The Brigittine Monastery
A unique combination of confectionary richness and human selflessness
At the very start of the 1986 year, a small group of Brigittine Monks in five rental trucks, one car, one van and with two dogs, laid roots and began a prayerful life in Amity, Oregon. Today, the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation, is nestled on 44 acres of beautiful land and adds to the wondrous and yet humble culture of Yamhill County.
To attend the celebration of Catholic Mass at the Brigittine Monastery is to realize that this community is very special – the only of its kind in the United States and bears the responsibility to continue a legacy begun by Brother Benedict Kirby in 1976. A nurse anesthetist by training, Brother Kirby first founded the community in Fresno, CA. But because monks are self-supporting, the group journeyed from one end of the country to the other, defining their livelihood and mission of prayer and praise of God from California to West Virginia back to California and finally, finding their niche and their lives in Oregon.
Their niche is quite obviously now in some of the country’s richest and most tantalizing fudges and truffles. A tasting room visit to the Monastery reveals unique combinations and a taste unique to the monks’ touch. While their confectionary is God’s work for the monastery, it is a blessing to those who make a purchase. Flavors swirl from hazelnuts to strawberries to amaretto and mint. A delight to the palate.
Brother Steven joined the monastery in 1980 and serves as not only the business manager, but also the historian. He can recount many details of their journey and can share a detailed and very interesting history of their buildings in Amity. Once the Broadmead Farm, one of the state’s largest, the land and its outposts have traded hands among several owners, including an eccentric millionaire. You can visit the beautiful, albeit mysteriously architected buildings – the tasting room and chapel are open to the public – and get a good sense of the people and plans that once passed through the grounds.
Brother Steven shares that the monastery’s sweet mission began not with chocolate, but with cake – zucchini, pumpkin bread, but carrot being their specialty. But cakes offer short shelf lives, and they needed something more sustainable on which they could build their income. At one point, a brother joined the monastery who was a professional chef, and he began the grand chocolate experiment that is now inextricably linked with the monastery.
Just as Brother Kirby came to the monastery with a health profession and a professional chef was once in the ranks, Brother Steven also carries an interesting story. He served four years in the Navy during the Vietnam Era and worked in the manufacturing industry, including work in a factory that produced Big Wheels Trikes – the beloved toy of many childhoods, before giving his life to God. But he always knew that he was called. It took him years to understand that it was to the Monastery. Like all the brothers in Amity, he is a nonclerical choir monk, never receiving Holy Orders to become a priest. Priests from the surrounding area celebrate Mass for the community. The monks are dedicated to a regimented lifestyle that includes much time for prayer and reflection. Silence prevails. Prayers for the world and for the unity of all Christians remains their focus. Each brings their unique talents to the benefit of the larger community.
“I am good at practical things,” Brother Steven shares. “ I was always good with my hands and managed maintenance and buildings. I grew up in the late 1950s/ early 1960s and religion was an important part of my life. I realized in junior year of high school that there was a calling. At 32, I joined the Monastery.”
Today brothers at the Brigittine Monastery hail from around the world, with several joining from their homes in the Philippines, including the community’s superior, Brother Prior Bernard Their selfless lives, creative confectionary talent and dedicated prayer mission add incredible value to the Amity region. They are welcomed neighbors and supportive partners in this close-knit community.
The Brigittine Monastery, Priory of Our Lady of Consolation https://www.brigittine.org