Local Religious life

Little Brothers get a new home

On the grounds of Light of Mary, Mother of God monastery is a grotto built from stones unearthed during construction. The grotto interior, painted by the Community of the Lamb, is an icon depicting the Nativity of Our Lord. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There’s a good chance St. Benedict’s ears were burning this past weekend.

His name was often mentioned as Light of Mary, Mother of God monastery was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on Nov. 3.

The simple structure in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, is the new home of the Little Brothers of the Community of the Lamb.

It stands at the intersection of Homer and Boeke streets, where St. Benedict Grade School once stood.

Just up the street on Boeke is the Little Sisters’ monastery, Lumen Christi, consecrated in 2013 on the former site of St. Benedict Church.

Before the celebration, the community’s foundress, Little Sister Marie, thanked Abbot James Albers of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, who attended the dedication, for “sowing the seeds of faith so well.”

The day of the event was cool and so a tent was erected beside the monastery where friends, neighbors and family could attend the Mass.

During the blessing of the monastery, the archbishop prayed that the light of Christ would shine there through fraternal love.

“May the Little Brothers be of one heart and soul,” he said. “May they be witnesses of the love that is stronger than hatred and of the life that is victorious over death.

“At the example of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis, may they live as pilgrims in this little monastery, in the simplicity of evangelical poverty.

“May they recognize Christ in whomever knocks on the door, welcoming him as their Lord.”

He entrusted the monastery to the Virgin Mary, and prayed that through her intercession, it would truly be the light of Mary.

A unique feature of the new monastery is a grotto featuring an icon of Mary, mother of God, built by the community.

As the archbishop blessed the grotto, he said, “Send the grace of your most Holy Spirit upon this icon of the nativity of the Lord, that your servants have made in [Mary’s] honor and memory.”

Before the Mass began, Little Brother Christophe took a moment to thank all who had donated money and service to make the monastery a reality.

He also thanked those who “opened themselves up to the building code of the Community of the Lamb — which is sometimes surprising.”

Indeed, tradition dictates that the buildings of this community be low to the ground and as simple as possible.

Their beauty is in their minimalist construction with unfinished wood and clean lines decorated in simple icons.

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann thanked those in attendance, particularly Bishop James Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; Abbot James; Abbot Benedict Neenan of Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri; and Father Oswaldo Sandoval, pastor of All Saints Church in Kansas City, Kansas.

“Some days our gratitude is magnified,” he said. “Today is such a day.”

Referring to the “twin monasteries,” the archbishop acknowledged the contribution of Little Brother Christophe, who was instrumental in designing both.

He thanked the architects, contractors and benefactors, the countless volunteers who gave energy and talent to assist the Little Brothers in minimizing the cost of construction, and Father Sandoval and the parishioners of All Saints.

“Most of all,” he said, “we give thanks for all the Little Brothers and Sisters and all their lay members who gave their blood, sweat and tears, laboring tirelessly.

“Thank you all for giving us cause to celebrate and for giving me something beautiful to bless.”

At the end of the Mass, Little Sister Marie, visiting from the motherhouse in France, spoke briefly about the moment she arrived at the monastery of the Little Sisters and only had to turn her head to see its twin monastery down the hill.

She recalled the words of Pope Benedict.

“A monastery is not only the hidden prayer of the monks,” she quoted. “Monasteries are also for the people of God.

“They are made to make visible faith as strength of life.”

Little Sister Marie said the gift she wishes everyone to receive from these twin monasteries is strength of life through faith.

“For the world needs it so much,” she said.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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