In 2016, Fr. Damien Trudeau, SSM, OSB, founded Our Lady of Good Hope Monastery, in the small town of Stilfontein, South Africa. In April 2022, after 6 years and with 2 priestly and 1 lay-brother members, the community made the decision to relocate to the United States until a suitable property can be located.
What are Benedictine Monks?
The community of Our Lady of Good Hope Monastery, is a Benedictine Monastic community in which its members profess vows of stability, obedience, and conversatio morum, known more simply as a change of ways, but rather is a promise of fidelity to the monastic way of life. Benedictine monks do not, as commonly thought, profess the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The vows of a Benedictine monk most definitely include the Evangelical Counsels, but take on a rich and beautiful expression in Benedict’s Rule and the way of life it has inspired.
Obedience means “to listen intently,” and this vow is undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in following Christ who was obedient to the will of the Father. It requires that a monk listens intently to the voice of God as it is manifested in the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of his superiors.
Stability binds the monk in both body and spirit to the community of his profession for the rest of his life, where he serves under both a Rule and an Abbot.
Conversatio Morum encompasses all aspects of the total self-offering of the monk to God. Under this vow are included the evangelical counsels: poverty and chastity, which commit the monk to a renunciation of personal possessions and embracing celibacy for the sake of the kingdom.
What do they Do?
The Benedictines of Our Lady of Good Hope are first and foremost men of prayer. The psalmist states “seven times a day do I praise thee…” and the monks pray communally in the church, the offices of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Diurnum, Vespers, and Compline, in addition to the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Saint Benedict left his comfortable life because he saw that the world of his day, in the 4th century, was full of evil and licentiousness and he decided to retreat to the hills to live a life of prayer and solitude. His life became an example for many others also seeking to lead lives of prayer “outside of the world” and they would eventually join him in what would become one of the first monasteries of cenobites, or men who live in community.
As our world today is becoming increasing chaotic, licentious, and decayed, many of our faithful suffer in this world and try ardently to lead lives as good Christians while navigating an ever-changing world and social values. The monk’s main purpose in life is to pray and specially to pray for others and for the world and those in it. Monasteries are power houses of prayer and monks should be examples to others and worried with praying for others; in other words, monasteries are still needed in our chaotic world.
Apart from their obligation and privilege to pray in community, the priests and brothers not only live in a monastery, it is their home. As such, they also perform all the necessary tasks daily required to run a home; cooking, cleaning, washing, mowing lawns, gardening, and looking after guests. Ordained priest members also conduct apostolic ministry in the community and can serve as stipended pastors of local Churches, the income from such employment being given entirely to the monastery in line with their commitment to poverty.
Refuge of Prayer and Retreat
Besides being a refuge of prayer and a house of God and a gateway to heaven for the monk, monasteries are also refuges of prayer and retreat for lay men and women. Hospitality has always been a practice of monastic communities and this is no different at Our Lady of Good Hope. The monks desire to have a retreat house that can accommodate up to 30 individuals for private and directed residential and day retreats.
Retreatants will spend either Monday-Friday (weekday retreat) or Friday-Sunday (weekend retreat) in the retreat house, take meals in the retreat house refectory (dining room) and join the monks in the Church at the designated times of prayer. In doing so, it is hoped that they will become spiritually refreshed and come closer to God in their own lives of prayer by sharing with the monks in their prayers.
While donations for retreats are voluntary, it is hoped that such a retreatant will feel privileged to contribute to the ongoing retreat house ministry with a suggested donation of $65-100 dollars a night. Retreatants will never be turned away due to a lack of funds, yet all should recognize that such a retreat facility relies on donations to be self-sustaining.
Apart from residential retreats for laity, retreats for clergy of all denominations are encouraged and the monastery will also be able to provide a space for the yearly Spring and Fall Clericus for local G3 Dioceses As there is no other G3 retreat house in the United States at this time, nor any residential monastery that offers such facility, the community anticipates that the Priory retreat house will be a popular option for clergy and laity alike.
