Catholic News, Trinidad, Sunday November 15, 2015
The Benedictine Abbot President of the Congregation of the Annunciation was in Trinidad recently for his quadrennial “canonical visit” to the monastery of Mt St Benedict.
Abbot President Ansgar Schmidt OSB, a German, was accompanied by Fr James McMahon OSB from Glenstal Abbey, Ireland.
During their November 3–8 visitation, they met with the local monastic community and each monk individually. Abbot John Pereira OSB told the Catholic News via e-mail that the leaders examined all aspects of the monastery, putting forward their observations and recommendations during discussions with him and the wider monastic community.
Abbot Pereira explained that each Benedictine community belonged to the Benedictine Confederation which had several branches known as congregations. The monastery of Mt St Benedict belonged to the Congregation of the Annunciation, he said, which “is quite diverse and very widespread. There are monasteries in India, Africa, Europe, Latin America, United States and the Caribbean”.
He added: “Benedictines have never had a centralised structure as the other Orders such as the Dominicans and the Franciscans. There is no one Superior General who has absolute authority over all the Benedictine monasteries in the world.”
He explained that while Benedictine abbeys were “fiercely independent, and determine their own brand of monastic life from community to community, there are certain basic common references, such as the Rule of St Benedict and the Holy Scriptures”.
Benedictine congregations are loosely linked to each other through the Benedictine Confederation which has as its moral and spiritual leader the Abbot Primate, who resides in Rome.
“Each monastery claims its own autonomy to determine the manner in which the Rule of St Benedict takes root in the locality in which it finds itself,” Abbot Pereira added, but “to ensure some level of accountability and to ensure that the basic parameters of monastic life are adhered to, the congregations each have their own constitutions”.
He said each congregation therefore had an Abbot President whose responsibility it was to ensure that the various Benedictine communities within the congregation adhered to sound monastic principles. The Constitution of the Congregation of the Annunciation provideS for a canonical visitation to be made by the Abbot President every four years.