A new Benedictine monastery was inaugurated in rural Texas on Saturday to be a “special presence” for the Vietnamese community and to proclaim hope to all.
The monastery is called Thien Tam, Vietnamese for “Heavenly Heart.” It is located on a former ostrich ranch of 300 acres, whose land was purchased at a cost of $1 million.
The new monastic community is an offshoot of New Mexico’s Christ in the Desert Monastery.
At the opening ceremony Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell spoke to the several hundred Catholics gathered under a big white tent. Most were Vietnamese-Americans from the Dallas area, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Bishop Farrell said the monks’ long days of praying and honoring God help those who do not have as much time. He said the monks can serve as role models.
"The rule of St. Benedict is also often spoken of as the virtue of moderation in our world, a world that enjoys excesses in every shape and form," Bishop Farrell said.
The monastery's new abbot, Fr. Mayeul Tran Van Thu, also read a thank you letter at the inauguration ceremony.
“We experience God’s grace and blessings as we attempt to start a new monastic house,” he said. “We are grateful to you, Your Excellency, for allowing us to open a new Benedictine house in your Diocese of Dallas. Your warm initial welcome made us feel right at home.”
“We hope to be a special presence for the Vietnamese community and also a place of prayer and hospitality for the priests and religious and for the people who come here,” he added.
The abbot explained that the goal of the monastic life is “searching for God,” quoting St. Benedict’s comment “Let us prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”
He also announced that the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been chosen as Thien Tam’s patronal feast.
The abbot expressed “deep gratitude” to Abbot Philip from Christ in the Desert Monastery, who was present at the inauguration. He also thanked all those who helped found the monastery.
The monks will wake before sunrise each morning and have six or seven prayer sessions each day. They hope to grow to 20 to 40 monks eventually and become self-sufficient. Initially, they plan to create a retreat which area Catholics could pay to attend.
"Right now, we do manual labor, mostly cleaning, and we are preparing a place on which to go garden," one of the monks, Fr. Dominic Hanh, told the Dallas Morning News. The 40-year-old was a monk when he emigrated from Vietnam to New Mexico with his parents in 1991.
He added that monastic life was good because he could “dedicate myself to God for life.”
Dom Bruno Corrado Marin, O.S.B., the Abbot President of the Subiaco Congregation, sent a message to the monastery for its opening. Noting its location in the “noble land of Texas” and the good will animating the Vietnamese community, he expressed “best wishes of fraternal closeness strengthened by prayer.”
He asked the Virgin Mary, “Queen of the monks” and Sts. Benedict and Scholastica to pray for the preparations of the monks so that they “prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”
The Abbot President prayed that the monks become “a presence of trust and a proclamation of hope to all people of our time.”