Library Presentations and Outdoor Mass to Mark 75th Anniversary of Huntsville Monastery

Friday 01 Jul 2022

By Linda Peterson

Intermountain Catholic

HUNTSVILLE — For more than seven decades, the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity was an important part of the Huntsville community. The Trappist monks who lived at the abbey tended the property alongside nearby community farms, raising cattle, chickens, bees and hay. At its height, the monastery had 84 monks. Over time, most of them left the monastery and this life, or other activities. Eventually there were only six elderly monks left and the decision was made to close the monastery in 2017.

Although the monastery has closed and the six remaining monks have been transferred to assisted care at St. Joseph Villa in Salt Lake City, the legacy they left in this still rural community lives on. Feelings were so strong towards the monastery and its people that many members of this community wanted to mark its 75th anniversary. They will do so next week in a two-day celebration.

On July 9, Friends of the Monastery will gather at the Ogden Valley Branch of the Weber County Library in Huntsville for a two-hour event in which four people closely connected to the Monastery will share their experiences. Participants will also watch two short films. One film, the 1986 “Monastery” produced by Steve Lawrence Peterson while a student at the University of Utah, is a portrait of life at the monastery in the early 1980s. The other film, “To Close a Monastery”, is a 2017 KUER/RadioWest video about the closing of the monastery.

Peterson will be one of the presenters for the evening. He will be joined by current monastery farm owner Bill White, who is working to secure a conservation easement on the land; his sharecroppers Kenny and Jamila McFarland; and Mike O’Brien, the author of a book about spending a lot of time at the monastery during his youth working alongside the monks.

“We wanted to do something to remember the 75th anniversary of the founding of the monastery,” O’Brien said of the celebration. “A number of people close to the monastery have just started talking about things we could do to honor the monks’ legacy, so we’ve come up with a weekend of events.”

Following the events at the library, the City of Huntsville, the Huntsville Mercantile, and the two Huntsville LDS neighborhoods will host a reception at the Huntsville Mercantile, 7390 East 200 South, Huntsville (just south of the library).

“The monastery and the monks were the most amazing neighbors,” Huntsville Mayor Richard Sorensen said.

As former owners of the local grocery store, Sorensen’s family had a close relationship with the monks. The monastery provided the store with eggs and with the eggs the monks would deliver a fresh loaf or two for the family to enjoy, “so we always look forward to the monks coming down,” he said.

The monks were known to help neighboring farmers in any way they could, and that gift was reciprocated, Sorensen said. “They were really great guys and great neighbors. They had a big impact on our community for 70 years. We really miss them.

White said he had become good friends with the monks and O’Brien, and was happy to do what he could to celebrate the monastery’s legacy and the preservation of its lands.

“The monastery property has always been the crown jewel of the valley,” he said. “When the Monks decided to close I could see it was just a once in a lifetime opportunity to try and preserve this property before it was sold to a developer.”

On July 10, a mass in honor of the abbey will be celebrated outdoors at the Sainte-Florence Catholic Church. Trappist Fr. Brendan Freeman, who was the last superior of the monastery and oversaw its closing, will travel from Iowa to preach the homily. If he can, Fr. Patrick Boyle, OCSO, who has lived at the monastery for many years, will attend Mass.

Afterwards, a rosary and prayer service will be held at the monastery cemetery. After the services, those present are invited to spend time on the grounds and have a picnic (bring your own).

“People can’t go up to the monastery anymore like we could for so many years, so we’re trying to create some of that spirit again so people have a chance to go visit the place and remember monks,” O’Brien said. “They left their mark on many lives and we want them to be remembered.”

WHAT: Monastery Memories: Remembering the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Art and Agriculture

WHEN: Saturday July 9, 4-6 p.m.

WHERE: Weber County Library Ogden Valley Branch, 131 South 7400 East, Huntsville

Four people with close ties to the monastery will share their experiences and two short films about the monastery will be screened. Free and open to the public.

WHAT: Mass in honor of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity

WHEN: Sunday, 9 a.m.

WHERE: St. Florence Catholic Church, 6461 UT-39, Huntsville

Father Joshua Santos will preside. Trappist Fr. Brendan Freeman will preach the homily. At 11 a.m., a Rosary and Prayer Service will be held at the Monastery Cemetery, 1250 South 9500 East, Huntsville. Following the offices, those present are invited to bring their picnic (bring yours).

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