The monks at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville may be preparing to leave, but evidence of their presence will remain. In honor of a $400,000 donation the monks made to the Lantern House homeless shelter, they now are honored with a 7 1/2-by-28 1/2-foot sign above the serving area in the Ogden shelter’s cafeteria.The monastery is closing because fewer people are interested in becoming monks these days, said former abbot, The Rev. Casimir Bernas. Aging and dwindling populations in monasteries are forcing some of them to close. A monastery of nuns in South Ogden, St. Benedict Monastery, closed in 2012.The Rev. Brendan Freeman, who now is the monastery’s abbot, and Bernas attended a free lunch for shelter clients Monday to see the sign and to share in the environment created by the new cafeteria.
“We’re happy to help,” said Freeman. “We’re happy we have the means to do it.” There are a tremendous number of homeless people, Freeman said. “You never know what’s going on in their lives.” Freeman and Bernas said the large donation was not from the sale of the monastery. Funds from the sale of the monastery are being dispersed to other monasteries around the world and to other causes, Bernas said. The donated funds came from profits from 70 years of selling honey and bread at the monastery, and from running a cattle ranch and a dairy there. “This was from our blood, sweat and tears,” Freeman said. “These men earned money on the farm and never spent it on themselves.”
The abbey is one of the more unusual ones in the Trappist family. It was constructed from quonset huts, as the abbey’s history describes:
In the years immediately following World War II, the number of monks at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky had dramatically increased. In 1947, at the invitation of Bishop Duane G. Hunt of the Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City, the abbot of Gethsemani decided to send a group of monks to establish a new monastery in Utah. A generous gift enabled Gethsemani Abbey to purchase 1640 acres of land with water rights several miles east of Huntsville for the sum of $100,000 (a considerable amount at the time). On July 7th, 1947, thirty-four monks boarded a train in New Haven, Kentucky and made their way to Ogden, Utah. On July 10th, 1947 they reached their newly-purchased ranch and established the newest American Trappist monastery, named for Our Lady of the Holy Trinity. For over a year the founding monks lived in primitive war-surplus army barracks during the construction of their Quonset-hut monastery, itself intended to be only temporary until a permanent building could be built. More than fifty years later, this temporary monastery complex is still in use.