The Olivetan Benedictines are planning to leave Cockfosters Parish of Christ the King, in north London, it was announced on Sunday.
Bishop John Arnold visited the parish to break the news. He said in a statement: “the Abbot General of the Olivetans, Don Diego, with his Council, has determined that, regrettably, there are no additional monks available to send to Cockfosters, to assist in the parish. They further determined that Cockfosters does not at this time form a viable monastic community, being only two resident monks. Don Diego has therefore decided that the Parish here at Cockfosters must be placed under the direct care of the Diocese, and the monks withdrawn.”
Bishop John said that no dates were fixed but it was likely that Dom Bernard Akoeso and Dom Bernard de Smet would leave during the summer. He explained that no decision has been made yet about the appointment of a new Parish Priest, or the future of the monastery and other premises.
Bishop John said: “Archbishop Vincent and the Archbishop’s Council thought it right that I come to give you this news at the earliest possible opportunity. We will, of course, keep you informed about further decisions.
“I am sure that such news will be very unwelcome to many. The Olivetan Benedictines have served you well for many years and this is a vibrant community.
“There will be other occasions to reflect on and evaluate the history of this parish and the presence of the monks, and to give thanks. For the present, let us remember that the coming months will be a time of considerable change for all, and change is never easy. It will be a time of particular change for Dom Bernard de Smet and Dom Bernard Akoeso. Between them they have shouldered the very considerable demands of a parish where there was, until quite recently, a community of several monks who assisted both at the liturgy and in parish duties. Dom Bernard Akoeso has borne this alone in recent months as Dom Bernard de Smet’s energies have declined.
“Let us pray in these coming months for a smooth transition, in thanksgiving for all that the Olivetans have done and with hope and determination that that legacy will continue to bear fruit in the future.”
No one from the parish was available to comment this evening. Founded in 1936, Cockfosters Parish of Christ the King is situated in Enfield Deanery. The church was built in 1940.
The Olivetans are a monastic order formally recognised in 1344. They have formed the Olivetan Congregation within the Benedictine Confederation since 1960.
The parish of Cockfosters, on the fringes of north London at the far end of the Piccadilly Line, has from the very beginning been well-known for the forward-looking nature of its liturgies. It was staffed predominantly by Dutch monks, who were not afraid to make use of the full potential provided by the Missal of Paul VI. Their folk Masses were famous in the 1970s, and people came from all over London to take part in them. Also notorious were the wooden chairs in the plain concrete church, with their dramatically sloping backs that provided an unnervingly uncomfortable posture.
But the history of these Benedictines as liturgical pioneers goes back much further than 1969. This is the parish where they celebrated a true Dialogue Mass in the years before the Second World War, long before any other English parish (others started in the late-1950s).
The monastery also at one time included a community of Olivetan Benedictine sisters, who moved to Turvey Abbey in 1981: http://www.turveyabbey.org.uk/
The termination of the link with the Olivetans is the end of an era.
H/T to Independent Catholic News: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=19742