Monasteries have been built on hilltops and mountain peaks for generations. The elevation offers solitude—a requirement for those who wish to concentrate on prayer. Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana is a glorious example of such a haven, as Father Godfrey Mullen, OSB affirms, “…as the earth reaches up to heaven, we are reminded that this is a place where we seek God.” Over seventy monks live in harmony at the monastery, adhering to The Rule of Saint Benedict and devoting themselves to the practices of prayer and work. The entire monastic community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, including the monks, faculty, staff, and volunteers, maintain a focus of humility, kindness, and care in their endeavors. Through this focus, the monastery offers a variety of educational and retreat programs as well several brands that uniquely serve to create healthier, stronger communities in the monastery and surrounding areas. In specific, Abbey Caskets, Care Notes, and Peanut Brother enable the monastery to creatively express their monastic values, uplift local communities, and support the efforts of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.
Nearly two centuries ago, a pair of monks made the pilgrimage from Einsiedeln, Switzerland to the shores of the United States. The travelers came to southern Indiana in response to a request from Father Joseph Kundeck, a pioneering spiritual figure in the region on a mission to spread the word of God. Father Kundeck observed the growing German-speaking Catholic population in the area and the need for trained priests to serve them. Jennifer Keller, Operations Manager (Retail Division) recounts, “The rolling hills of southern Indiana reminded the monks of their Swiss home, so they purchased some farmland and established a small priory.” Saint Meinrad Abbey rose to offer a place of prayer and religious education. In 1954, the monastery was elevated to the status of Archabbey by Pope Pius XII. Over the years, Saint Meinrad has evolved, but the focus of prayer has remained the same.
Upon taking their vows, monks take residency with their brothers at the monastery. Day in and day out, these men deepen an intimacy that arises from sharing meals, praying, and working with one another. When a fellow brother passes away at Saint Meinrad, they are laid to rest in a hand-crafted casket—each made to resemble those from original design plans brought from Switzerland in the 1850s. After years of steady interest from the general public, the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey enlisted the support of local craftsmen to aid in the production of caskets to sell. The brand, known as Abbey Caskets, is unique for their use of native woods, simple monastic design, and remarkable craftsmanship. Proceeds from Abbey Caskets directly support the prayer and works of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Moreover, each time a casket is purchased from Abbey Caskets, the monks say a special prayer for the deceased and their loved ones.
Many lean on their faith in difficult times. Owing to their vow of compassion, the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey have developed a resource to provide those suffering with guidance, support, and inspiration in the form of petite, powerful booklets on a variety of challenging topics. Under the umbrella of CareNotes, over one hundred million booklets have been distributed worldwide, commonly featured in healthcare establishments, churches, and workplaces. The strength and health of a community is often evaluated through economic terms, but it cannot be understated the positive impact CareNotes have had on the emotional well-being of its recipients, especially those close to the monastery.
Simplicity often provides the fertile ground for those who come to Saint Meinrad Archabbey to grow and strengthen their relationship with God. Simplicity also led a trio of monks to the kitchen of the monastery to develop a healthier option to satisfy their peanut butter cravings. Once perfected—as deemed by fellow brethren—Peanut Brother was born and made available to those at the monastery and the public. “Peanut Brother is a good example of a monastic work,” claims Archabbot Kurt Stasiak. “It’s a very simple project that almost every monk can do. It doesn’t take a specialized degree or training and the monks come together as a team to do the work. It also gives the monks an avenue to share the story of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.” Much like Abbey Caskets and CareNotes, proceeds from Peanut Brother support the prayer and work of the monks. Various flavors of Peanut Brother can be purchased in-person and online through the Saint Meinrad Archabbey giftshop.
The campus of Saint Meinrad Archabbey is filled with those who are driven by a sense of purpose and fulfillment. “The most rewarding aspect of our job is knowing the work we are doing is supporting a greater good,” says Jennifer Keller, “the feeling of fulfillment you have while working under the Saint Meinrad Archabbey umbrella is very special—whether you’re handcrafting an Abbey Casket, selling Saint Meinrad wares in the gift shop, or packaging a box of CareNotes for a customer:” In their efforts to support their vision, the monastic community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey has made a point to uplift their neighbors, support fellow local business, and invest in their communities.