Visiting the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT is a significant part of every CELC year. CELC is fortunate to have established the relationship with this cloistered Benedictine community when one of our colleagues and farmer, years ago discovered the rare breed cattle that exist at the Abbey – Dutch Belted dairy cattle, all black with a bright white stripe around the middle.
That initial contact with The Abbey years ago revealed so much more that this sacred place holds!
The Abbey has an extraordinary history. Founded in 1948 by Mother Benedict, an American-born woman who had studied medicine and then practiced as a doctor in France during the war. She was forced to live in hiding until the war ended, had many close calls where she was almost captured by the Gestapo. She witnessed General Patton’s Third Army liberate her village of Jouarre, France. She decided then that she wanted to do something to repay this effort.
In 1947, with her vision to start a monastery and only $20, she left France for America, and ultimately formed the Abbey of Regina Laudis of Bethlehem, CT. Her biography, Mother Benedict Duss, O.S.B., Foundress Of The Abbey Of Regina Laudis,by Antoinette Bosco, details the incredible events.
Sisters who are calledto this remarkable place also have quite notable lives. Mother Delores Hart, O.S.B., in her former life, was a budding actress, also known for being the first to kiss Elvis on stage! Her book, soon to be released entitled The Ear of The Hart, An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows describes her story.
Another person we work with in the garden is Mother Sub-Prioress Margaret Georgina Patton, who happens to be granddaughter of General Patton. Her coming to the Abbey marvelously links the original beginnings of The Abbey with its current and future being.
CELC students appreciate the strength and genuineness of the Sisters, the peacefulness of the place, being welcomed so graciously and allowed to experience aspects of the daily work, done in a way that is prayerful.
CELC tries to visit each season. This late winter /early spring visit focused on the dairy. The morning was spent meeting and greeting calves and cows, and then taking to the fields to clear brambles in preparation for spring grazing.
The afternoon was devoted to learning the process of cheese making. The Abbey is known internationally for its signature Bethlehem cheeses. Mother Noella studied and obtained her Doctorate in microbiology in France, where she focused on the study of fungus and microorganisms related to cheese making. Known as the Cheese Nun, she is devoted to preserving traditional cheese-making practices; Mother Noella can be seen in the film entitled The Cheese Nun. She also is featured in the documentary entitled Cooked.
CELCers made mozzarella, taking a role in each part of the process. This not only involved curds and whey, but also a good deal of math when considering the cheese press and surface area.
We truly are blessed to be involved with this wonderful place, with these wonderful people each year. After the work, we then experience Vespers when the community sings in Latin ancient Gregorian chant.
Peaceful, contemplative, powerful, authentic, experience-based learning. Gratitude.
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