Abbey of the Genesee
The Abbey of the Genesee is a community of more than two dozen contemplative monks located near Piffard in the town of York, New York. They are a member of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as the Trappists. They were founded from the Abbey of Gethsemani in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1951.
The monks' work largely consists of baking a brand of bread called Monks' Bread and which is available commercially in Rochester, New York and other nearby markets in western New York. The sale of the bread helps support the abbey and its inhabitants. The bread was first prepared solely for the monks by one of the order, and a demand for loaves from outsiders gradually led to the commercial operation.
The bread is baked several times each week in the early hours of the morning. For that reason the monks go to bed around seven at night in order to rise about two in the morning. For reasons of security and hygiene, it is not possible to observe the baking process except through slides and photographs.
The Abbey is open from 2:00 a.m. until 7:00 pm. Casual visitors are able to enter only a restricted part of the abbey. The abbey is open to serious individual guests and small groups who wish to make a retreat and avail themselves to the counseling of the monks. A small fee is charged to cover expenses.
In 1974, the Dutch priest and writer Henri Nouwen was allowed to live with the community of monks as a temporary member for seven months. This is rather unusual, because while the Trappists do accept retreatants for some days, it is usually not possible to become a "temporary monk", as Nouwen did. The permission was granted particularly due to Nouwen's close friendship with abbot John Eudes.
After his retreat, Nouwen's diary was published in 1976 under the title "The Genesee Diary - Report from a Trappist Monastery." This book is now deemed one of the fundamental works about Trappist spirituality and contemplative life in general. It is also widely recommended to be read by prospective monks during their vocational discernment.
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