Blue Cloud Abbey in SD closing as members age

Posted by on Jun 12, 2012 | No Comments

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Blue Cloud Abbey, a monastery and retreat center in northeast South Dakota, announced Monday it will close after more than six decades because its members are aging and new ones are not joining.

The 14 Benedictine monks who are left voted in late May to close the monastery in Marvin, which has also served as a retreat center for groups and individuals. A farewell gathering is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Abbot Denis Quinkert, in a letter posted on the monastery’s website Monday, said three monks are in their nineties, two are in their eighties, seven are in their seventies, one is in his fifties and one is in his forties.

“If we were suddenly to get an influx of candidates, it would take years before they would be full-fledged monks,” Quinkert said.

No public liturgies will occur after Aug. 5, and all scheduled retreats will be canceled.

Quinkert said the monks’ vote was confirmed by the council of the abbot president of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation. The property, which is owned by Blue Cloud Abbey, will be sold.

“I don’t know how quickly we’ll find a buyer in this part of the country,” Quinkert said Monday.

Bishop Paul Swain of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls said the news comes with sadness and a sense of loss, but also profound gratitude.

“Blue Cloud Abbey has been a welcoming and safe haven for many searching for meaning and seeking their spiritual way,” Swain said in a statement. “Countless priest retreats, marriage encounters, private retreats and spiritual counseling have taken place there, quietly, but with profound results.”

Although prayer is the most important aspect of Benedictine monastic life, the abbey says it’s a life of balance and variety with prayer, reading, work and recreation. Monks have their own private rooms but gather several times daily for meals, jobs, services and prayer.

Quinkert said the closure does not mean Blue Cloud has been a failure.

“Blue Cloud has been a wonderful community, and the monks have been very effective in many areas for the past 62 years,” he said.

The center’s task over the next few months will be to help each Blue Cloud monk settle into another monastery of his choice, Quinkert said.