The monks have been told by their funding providers, Leader, to develop a plan to raise finances and create a business model in the monastery.
Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities, across the EU, with the resources to enable local partners to actively engage and direct the local development of their area, through a community-led local development (CLLD).
A public meeting was held on 28 February, 2017 to discuss the future of the monastery and facilitated a discussion between locals and the monks about how to maintain the monastery.
“There was a very positive and energising atmosphere about it, which gives us great hope”, said the guest master in Mount Melleray, Father Denis Luke O’Hanlon.
The monks were pleasantly surprised at a strong turn-out of more than 200 people from all over Ireland.
More than eighty people have offered their services on a voluntary basis to help save the monastery. Up to now, the Cistercian monks have relied mainly on donations from the general public and guests who stay in the guesthouse which is located in the monastery itself.
They also run a café on the grounds and a shop is run voluntarily by people in the local community.
“That’s been the tradition that people give a donation. We recommend that they give a reasonable donation according to their means. Whether that will be the way in the future, that depends on future guest masters I suppose”, said Fr O’Hanlon.
Mount Melleray Abbey has a long history with the local community, dating back to when they first arrived in 1833. Fr O’Hanlon explained some of the history.
“When we arrived, the people came here in their hundreds with their spades and shovels, or whatever they had, to work for us. They erected the fences, closed the land and the monastery was built from the red sandstone they collected in the fields.
“Then during the famine, hundreds or maybe even thousands of people were fed here as well. We have a bin, which is still here today, that it is supposed that it never went empty during the famine.”
The Cistercian Monks are hoping that their generosity throughout almost two centuries will be remembered as they develop a plan for the future.
If you would like to volunteer or get further information, you can contact Jimmy Ryan on (086)2597275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.