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Wednesday, October 3rd 2018 - Our Lady of Calvary Monastery

Our Lady of Calvary Monastery

Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Honourable senators, I rise today to share with you a bit of hidden history of my region of Kent County in New Brunswick. At about 40 kilometres from my home in Saint-Louis-de-Kent, you will find the community of Rogersville. This community of 1,166 people is known to be a very religious community, with different groups and institutions involved in its everyday life. One of those groups is the Trappist Monastery at Our Lady of Calvary.

It all started in 1902, when Monseigneur François Richard had a dream of repatriating monks from France, where they were not wanted, and bringing them to the parish of Saint-François-de-Sale in Rogersville. Six monks arrived on a cold November night to take possession of an old farmhouse and a few out buildings deeded to them by Monseigneur Richard. From these humble beginnings and hard labour of the six original monks, as well as those who joined them over the past 115 years, the monastery has grown and prospered.

Over the years, the monastery operated a pig farm, a sawmill, a grist mill, a cement block factory, a laundry, a post office, a hostel and a large-scale hen house.

There has been no lack of innovation and adaptation with the community of the monks in Rogersville, but a monastery must be financially self-sufficient. For Our Lady of Calvary, in the latter part of the 20th century, its primary source of revenue has mostly been farming: dairy and poultry. With an aging population and a lack of new recruits, there was a lack of succession in the community. As the dairy herd was the most labour intensive and financially draining, it was decided to sell it off.

Honourable senators, if the monastery has been able to keep its dairy farm for so long, it is due to the hard work and dedication of Brother Stephen Hewett. Originally from Cape Breton, Brother Hewett joined the abbey 35 years ago, as a young man of 24. As he recounts, he was hitchhiking one day on the Cabot Trail and the first car he saw stopped to pick him up. Six hours later, he was in Rogersville at the abbey. That long-ago drive changed the course of not only his life but also the life of the abbey, which has been his home ever since.

As they face many important challenges, I would like to recognize the continued hard work the monks of Our Lady of Calvary monastery have shown through their devotion to service, solitude, prayers and manual labour but also to their dedication to the beautiful community of Rogersville.

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