On Saturday, April 9, 2011, six EEA members met at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA for a tour of the facility. The Monastery is a Roman Catholic contemplative religious community belonging to the worldwide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) - more commonly known as Trappists. This monastery is the first native-born Trappist foundation in the United States of America and the first daughter-house of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, USA. Founded in 1944, they are currently a community of 40 monks spanning several generations, who live, work and pray at the Abbey.
We were greeted by the Abbott, Father Francis Michael Stiteler, and whisked away to the office of Joe Whitaker, steward of Honey Creek Woodlands (HCW), Georgia's only natural burial ground which is owned and operated by the Monastery. Honey Creek Woodlands is a natural area that is part of an 8000-acre conservation effort known as the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area along the South River. We were amazed to find out that HCW is one of only about 10 operating "green cemeteries" in the United States!
Father Francis Michael then walked us through the quiet halls of the Monastery, "Georgia's Most Remarkable Concrete Building" according to The Georgia Contractor Magazine and showed us some of the treasures within - an incredible collection of arrowheads collected on the property and the inner courtyard gardens were favorites! We then drove to a special place on the grounds to enjoy a hillside covered with Atamasco Lilies - simply exquisite!
Our 3-hour tour was over but of course, we all had to stop by the Abby Store and Bonsai Center to make a few purchases before we headed home.
We look forward to returning for the grand opening of the Monastic Heritage Center in late May! To learn more about the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, visit www.trappist.net
Written by EEA Member, Susan Meyers