Our Benedictine Community arrived in Northern Ireland from the Abbey of Bec in France in January 1998. Our coming to Northern Ireland is a response to a call addressed by the Church to monasteries of contemplative life to engage themselves in the mission of spiritual ecumenism, rooted in prayer, conversion of heart and charity, in those corners of the world where Christians are divided.
The Foundation Decree of the monastery states: “The aim of the Community of Holy Cross Monastery is to live the monastic life, according to the charism of our Benedictine Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto. Our particular mission is to contribute to reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in a land marked by reciprocal violence and stained by the blood of Christian brothers and sisters.”
We were already sensitive to the whole theme of Christian unity and to the Irish question in particular because of a previous engagement in Northern Ireland. From 1983 to 1987, the Abbey of Bec had a cella – a small presence of monks, living a hidden life of prayer, interceding for peace and for the unity of Christians. The then Abbot of Bec, Dom Paul Grammont, spoke of their presence “as a gesture of communion with the suffering Church in Ireland”.
In 1987, circumstances forced us to interrupt our presence in Ireland. But the hope was nonetheless retained that one day we would return to establish a permanent foundation.
When Monks returned to Northern Ireland, we were welcomed into the Diocese of Dromore and have been able to establish strong links with the wider Christian community; our outreach to the other Churches have been greatly appreciated and reciprocated.
A providential gift of land in the Rostrevor area, in the ancient monastic townland of Kilbroney, led us to undertake the building of a monastery adapted to the particular needs of the Community and able to provide guest accommodation for retreatants. Having lived temporarily in the former Retreat Centre of the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, we moved into our new home for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2004.