A Slice of the Pie: Many hands – Make light work at Mount Angel Abbey

February 2023 Posted in Community, Opinion / Columnists

Melissa Wagoner – A Slice of the Pie

Walking along the path that winds through the grounds of Mount Angel Abbey one day, Father Ephrem Martinez noticed a family enjoying a picnic under the trees and thought how much more welcoming the space could be if the grounds – much of which were overgrown with blackberries – were cleaned up.

“Everybody tries to keep their house nice for their guests. It’s the same,” Father Ephrem – a resident at the abbey for the past seven years – said. “One of the most important values for the Benedictine Monks is hospitality,” he added.

Inspired, Father Ephrem contemplated how he could best obtain volunteers for the job because, due to a drop in the number of people currently living and working at the abbey, landscaping has not been a priority.

“It’s hard to find the people…” Father Ephrem said.

So he looked beyond the abbey.

“Sometimes I help in the Parish on Sundays with the Spanish Mass,” he said. In early January he invited all interested parishioners to attend a work party.

“I didn’t know if anyone would show up,” he said. “But more than 30 people showed up.”

Florentino De Jesus carries limbs to chipper.     Cathy Cheney

Florentino De Jesus carries limbs to chipper. Cathy Cheney

Men, women and children came ready to work, providing three hours of labor and even bringing lunch.

“They mentioned in the past they used to volunteer,” Father Ephrem said, describing the reason he believes so many people answered the call. 

“They have a huge sense of belonging to this place. There is a huge sense of community.”

And that extends to the abbey.

“This is a monastery, but completely open for everyone,” Father Ephrem pointed out. “It’s common to see people out walking.”

Which is why he hopes to continue revitalizing the landscaping across much of the abbey grounds.

“The idea is to make a nice place… one more spot for the community,” he said, listing the area near the abbey’s guest house and the main parking area as two more spots in need of attention.

“That will take more time because we need a budget,” he said.

It will also require heavy equipment and many more volunteers. But he is hopeful that, in time, it will be possible.

“It is hard work,” he said. “But when you see the results you say, that was worth it.”

Volunteers for future Mount Angel Abbey work parties should contact Brother Steven Grave at 503-400-1266.

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