“A completely exceptional situation”

Benedictines in discussion © Bertram Bolkow (KNA)

A return to normality, that’s how Abbot Theodor Hausmann sees the declining number of monks. About 50 Benedictine abbots and priors are currently meeting in the monastery of Nutschau. They hope for support from the communities.

In light of the continuing decline in religious brothers, Benedictine monks in German-speaking countries are hoping for broader intellectual and spiritual support from church communities. "We cannot live from ourselves, but we also live from being supported," said Theodor Hausmann OSB, chairman of the Salzburg Abbots’ Conference, to the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Thursday.

Hausmann made his comments on the fringes of the Easter meeting of the body, at which some 50 abbots and priors from German-speaking countries are meeting until Friday in the monastery of Nutschau near Lubeck. The committee represents 60 Benedictine monasteries for men.

"Not all sites can be kept"

Hausmann, who is also abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Stephen in Augsburg, expects the number of monasteries to decline. The friars are aware that they "will not be able to keep all the communities and sites," he said. "This is a bitter experience especially for the sisters and brothers on the ground, who are rooted to every place."

In Bavaria alone there are 14 monasteries, as well as in the whole of Austria. Although "no serious figures" can be given at present, "we will not be able to maintain this density in this way," Hausmann made clear. However, the large number of monasteries is also a characteristic of the past 100 years. "It has been a completely exceptional situation in the long history of the order," the abbot explained.

Entry in later years of life

The image of those people who are interested in a life in the monastery has also changed significantly. They no longer enter communities in their early 20s but in later years of life, he said. "People come with quite colorful life histories, but no less seriously seeking than before, perhaps even increased," Hausmann said.

A central theme of the meeting in Nutschau was the "ability to speak in faith" and the question of how religious can formulate the Christian message so that it is understood and accepted by people. Although there are no recipes for this, said Hausmann.

But the brothers had developed a "new sense" of rethinking linguistic self-evident truths and not just talking, but "listening first". The number of Benedictine monks in the German-speaking world is less than 1000.

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