Columba Cary-Elwes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Charles Evelyn George Cary-Elwes (6 November 1903 – 22 January 1994), professed a monk as Dom Columba Cary-Elwes, OSB, of Ampleforth Abbey in York, England. As a missionary he traveled to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and has written books on Christianity. He was the founding Prior of the Priory of Saints Louis and Mary in Saint Louis, Missouri.


Early years[edit]

Born in London in 1903 Cary-Elwes was one of eight children of Charles and Edythe Cary-Elwes. His father and maternal grandfather, Sir John Roper Parkington, were champagne shippers. They all spoke fluent French (subject of Columba's degree and teaching). Schooled at Ampleforth College, Evelyn tried his family calling for a couple of years, until he was clothed in the Benedictine order at Ampleforth in 1923, his abbot giving him the name Columba. He was educated by the Jesuits at St. Michel, Brussels, between 1913-14. In 1925 he professed his simple vows, and the following year he made his solemn vows. He matriculated at Oxford to study modern languages (French and Spanish) at the university's Benedictine foundation, St Benet's Hall, in 1927, before studying theology at Blackfriars from 1930 to 1933, when he was ordained a priest. After taking his degree, Columba returned to Ampleforth, where he served as Monastic Librarian, as a teacher in the school, and housemaster of St. Wilfrid's House (1937–51). He led services at the chapel at Helmsley for several years.

Later years[edit]

In 1951, he was appointed Prior of Ampleforth, and four years later, was selected to be the founding prior of the new foundation at Saint Louis, where he served until June 1967.

Columba left in 1968 for East Africa to conduct spiritual retreats and inquire about establishing a monastic foundation in that region. In 1968, his travels took him to Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. During 1969, he taught at a major seminary in Nairobi. In 1970, he served as French interpreter during the Pope's visit to Uganda, after which he returned to Ampleforth.

In 1972, he was "loaned" (as his Ampleforth obituary describes it),[1] to the Benedictines of Glenstal Abbey in Ireland, to help establish a monastery in Eke, Nigeria, in 1974, where he served as Prior beginning in 1975. Columba was a close friend of the noted historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who educated several of his sons at Ampleforth. In 1986, their correspondence, edited by the Saint Louis lawyer Christian Peper, is collected in An Historian's Conscience.[2] During this period he also helped to establish a Catholic seminary in Cameroon. In his later years, he returned to Ampleforth, but made ecumenical and spiritual renewal visits to Catholic communities and clerical establishments in the Philippines, Australia, India, and Chile. At nearly 90, he was appointed the Titular Abbot of Westminster in 1992.

Columba died on 22 January 1994 at York Hospital. He was buried at Ampleforth.[3]


He is related to the painters Dominick Elwes and Simon Elwes, and the diplomat and tenor Gervase Cary Elwes, respectively the father, grandfather, and great-grandfather of actor Cary Elwes.


  • An Historian's Conscience: The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes- Monk of Ampleforth with Christian B., Peper and Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1986)
  • ''"The Beginning of Goodness (1947)
  • A Simple Way of Love, edited and introduced by Cary-Elwes (1948)
  • Law, Liberty and Love; A Study in Christian Obedience; Foundation of European Civilisation (1949)
  • Ampleforth and its Origins. Essays ... by members of the Ampleforth Community, edited with Abbot Justin McCann, with plates by Philip Justin Maccann and Cary Elwes (1952)[4]
  • The Sheepfold and the Shepherd (1956)
  • China and the Cross; a Survey of Missionary History (1957)
  • Monastic Renewal (1967)
  • Experience with God: A Dictionary of Spirituality (1986)
  • Work & Prayer: The Rule of St. Benedict for Lay People, with Catherine Wybourne. London: Burns & Oates, Turnbridge Wells (1992)


External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

In Good Soil: The Founding of the Saint Louis Priory and School, 1954-1973 by Fr. Timothy Horner, OSB