Our First Twenty-Five Years!

Hundreds have prayed with expectant faith that this monastery would come to reality. Hundreds have donated work. 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, worked and prayed in the central part of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, living in the city of Mercedes and doing our ministry in Weslaco. Sister Luella was a hospital chaplain at Knapp Hospital (she had been in the diocese since 1971). Sister Fran was coordinator of RCIA at St. Pius X Church and also worked in the colonias, or poor Hispanic neighborhoods. Sister Nancy was the Director of Religious Education and retreats, also at St. Pius X. Thanks to Msgr. Louis Brum for taking us on as parish workers!

1988 We discerned that the monastery of our dream was to be in Starr County, the western part of the diocese and an area more isolated. 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 a 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 (RIP) granted us the status of becoming a dependent monastery of pontifical jurisdiction.

1993 We were gifted with 115 acres from Texaco Oil Co. Ten CEO’s 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 had a little rented house in walking distance from our buildings. A one mile long and 3” water line was laid and many 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.

Earth work began for 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 The monastic residence was started 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 of the Monte Cassino Renewal and Conference Center, a future site for use by lay and religious groups. The center takes its name from the original monastery founded by St. Benedict in Cassino, Italy.

2008 This year marked the opening of the Montecassino Renewal Center. Montecassino is the name of the monastery near Rome, Italy, where St. Benedict lived his life and wrote the famous Rule of St. Benedict. Cassino is a town near the monastery. In the old Italian Sabine dialect, Cassino means “gathering place.” Its opening is another highpoint of our dreams being fulfilled. 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. Presently he is at Golden Palms, 2101 Treasure Hills Boulevard, Harlingen, Texas 78550-8738 and his phone is: 956-440-8951 He is one happy priest there, offering Mass weekly and receives 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 day care centers that he established for the poorest elderly and children within his parish. We count him a great blessing for the monastery and for our guests!

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 begun for $1,800,000. Presently we are providing $50,000 as “seed money”. It will have: thirty bedrooms with three beds in 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!

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