Final Easter Mass held as monastery will close - Tucson News Now

Final Easter Mass held as monastery will close

Source: KOLD Source: KOLD
Source: KOLD Source: KOLD
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Each word and inflection of prayer took a different tone this Easter Sunday for Tony Ralphs. You wouldn’t know it just looking at the worshiper, or listening to each hymn, at the oasis-like retreat of the Holy Trinity Monastery grounds.

You would have to sense Ralphs' grief, and take the proverbial pulse of the parishioners.

"I think there's a real confusion going on,” Ralphs said.

There are signs of the end at Holy Trinity Monastery in Cochise County, at what was its final Easter Mass as a monastery. You can see those signs on the face of the proud leader who is not allowed to lead. According to Diocese of Tucson officials, a priest from outside the monastery celebrated Easter Sunday Mass in St. David.

When asked if Father Henri Capdeville was still allowed to attend Sunday’s service, he replied, “Oh yeah, sure. I'm still Catholic. They haven't taken that away from me."

The details of the ultimate end were first reported Wednesday by the Benson News-Sun. The ruling to close the monetary by the Benedictine Olivetan Order means the end of more than 40 years of Benedictine Catholic service, Capdeville said.

"We're not viable, is what they said,” Capdeville told Tucson News Now, explaining it was not a financial decision. "Not enough monks."

Staff members said the closure will mean four monks will have to relocate, including Capdeville, who moved to Holy Trinity in 1976 as a 19-year-old. According to a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Tucson, there is one monk and two brothers at the monastery. The Abbot General's decree will dissolve the 40-year-old monastic community. Officials accused Capdeville of "defiance and disobedience” for not resigning as Board of Directors president and relinquishing his authority over the monastery, he said. The fight was taken to civil court in Cochise County.

"You've given your whole life here. It was impossible for me to sign it over. So that's why it went to court."

The property is owned by the Benedictine Olivetan Order, according to Steff Koeneman, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Tucson. A statement on behalf of the Benedictine authorities said the outcome of the hearing in Cochise County Superior Court, “clarified the ownership of the properties of Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, Ariz., as belonging to the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto.”

The decision will mean Capdeville will transition to a new role. He said he'll be re-assigned to a monastery in New Mexico.

"I planned to live my life here. My sister is buried here. My stepfather is buried here. The founder is buried here. He was my spiritual director for 25 years,” Capdeville said. “Everything I ever had was here. So it's like ripping your heart out is what it's like."

It’s left Ralphs feeling disillusioned.

"I would like Father Henri and Brother Gary to stay here and die here,” he said adamantly. “This has been their home, both of them, for over 40 years.”

The closure leaves parishioners in limbo, wondering what's next for the property and their place of worship.

The gates will stay open to visitors. In the interim, at request from the Benedictines, a deacon from the Diocese of Tucson has been asked to oversee the campus, according to Koeneman.

“The Olivetan Benedictines intend to preserve, as much as possible, the residential part of the area and are committed to helping the residents living on the campus with as little disruption as possible,” according to a written statement from the Benedictines. “While there will no longer be Benedictine monks or priests at the facility, the Olivetan Benedictines also are working to find a way to continue some Catholic liturgies for those in the area that have come to rely on the Monastery Church.”

Capdeville said other Benedictine monasteries in their grouping have been recently closed in Hawaii and California by the Olivetan Order. He said he has to vacate the premises by April 26, or he'll be “trespassing until things get settled.”

Tourists passing through will still be able to stop in for religious sanctuary. But the large Celtic Cross on the grounds will loom large, without its spiritual leader and his loyal followers.

"They're taking me out. I'm separated from my community. I'm exiled,” Capdeville said. "I don't know what God's will is, but we'll see what happens."

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