Daughter Houses of Christ in the Desert
Monastery of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
San Miguel, Mexico
Toward the end of his life, CID Monastery founder Aelred Wall, OSB, travelled to Mexico to seek a place to live a monastic life. It was the result of this decision that the Monastery of Nuestra Senora de La Soledad would eventually be established. Father Aelred traveled to Mexico in 1973 to find a place in which he could dwell as a hermit. At first traveling to Oaxaca, he then traveled to the Hotel Colonial in San Miguel de Allende from which he scouted for property. Eventually he found the present location of La Soledad.
In 1974, the Mexican Constitution still forbade the ownership of property by religious communities. Additionally, as a foreigner Father Aelred could not purchase property in Mexico. Thankfully, he was able to enlist the help of a friend, Teresa Llamas, who purchased the property in her own name on behalf of Father Aelred. In 1984 the property was transferred to a not-for-profit corporation, and since religious communities were still illegal at that time, the ostensible purpose of the corporation was the promotion and sale of local art. However the members of the corporation were all laypersons who supported the monastic life. During the same year, Father Aelred passed into eternal life on November 13, 1984.
Shortly before his death, Father Aelred became a member of the newly independent Monastery of Christ in the Desert and asked CID to establish a foundation at La Soledad. Initially, a foundation seemed unfeasible, and Christ in the Desert attempted to sell the property or give it away. However, when such attempts proved unsuccessful, Christ in the Desert sent monks to help establish La Soledad as a monastic foundation, and eventually the Abbot of Tepeyac sent two monks along to help as well. In 1994 a monastery was built on site capable of housing 20 monks and currently the monastery’s guesthouse facilities are being expanded to permit a greater number of visitors.
Today, the community at La Soledad is led by Prior Ezequiel Bas Luna OSB; there are six solemnly professed monks, one simply professed monk and a variety of postulants. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB of Christ in the Desert, has a regular practice of visiting La Soledad to offer guidance and support to their Prior, his Council and all of the monks. La Soledad has patterned their daily life on that of Christ in the Desert and the monks there are committed, as well, to following the Rule of St. Benedict. The community, like that of their Mother House, Christ in the Desert, is centered on emulating the love of Jesus Christ amongst themselves and by their prayers for those who request them and for the world. The life at La Soledad is a contemplative one and revolves around ora et labora. At some point in the future, it is hoped that this Monastery will become independent from Christ in the Desert but in the meantime, the relationship is felicitous and blessed by the Holy Spirit.
Monasterio Benedictino De Santa María y Todos Los Santos
Texin, Telocelo, Veracruz, Mexico
With the blessing of Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera, the Monastery of Santa María y Todos los Santos was founded in March 1994 by Father Thomas Mitchell, OSB at Texin in the Archdiocese of Xalapa. A generous benefactor, Don Antonio Murrieta Cervantes, donated a parcel of the land of his cattle ranch for the future monastery. Meantime, the monastic life began in some of the farm buildings of Rancho Texin which served as a temporary home for the monks. The small community was affiliated canonically with the Monastery of Christ in the Desert as a dependent house.
In November 1997, the Archbishop blessed the land and the foundation stone of the new monastery. The monks and hired labor worked together on the construction of the first phase of the building. The monastery was registered with the Mexican civil authorities as a “Religious Association” on May 6, 1999 under the legal name of “Monasterio Benedictino de Santa María y Todos los Santos”.
The community moved finally to the new monastery on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, 2005, going in procession with the Blessed Sacrament and the relics of the saints, after which Father Thomas Mitchell, the founder of the community, celebrated the first Eucharist in the chapel. Subsequently, a gift shop and a classroom were built. The monastic church will be constructed when funds are available. Presently, in addition to the original guesthouse, further guest facilities are in progress.
The Prior of the monastery is Padre Antelmo Zepeda Morales OSB; there are nine solemnly professed monks, three simply professed monks; two novices and some postulants. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB of Christ in the Desert makes an annual visit to Santa María to guide and encourage the Prior and his monks.
The community follows the regular observance according to the Rule of St. Benedict in a way similar to that of the Mother House. The monks lead a contemplative life centered upon ora et labora with the Benedictine emphasis on the praying of the Divine Office for the whole Church and the world. Hopefully, the monastery will become independent from Christ in the Desert at some future date. Meanwhile, there is a firm and close relationship with the Mother House and both communities benefit mutually from the many blessings that the Lord bestows on them.
Benedictine Monastery of Thien Tam (Heavenly Heart)
In 1991 Abbot Thaddeus of the monastery of Thien Binh in Vietnam asked Christ in the Desert to accept two postulants from his monastery. Their families were immigrating to the United States and he suggested that the young brothers should remain close to them. The brothers gradually became integrated into the community and, during the next decade, other young Vietnamese arrived.
The large Vietnamese population in Texas seemed to indicate that it would be a suitable place for a foundation for Vietnamese monks and that there would be the possibility of vocations. Generous benefactors welcomed the project of a Benedictine monastery with this specific aim and they enabled the monks to acquire property of some 300 acres near Kerens. A spacious ranch house and other buildings provided suitable accommodation for the first group of monks who arrived there in 2008.
In the intervening years, the monastery has become a center of pilgrimage, of prayer, and of retreat for the Vietnamese Catholics in the area between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The outstanding event is the annual Eucharistic gathering when over a thousand pilgrims camp out on the property and assist at the prayer meetings and retreat conferences. This has led to the building of a spacious pavilion to accommodate the large congregation at Mass. A special reliquary chapel has been erected for prayerful visits and meditation. Additional facilities have been provided for the requirements of the campers.
The Prior of the monastery is Father Dominic Nguyen Duc Hanh OSB; there six solemnly professed monks; one simply professed monk; and two novices. Abbot Philip Lawrence OSB of Christ in the Desert visits the community regularly to offer his support to the Prior and the monks. The life of the monks is similar to that of the Mother House with a regular observance the ora et labora of the Rule of St. Benedict. It is centered on prayer and contemplation and intercession for the needs of the Church and the world. The community will move toward eventual independence from Christ in the Desert while presently enjoying a mutual fraternal relationship with their founding monastery.