South East Wales

Benedictine monk tradition revived in Abergavenny

Amy Pope, Sam Paterson, and Father Mark Soady Image copyright Diocese of Monmouth
Image caption Amy Pope, Sam Paterson and Father Mark Soady are reviving a Benedictine tradition

A new breed of modern-day monks is reviving a 1,000-year-old tradition by setting up a Church in Wales "monastery" in a Monmouthshire town.

Amy Pope and Sam Paterson are the first recruits to the Holywell monastic community on an estate in Abergavenny.

Father Mark Soady, vicar of St Mary's Priory Church, will be their prior, leading outreach work in the town.

He said there had been "amazement" that young people were prepared to give up their lives to carry out good works.

Street ministry

The two recruits will initially spend a year living in a house on the estate being supported by the church while they take part in daily services and work with local people.

By day they will arrange activities such as bingo for pensioners, and by night they will take to the streets to talk to young people hanging out in groups.

Father Mark said the inspiration for a modern-day monastic order came from the history of St Mary's, which is on the site of a Benedictine priory which stood from 1087 until 1537 when the monasteries were dissolved.

"When I arrived here two and a half years ago I looked at ways that the Benedictine Rule of Life could pervade the life of the parish on a day-to-day basis," he said.

"My colleagues and I came up with the idea of a new monastic community in the spirit of St Benedict."

Image copyright Philip Halling
Image caption A Benedictine priory stood for 450 years on the site of St Mary's Priory Church

Father Mark added: "Abergavenny is a pretty rich town but we have some of the poorest wards in Monmouthshire.

"This juxtaposition of wealth and poverty makes the social divisions more marked.

"We're hoping our work will reduce these divisions."

Unlike the monks of old, the young recruits will not be expected to join the monastic order long-term, but will be given the opportunity to sign up for a second year or seek similar duties elsewhere.

Mr Paterson, 21, is from the Abergavenny area, while Ms Pope, 23, from Watford, Hertfordshire, came to south Wales after answering an advert in the Church Times.

Ms Pope said the role was "a great honour and privilege".

"It's been really exciting so far - Sam and I are just finding our feet," she said.

"We've got involved in a drop-in centre for young people, a parent-and-toddler group and we're hoping to do some work with elderly people.

"I'm hoping that if it all goes well I'll be part of the Holywell community for two years and then go onto ordination training - I'd like to work in mental health."

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