By Barb Arland-Fye
PEOSTA — Take a step back in antiquity, to a Trappist monastery set amid the verdant hills just outside of Dubuque. Forest and farmland encircle New Melleray Abbey where the monks who live here worship God praying and chanting, farming and operating a successful casket-making business. At this place, in this secluded setting, you are welcome to step out of your routine and make a personal retreat.
Join the monks for the chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day and for daily Mass, if you choose. Visitors stay in the guest facilities at the front of the abbey and may walk the grounds in front.
In the spirit of Vatican II, the monks have found a way to invite people to “participate in our life without compromising our life,” says Father Jonah Wharff, OCSO, guest master of New Melleray Abbey’s retreat programs and guest facilities.
The guesthouse has 22 rooms; 18 are single rooms and four are double. Each room has a private bathroom and shower. Linens and towels are provided. A large library with spiritual reading materials is available and a small chapel for private prayer. Three meals are served each day and are included in the suggested donation of $70 per day, Fr. Wharff says. The guesthouse isn’t a moneymaking enterprise. “We’re here more for the spiritual nurturance of people.”
Most of the guests are married individuals making a retreat without their spouses, but some come with their spouses and some with their children. All are welcome, Fr. Wharff says. Most guests choose to attend alone to spend private time in prayer, reading and reflection. “They come for a quiet environment that is conducive for mindfulness of God.”
New Melleray Abbey also offers themed retreats; annual offerings are a weekend-long retreat during Lent and Advent and a weeklong contemplative living retreat. On the weekend of Aug. 20 the abbey is offering a retreat on the Beatitudes. Another weekend retreat, on Psalm 73, begins Oct. 29. This year’s contemplative living week retreat begins Oct. 11.
The abbey is open year-round except for two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s and the first four days of Holy Week.
New Melleray also offers a separate, monastic experience for men, giving them the opportunity to participate with a contemplative monastic group and see what sort of effect that has in the Church, Wharff says. “Our charism is to pray and work. So they participate in that. The atmosphere they meet with is one that really reflects that. It’s something that can only be experienced; you can’t describe it.”