Poor Souls Appeal
BENEDICTINE MONASTERY - CUBA
The Gospel Acclamation of the Second Mass for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) on November 2nd is taken from the discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus as reported in John’s Gospel. This promise empowered missionaries throughout the ages, and still does today, to bring the Good News to those who have not yet heard the message or to renew the hope of eternal life in the hearts of believers.
I have no doubt that this verse also inspired Pope John Paul II during his many pastoral visits around the world, including the State Visit to Cuba in 1998. Pope John Paul II has become a saint. Cuba is perhaps one of the most unlikely places in the world where his sainthood is felt even to this day. During this visit the late Fidel Castro made him a promise that he would allow the foundation of a Benedictine monastery. At the invitation of Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, the Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien took up this challenge and made a foundation in 2008.
An international group of monks from three different countries, Germany, Togo, and the Philippines left their home monasteries and dared to make a new start. It was a hard beginning. Cuba is suffering from economic hardship. Nearly everything has to be imported.
Yet the Cuban government kept the promise. The Benedictines were given a parcel of land away from the city for future development and temporary accommodation in an empty monastery of Carmelite Sisters in Havana. They slowly settled and made friends everywhere. President Raul Castro promised that he will make the monastery happen.
Young people have a difficult life in Cuba. Learning about the new monastery, they come for visits. They get to know the monks who in turn offer spiritual direction, the celebration of the sacraments, and who are also available for counseling. This is the very motive of our foundation as Missionary Benedictines: to spread hope among the people.
It did not take long for young men to ask to join the community. One native Cuban, Br. Sebastian, already made his temporary vows in 2015. Three more indigenous men were received as postulants. Further support came from our monasteries in South Korea and the Philippines. Presently, there are four priest monks in the community coming from Agbang, Togo (Fr. Jacques), two from Digos, the Philippines (Fr. Philip and Fr. Joseph) and from Waegwan, South Korea (Fr. Aaron).
The biggest challenge is the construction of a permanent monastery and additional farm buildings. The community has barely enough income for their daily needs. They depend on subsidies from the monasteries of the Congregation and from people of good will. Economic stability is one goal which will give the monks the means of reaching out to others. In addition, we urgently need financial support so that permanent buildings can be constructed.
The foundation of a monastery in Cuba is really an adventure. Since 2008 there have been several changes within the community. It is amazing that four confreres from our monasteries in Togo, South Korea and the Philippines said yes to the challenge of bringing the Benedictine charism to Cuba. They are ready to accept the challenges ahead, especially the lack of comfort and the reality of hard work. These confreres are inspired by Jesus’ words stated at the beginning of this lengthy letter: bringing hope and the assurance of eternal life.
Please help our pioneer monks in Cuba to fulfill the dream of implanting Benedictine monasticism with your prayerful support.
I have no doubt that you notice and understand the urgency for financial support so that a monastery and farm buildings can be erected. All donations earmarked for Cuba will be sent via the secure channels of the Congregation Mission Office.
Thank you for your anticipated help. Together we can make a difference.
During the month of November, we will again celebrate the daily Eucharist for our departed loved ones, especially for family members of our friends and benefactors. God knows their names. However, I invite you to submit the names of those whom you wish to have included in daily Holy Mass and prayer. Your loved ones, I am sure, will bless you from eternity.
Bro. Tobias, OSB