St Benedict’s Priory is part of the Order of the Holy Cross, a Benedictine Community in the Anglican Communion. The Order was founded in 1884 in New York City by James Otis Sargent Huntington, the first professed member of the Order. Fr Huntington was active in the social justice movement of the time and his dedication to various human rights causes continues to shape the Order.
Fr Huntington was dedicated to active ministry, but he also understood the importance of prayer and contemplation in sustaining social justice efforts. In 1902 the Order moved to a newly built monastery in West Park, New York. This is still the home of Holy Cross Monastery as well as the centre of the Order of the Holy Cross.
From the USA to Grahamstown, South Africa …
Our story, the story of Saint Benedict’s Priory, starts in the 1990s. As the era of Apartheid was ending, Archbishop Desmond Tutu invited the Order to consider a work in South Africa. Bishop Tutu was seeking a prayerful presence to be part of the healing process for the post-Apartheid era. The rest is history …
1998-2019: NEAR GRAHAMSTOWN
In response to the Archbishop’s request, the Order of the Holy Cross opened a work in the Eastern Cape near Grahamstown in 1998. The work was named Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery. Some years later, the Order opened a second work in close proximity, a primary school named the Holy Cross School.
After about 20 years in the Eastern Cape, it was clear to the Order that, while the school was now flourishing, the Monastery was not. So in 2019 the Order accepted an invitation from the Volmoed Trust to relocate its monastic community from the Eastern Cape to the Volmoed Retreat Center near Hermanus in the Western Cape. Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery was closed and St Benedict’s Priory was opened.
2019- AT VOLMOED, HERMANUS
On September 1, 2019, three brothers stationed to St Benedict’s Priory began the community worship life at Volmoed and set about making a working priory.
The arrangement of St Benedict’s Priory is unusual, in that the monastic community exists alongside the larger Volmoed Community. This arrangement, while perhaps unorthodox, has proven to be life-giving for both Volmoed and St Benedict’s.
In addition, it has brought the Order’s presence in South Africa back into close contact with Archbishop Tutu. For this we are grateful. Archbishop Tutu is one of the patrons of Volmoed, and continues to be a source of inspiration.