Presentations at library, open-air Mass will mark 75th anniversary of Huntsville monastery

Friday, Jul. 01, 2022
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

HUNTSVILLE — For more than seven decades the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity was an important part of the Huntsville community. The Trappist monks who lived at the abbey tended the property alongside neighboring farms in the community, raising cattle, chickens, honeybees and hay. At its height, the monastery had 84 monks. In time most of them moved on, from the monastery and this life, or to other pursuits. Eventually just six elderly monks were left, and the decision was made to close the monastery in 2017.
Although the monastery closed and the remaining six monks moved to assisted care at St. Joseph Villa in Salt Lake City, the legacy that they left in this still-rural community lives on. Feelings were so strong about the monastery and its inhabitants that many in that community wanted to mark its 75th anniversary. They will do so next week in a two-day celebration.
On July 9 friends of the monastery will gather at the Weber County Library Ogden Valley Branch, Huntsville for a two-hour event during which four individuals with close ties to the monastery will share their experiences. Participants will also view two short films. One film, the 1986 “Monastery” produced by Steve Lawrence Peterson while he was a student at the University of Utah, is a portrait of life at the monastery in the early 1980s. The other film, “To Close a Monastery,” is a 2017 KUER/RadioWest video about the monastery’s closing.
Peterson will be one of the evening’s presenters. He will be joined by the current owner of the monastery farm, Bill White, who is working to get a conservation easement on the land; his tenant farmers Kenny and Jamila McFarland; and Mike O’Brien, the author of a book about spending a great deal of time at the monastery during his youth working alongside the monks. 
“We wanted to do something to remember the 75th anniversary of the monastery’s founding,” O’Brien said of the celebration. “A number of people who are close to the monastery just started talking about things we could do to honor the legacy of the monks, so we came up with a weekend of events.”
Following the events at the library, the town of Huntsville, the Huntsville Mercantile and the two Huntsville LDS wards will host a reception at the Huntsville Mercantile, 7390 East 200 South, Huntsville (just south of the library). 
“The monastery and the monks were the most incredible neighbors,” Huntsville Mayor Richard Sorensen said. 
As the former owners of the local grocery store, Sorensen’s family had a close relationship with the monks. The monastery provided the store with eggs and along with the eggs the monks would deliver a loaf or two of fresh-baked bread for the family to enjoy, “so we always looked forward to having the monks come down,” he said. 
The monks were known for helping the neighboring farmers in any way they could, and that giving was reciprocated, Sorensen said. “They were really great guys and really great neighbors. They had a big impact on our community for 70 years. We really miss them.”
White said he has become good friends with the monks and O’Brien, and is happy to do what he can to celebrate the legacy of the monastery and the preservation of its lands.
“The monastery property has always been the crown jewel of the valley,” he said. “When the monks decided to close, I could see that it was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try and preserve that property before it got sold to a developer.”
On July 10, a Mass in honor of the abbey will be celebrated outdoors at St. Florence Catholic Church. Trappist Fr. Brendan Freeman, who was the monastery’s last superior and oversaw its closing, will travel from Iowa to preach the homily. If he is able, Fr. Patrick Boyle, OCSO, who lived at the monastery for many years, will attend the Mass.
Afterward, a rosary and prayer service will be conducted at the monastery cemetery. Following the services, those attending are invited to spend time on the grounds, and to picnic (bring your own) there.
“People just can’t go up to the monastery anymore like we used to be able to do for so many years, so we’re trying to create a little bit of that spirit again so that people have a chance to go visit the place and remember the monks,” O’Brien said. “They left their imprint on a lot of lives and we want them to be remembered.”

WHAT: Monastery Memories: Remembering Holy Trinity Abbey in art and agriculture
WHEN: Saturday, July 9, 4-6 p.m. 
WHERE: Weber County Library Ogden Valley Branch, 131 South 7400 East, Huntsville 
Four individuals with close ties to the monastery will share their experiences, and two short films about the monastery will be shown. Free and open to the public.
WHAT: Mass in honor of Holy Trinity Abbey
WHEN: Sunday, 9 a.m. 
WHERE: St. Florence Catholic Church, 6461 UT-39, Huntsville
Father Joshua Santos will preside. Trappist Fr. Brendan Freeman will preach the homily. At 11 a.m. a rosary and prayer service will be conducted at the monastery cemetery, 1250 South 9500 East, Huntsville. Following the services, those who are in attendance are invited to bring a picnic (bring your own).

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