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Monastery of the Holy Spirit holds open house for new visitor-history center

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s Monastic Heritage Center features new and historic buildings arranged around a central courtyard.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s Monastic Heritage Center features new and historic buildings arranged around a central courtyard.

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Father James Behrens, Citizen columnist and author, will be on hand to sign copies of his books at the Grand Open House.

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The Monastic Heritage Center’s Bonsai Garden will be open to visitors during the facility’s Grand Open House on Oct. 1.

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Mark Felarca, a monk in training at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, boxes fudge that will be sold at the Monastic Heritage Center’s Grand Open House on Oct. 1.

Though the new Monastic Heritage Center at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit opened its doors in May, the monks have waited for the dust to settle and the heat to ebb off a bit before holding a public grand opening. Now that the days are cooler, the monks want to invite the community to a day of festivities celebrating the new facility.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 the public is invited to attend a Grand Open House to explore the new center, which is a museum, cafe, gift shop, bookstore and bonsai outlet all rolled into one.

"We decided to wait for a better time and right now the weather is just right for this," said Brother Callistus Crichlow.

Visitors are invited to tour the center and take advantage of special children's activities like a petting zoo, pony rides, hayrides and inflatable bouncy, all of which are free. A marketplace will feature booths selling Abbey Store products, like fruitcake, biscotti and fudge. There will also be book signings by monk authors.

"We tried to make it a family-oriented event so it's for everybody," said Crichlow.

To top off the day's events, the Atlanta Sacred Chorale will perform at a 90-minute concert beginning at 7 p.m. In the Abbey Church. Tickets to the concert are $20 for adults, and $15 for students and seniors.

The Atlanta Sacred Chorale is 45-member auditioned chamber choir which performs music from Renaissance to contemporary along with hymns, gospel and spirituals.

Crichlow said that foot traffic in the new Monastic Center is steady but that the monks need to get the word out even more.

"We built it. Now we want people to know it exists," he said.

The 17,000-square foot Monastic Center is essentially five buildings arranged around a central courtyard. While the Abbey Gift Shop carries an abundance of religious books, it also features some titles pertaining to the environment and classic literature. The store also carries monk-made products like fudge and jams along with jewelry and clothing created by women in developing nations.

The Bonsai Garden is also jam packed with gift items like gourd bird houses, decorative tiles, paintings and garden sculptures.

If the budget is tight, then visitors may simply peruse the two museums on the campus -- one dedicated to the history of the monastery and the other chronicling the development of monasticism in human culture.

Crichlow said a common experience for people is to visit the center and then realize that the amount of information in the museum and exhibits requires them to schedule a second visit to take it all in.

"It's very reflective," said Crichlow of the museums.

Several years ago, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit launched a capital campaign to raise funds to build the Monastic Heritage Center in an effort to attract more visitors and stay financially sound. To date, the monks have raised $5.7 million of the $7 million they hope to amass.

"The Monastery of the Holy Spirit has been blessed and humbled by the support of our many faithful friends," said Father Francis Michael Stiteler, the abbott of the monastery.

Founded in 1941, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is a Roman Catholic contemplative religious community which houses 40 monks who live, work and pray together on the 2,300-acre property.

To learn more, visit www.trappist.net