Friday, February 26, 2010

Benedictine monastery in Oklahoma diocese elevated to abbey

Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek, a Benedictine monastery near Hulbert in the Diocese of Tulsa, has been elevated to the status of abbey.

The change was announced Feb. 11 by Abbot Antoine Forgeot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault in France, the monastery's motherhouse.

Father Philip Anderson, one of the original 13 monks who came from the French abbey to help found Clear Creek in 1999, has been elected abbot. He has served as prior of the monastic community since its foundation.

"It's a moment of perfection, and the moment you become fully what you were meant to be. To become an abbey is to reach a certain point of maturity," the abbot-elect said.

Clear Creek was established as a monastery at the invitation of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa. In the 10 years since it was established, monasteries nationwide and worldwide have declined in membership, but the Oklahoma monastery has grown from its original 13 monks to its current population of 18 professed monks.

Twelve of them are priests and six are brothers.

In addition, the community includes eight novices and postulants and seven men who have made their first vows.

Abbot-elect Anderson explained that following its initial foundation, a monastery must achieve a certain level of stability in its ability to attract vocations and to become financially secure before it can be named an abbey.

For the Benedictine Congregation of Solesmes, to which Our Lady of the Annunciation belongs, such stability must be illustrated within a monastery's first 13 years of existence.

When Clear Creek met those conditions, Abbot Forgeot recommended the change in its status to the abbot who heads the congregation.

Clear Creek is the fourth monastery affiliated with Fontgombault to be elevated to an abbey and is the 20th in the congregation.

Abbot-elect Anderson said there will be few changes in day-to-day life at Clear Creek abbey, although his role will change as the community will now operate independently from its motherhouse.

As abbot, his role is equivalent to that of a bishop who heads a diocese.

The role is threefold: sanctifying, teaching and governing.

"Abbot Forgeot hopes we maintain a close relationship with Fontgombault and so do we," Abbot-elect Anderson said. "Our spiritual roots are in France."

His abbatial blessing -- a formal service in which he will receive his miter, crosier and ring -- will be celebrated at Our Lady of the Annunciation Abbey April 10.
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