Youth and Scout Camps
It has also been the tradition of some dioceses to offer an annual Anglican Youth Summer Camp hosted at other denominational or secular facilities. The monks would also like for the monastic grounds to include facilities, such as cabins and meeting and recreational spaces, to host such Anglican Youth Summer Camps as well as to provide a place for Scouting and Scouts, as well as Trail Life and other such groups. Our ideal would be to build 10 “camper” cabins around a lake, 5 for girls and 5 for boys. Each cabin will ideally be personally built by the members of a church of the local Dioceses, or for smaller churches, they can cooperate to build one, or if unable to physically build, to make a donation to cover the cost.
Monasteries have always been places of education and enlightenment and Good Hope is no exception. The monks would like to carry on that tradition at their new monastery by providing a place apart for those men studying for the priesthood in the various G3 dioceses and the Anglican Continuing Churches as a whole.
Being mainly teachers, the priests and brothers also have a great interest in establishing a school, yet realize that this is an enormous responsibility and endeavor and perhaps not possible. Yet, there are others groups, that have similar goals in mind, such as the proposed APA sponsored Saint Dunstan’s Academy. Fr. Trudeau has met with the organizer and founder of the school and it is hoped that the monks can participate in such a school if possible, depending upon location and future needs, if only in a spiritual aspect or provide a place of retreat for the students and faculty.
The goal of any institution, religious or secular, is to be self-supporting and self-sustaining, ensuring a long future. For 1500 years, monasteries have been very adept at finding ways to support the brethren, the monastery, and its apostolates; Good Hope Monastery seeks to be no different in this regard. In its early stages, members will endeavor to seek employment outside of the monastery that is congruent with the life, meaning that such work will not impede nor prohibit full participation in the communal life and not be inconsistent with basic Christian values. It is the hope that priests of the monastery can find stipended positions in the one of the Churches of the local G3, such as a rector, priest-in-charge, or supply priest, where possible and prudent. Lay brothers, usually bring to the monastery past experiences and gifts that can be utilized either in support of the daily running of the monastery, or in certain cases, where brothers have certain education and licenses, such as teacher, nurse, etc., they may seek employment in those areas. Above all, it is important that any such employment not require that the monk is habitually away from the monastery early morning, evenings, nights, and on weekends, and fit into the typical 9-5 timeframe.
Depending on locale, the monastery may also undertake various activities such as farming, including crops, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, and the production of homemade items from produce grown, such as jams, jellies, bread etc, all which have been mainstays of the monastic tradition for centuries.
Beer making has also been a monastic tradition and it is well known that monasteries in Europe were some of the first and foremost manufacturers of beers, ales, mead, wine, and champagne. Over the past 15 years, the manufacture and production of locally produced alcohol, including wine and hard spirits has gained a large foothold. Research into the possibility to produce a spirit, such as whiskey, bourbon, vodka, brandy, or even moonshine might be beneficial and something sustainable.
What is needed?
First and foremost, we need your prayers. As Saint Benedict says in his rule, which we follow in our daily lives, “whatever good work you begin to do, beg of God with most earnest prayer to perfect it.”The good work has indeed begun here at the Monastery and we need your prayers to perfect and continue it.
Secondly, we need your financial support. As Matthew 7:7 tells us, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” We know that there are many who would like to support our ministry and hope that they will give generously.
With the graciousness of the former Holy Redeemer Anglican Church, we were able to purchase their seldom-used property on King’s Highway in Lerty, Va, minutes from the historic Stratford Hall plantation of Virginia’s Lee family. While the property currently suits our needs, it is uncertain if we shall be able to expand our operations there; in any event, it is a very good continuation of our monastic presence in the United States.
Money is currently needed to install a necessary bathroom and sacristy in the church as well as other maintenance issues and pay off the loan for the property.
Financial support of any amount is very welcomed. Checks may be made out to STILFONTEIN PRIORY and a memo line may indicate desired use. Please send checks to Stilfontein Priory, 11264 Kings Highway, Montross, VA 22520.
 Diurnum consists of the offices of Terce, Sext, and None combined into one noon-day office.