Yesterday I had the pleasure of a phone conversation with Abbot Lawrence, the Abbot of St. Gregory's. The benedictine monks, as he told me, are monks who settle in a spot and build a long term community. We will be interviewing him on the site of the original abbey which is described as a very beautiful and special spot and also talking with some of the monks who have fostered sustainability within their community. The beautiful spot where the new abbey is in Shawnee also shares the campus with St. Gregory's University and the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. The museum came to be because of the travels and art of Father Gerrer who brought together a rich collection of art from all over the world to create the museum as well as his own very fine paintings. Altho many museums are affiliated with universities I have never heard of one also connected with an abbey. We will be lodging in the abbey while we are there filming thanks to the gracious hospitality of the monastery. Here is some history of the benedictine monks in Oklahoma.
Benedictine monks first arrived in what is today the state of Oklahoma in October 1875. Fr. Isidore Robot, O.S.B., and Br. Dominic Lambert, O.S.B., monks of the French monastery of Notre Dame de la Pierre-qui-Vire, entered the Indian Territory at the suggestion of the Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas. Spending their first few months in Atoka, the pioneer monks eventually settled with the Citizen Band Pottawatomi Indians. In 1876, they established Sacred Heart Abbey, near what is present-day Konawa, Oklahoma. Along with communal monastic observance, the pioneer monks also established a school for the children of Native Americans and white settlers of the region. The monastery at Sacred Heart was known for its strict observance, its generous hospitality, its model farm, and its beautiful formal gardens.
To the left is a photo of how Sacred Heart Mission appeared in the 1890's. To the right is a picture of our founder, Rev. Isidore Robot, O.S.B., who was named Abbot honoris causa and the first Prefect Apostolic of the Indian Territory. In many ways, he can be considered the founder of the Catholic Church in what is today Oklahoma. He is buried in the cemetery at Sacred Heart Mission near Konawa.
In addition to their monastery and schools, the Benedictines of Sacred Heart Abbey established over 40 parishes and missions throughout the Oklahoma and Indian Territories, including several present-day parishes in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa. In fact, Rome chose the first two Vicars Apostolic for Oklahoma from among this group of missionary Benedictines. In this way, one can say that the Church in Oklahoma is built upon the foundation laid by Benedictine monks.
To see more about the university click the link above.