of his Council, in the name of the General Chapter appointed Dom Brendan Freeman of New Melleray Abbey as Father Immediate of Roscrea and of Mellifont.
(3) On August 2nd 2022 Dom Malachy Thompson offered his resignation as superior ad nutum of Roscrea to the Father Immediate, Dom Brendan Freeman, who accepted it.
(4) On August 3rd 2022 the Abbot General, with the consent of his Council, in the name of the General Chapter, suspended the exercise of the autonomy of the communities of Mount Melleray, Roscrea, and Mellifont, and authorised Dom Brendan Freeman, Father Immediate, to name a Monastic Commissary for all three communities in accordance with the Statute on Fragile Communities.
(5) On August 3rd 2022 Dom Brendan Freeman appointed Fr Rufus Pound as Monastic Commissary of Mount Melleray, Roscrea, and Mellifont. Dom Rufus is a monk of Mt St Bernard Abbey who had been claustral prior at Mellifont since November 2021. He will carry out his responsibilities in accordance with the Statute on Fragile Communities and with the plan mentioned above.
Further details will be given at the General Chapter in September.
What we are seeing here is the Cistercians regrouping for two reasons:
1. The decline of vocations.
2. The Richard Purcell scandal.
Really, the 5 Cistercian monasteries should be amalgamated in one monastery- probably the mother house Mount Mellerary.
But monks can be just as difficult as others and the monks are not all cooperating with the required changes.
The two monasteries with abbots – Portglenone in Antrim and Moone in Kildare are refusing to be amalgated.
The other three, Mellifont, Roscrea and Mellerary are now being turned into a monastery with three campuses with one novitiate one Commissary and one Father Immediate.
The Cistercians were already in great decline in Ireland.
Dick Purcell was the last straw the broke the camel’s back.