Brigid of Kildare was a 5th century Irish monastic foundress who is credited with having brought Christian religious life to women in Ireland. She established numerous monasteries, the most famous of which was the community at Kildare, Ireland (a “double” house of women and men). The saint was highly influential with monastic, ecclesiastic, and civic leaders of her day. Although she was roughly contemporary with Saint Benedict her era predated, by several centuries, the advent of Benedictine monasticism in Ireland. Brigid was renowned for her good spirit and admirable character, hospitality, concern for the poor, joy and perseverance, among other virtues.
Who was Saint Benedict of Nursia? Saint Benedict was born in 480 A.D. about 70 miles from Rome. Considered the father of Western monasticism, he felt a call early in life to live a life devoted to God and settled in the remote are of Subaico where he lived in a cave for three years under the direction of hermit. At age 31 he began founding monasteries, the most renowned being the monastery at Monte Cassino where he wrote his rule, “The Rule of Saint Benedict”. This rule has become the norm for most Western Monastic communities and is still practiced by Benedictines to this day. He died in 547 at Monte Cassino.
Beginnings of Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery is heir to a quiet initiative carried out in the 1980’s by The Upper Room, an agency of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), to explore monasticism from an ecumenical context. This vision eventually led to the establishment of a Methodist-Benedictine monastery in 1999 by its founder Mary Ewing Stamps. The original monastery was intent on bringing together the resonance between St. Benedict’s Rule (emphasizing prayer, hospitality, simplicity, and obedience) and the Methodist spiritual disciplines advocated by John Wesley some 1200 years later (emphasizing regular prayer, service, moderation, and mutual accountability).
It began in a house rented on the property of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. While living in this house Mary completed her novitiate monastic training, professing her life-long monastic vows on February 1, 2001, on the Feast of Saint Brigid. In addition to members of Saint John’s Abbey, Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and local United Methodist congregations, representatives from the Upper Room in Nashville and the Minnesota Annual Conference were present for this historic occasion. Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery was originally envisioned as a community of vowed monastic women but over time it became apparent that the Holy Spirit had another vision for the monastery. In 2003 the Oblate relationship was established with the intention that these persons would undergo a period of novitiate in which they would engage in training and prayer before becoming full members of the community. In 2004, with our growing number of Oblate relationships in full force, our founder left the rented house on the ground of St. John’s Abbey and purchased a small house in St. Joseph’s, Minnesota. At this time the monastery became a dispersed community, with members living across the United States in their own homes, and with no central brick and mortar location, although St. Joseph’s, Minnesota continues to have an important sense of place for the entire community. The novitiate structure and process of becoming an Oblate has changed over the years but is still an integral part of the community. We are now a diverse, ecumenical community of women and men living in dispersed community throughout the United States. In 2010 we affirmed a covenant that put into writing the practices we strive to live out as a Benedictine monastic community. This covenant continues to be an important guiding document for our community members. A Monastery Council was created in early 2015 to help give oversight to the community. Made up of four members of the community, Amma Mary, and a companion to the community from Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, the Council meets regularly to prayerfully listen and guide the community.
In 2019 our community was blessed to have six of our Oblates make full monastic profession to the monastery. This important step was made after two years of listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit--first by our monastery Council and then by those persons who felt a personal call to this way of service in Saint Brigid's. As with every vocation from God, there is an element of mystery regarding the fullness of its meaning. We continue to watch and wait for the ways in which this path will unfold. For now, our professed members understand their commitment to be a deepening of relationship with the Covenant as not only an aspirational guideline but as a regulatory document for participation in community life.