Hundreds have prayed with expectant faith that this monastery would come to reality. Hundreds have donated their labor. Hundreds have donated financially. The monastery is located in south Texas, close to the Mexican border. We strive to serve all cultures and languages, including the Filipino and Hispanic families within our community.
1986-1989 – We lived our monastic life, working and praying in the central part of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, living in the city of Mercedes and doing our ministry in Weslaco. Sister Luella, who had been in the diocese since 1971, was a chaplain at Knapp Hospital. Sister Fran was coordinator of RCIA at St. Pius X Church and also worked in the colonias, which are poor and underdeveloped Hispanic neighborhoods. Sister Nancy, who was also at St. Pius X, was the Director of Religious Education and retreats. Thanks to Msgr. Louis Brum for taking us on as parish workers!
1988 – We discerned that our dream monastery was to be in Starr County, the western part of the diocese and an isolated area. After praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit, we moved to Starr County in 1989 to the little ranchito of El Sauz, TX. We knew no one in Starr County but Fr. Eddie Villa, who employed Sisters Luella and Nancy in his parish and missions. We had a number of ministries there over the years: ministry to the elderly, elementary education in Roma, JTPA (helping adults get their GED), youth ministry, and retreats in Escobares/Rosita and El Sauz. In El Sauz, we leased an old house which had been empty for four years.
1990 – We purchased a building in Donna, TX, and moved it to El Sauz to remodel and use as our guesthouse, Casita Santa Maria (Little House of Mary).
1991 – Our founding monastery voted that we be granted permission to establish a dependent monastery in the Diocese of Brownsville.
1992 – Bishop Enrique San Pedro, SJ granted us the status of a dependent monastery of pontifical jurisdiction.
1993 – We were gifted with 115 acres from Texaco Oil Co. Ten CEOs from Louisiana flew in on their corporate jet to formally hand the title over to us at a celebration.
1994 – We pursued procedures for acquiring an easement to our property.
1996 – We started working full-time at the monastery, surrendering our salaried positions and living on Divine Providence, retreat donations, and income from our little gift shop of religious items.
Needing more space, we purchased a mobile home which we named Casita Tepeyac, after Tepeyac Hill in Mexico, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. The mobile home housed our first chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament, where we could pray the Liturgy of the Hours with greater devotion and reverence.
1997 – The first group of Benedictine Oblates (lay associates) started formation classes.
2000 – We were granted an easement to our “Promised Land.” On the feast of St. Joseph, we moved onto our property and the fence line was cleared. Dario Salinas and Balde Escobar began work on the making of a dugout for a pond.
2001 – Fr. Jerry Felion, a retired Crookston, MN diocesan priest, moved to El Sauz to become our chaplain. He rented a house in walking distance from our buildings. A one-mile long and 3” water line was laid and poles were erected for the electricity needed for our upcoming buildings on the “Promised Land.”
2002 – Our first owned building, Casita Santa Maria, was moved from El Sauz to the “Promised Land” to serve as a multi-purpose building for activities on site.
Work began on the monastic residence and renewal center. Five feet of clay had to be removed from under the building sites and replaced with tested caliche and compacted according to specifications.
2003 – Construction began on the monastic residence and the Monte Cassino foundation was poured.
2004 – We moved the mobile home (Casita Tepeyac) from El Sauz to the “Promised Land.” The chaplain’s house was completed. We moved into our new monastic residence. Our Sisters in Crookston, Minnesota voted that we could have our own canonical novitiate for our new members. Fr. Jerry Felion moved to his chaplain’s residence.
2005 – The Fountain of Life Adoration Chapel was completed, to be used especially for the laity of the area.
We began our formation classes in Spanish for our oblate candidates.
2006 – In June, construction began on the Monte Cassino Renewal and Conference Center for use by lay and religious groups.
2008 – The Monte Cassino Renewal Center opened. Monte Cassino is the name of the monastery near Rome, Italy, where St. Benedict lived and wrote the Rule of St. Benedict. Cassino is a town near the monastery. In the old Italian Sabine dialect, Cassino means “gathering place.” By opening this center, we fulfilled another dream of ours. Thank you, St. Benedict and our Good Shepherd!
2009 – Fr. Jerry, after being our wonderful chaplain for seven years, needed to move to an assisted living residence. He is presently at Golden Palms Retirement and Healthcare Center. He is one happy priest there, offering Mass weekly and receiving attention from family and friends. Fr. Jerry helped us to stay well grounded through his availability with us for the Sacraments.
2010 – Fr. Larry Wieseler, a diocesan priest of Crookston, Minnesota, joined us as chaplain in April. He serves as chaplain for Starr County Memorial Hospital, visits Starr County Jail inmates, offers Mass at a local nursing home, substitutes for neighboring priests in their absence, and is available for retreats held here at the monastery. Fr. Larry has spent 20 years in Venezuela and presently accepts donations for the three daycare centers that he established for the impoverished within his parish. We count him as a great blessing for the monastery!
We have a growing number of retreats and are finding it necessary to provide better housing for those who come. A fund-raising project has been started, with an end goal of raising $1.8 million. At present, we are providing $50,000 as “seed money.” Our housing project will have: thirty bedrooms with three beds to a room, a religious goods store, a large activity room, and a small office. We know that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). We thank the Good Shepherd ahead of time, for nothing shall we want!