(St. Joseph News-Press) CONCEPTION, Mo. — The Benedictine monastery located in the rolling hills of Northwest Missouri was founded in 1873 by the Rev. Frowin Conrad as a community for “ora et Labora,” a Latin phrase meaning prayer and work.
The Rev. Conrad became the first abbot in 1881 and remained as the superior until his death in 1923.
Abbot Gregory Polan was elected the ninth abbot in November 1996.
Conception Abbey, which includes a community of about 65 brothers, has its motherhouse at Engelberg Abbey near Lucerne, Switzerland. The abbey was founded in the 12th century.
The spiritual center of Conception Abbey is the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. A basilica is considered to be significant in the development of the Roman Catholic Church in the area where it is built, and Pope Pius XII officially bestowed the title basilica on the abbey’s church in 1941.
Twice each day, the monks gather as a community in the basilica to praise God before work, said Dan Madden, a spokesman for the abbey.
“The abbey maintains a seminary dedicated to the formation of men who wish to discern if they are called to the priesthood,” Mr. Madden said.
This includes a building called St. Scholastica House, which each year houses a group of Vietnamese seminary students, Mr. Madden said.
“Benedictine monasteries are supposed to be places of welcome,” Abbot Polan said. “For 1,500 years, Benedictine monks have been welcoming visitors.”
As part of the abbey’s efforts to minister to the spiritual needs of the public, they maintain and operate a center for prayer and ministry. It’s designed to allow groups or individuals time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Mr. Madden said.
The monks gather to pray before and after the noon meal each day.
During the abbey’s 129 years, it has greeted anyone who knocked at its door as though the visitors were Christ himself, Abbot Polan said.
“I can’t imagine that changing,” the abbot said.
As part of its work, the abbey operates a program known as the Printery House.
The house serves as the retail, wholesale and institutional outlet for Christian greeting cards and stationery, Mr. Madden said.
After each work day, the monks return to their basilica for two more periods of prayer before ending their day.
June 11, 2002
Throughout its history, abbey a place of welcome
By BURTON TAYLOR
St. Joseph News-Press