Monks of Idaho offer warm welcome to all | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Jul 31, 2014

My trips to Idaho take me to the northern part of the state to visit my son and his family several times a year.

Last week, though, my travels took me to the far southern part of Idaho for five days –– for my first stay at a monastery.

Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, offers a huge range of travel and educational experiences for retirement-age grown-ups.

My friend Mary and I just returned from a program called “Ireland: History, Myth, Saints and Culture.”

The location was The Benedictine Monastery of the Ascension, near Jerome, Idaho.

We both are interested in Ireland, but part of the appeal of the program was its venue. We were not disappointed.

The monastery sits in the midst of 400 acres of Idaho farmland planted with corn, barley, sugar beets and potatoes.

It is surrounded by grass and tall evergreens, and provides 16 rooms for guests, a big dining room, comfortable areas to sit and read or visit, a classroom large enough to easily accommodate our 18 or so Road Scholars –– plus an amazing group of Irish dancers who entertained us one afternoon on an improvised plywood stage held together with layers of duct tape.

In the chapel, the monks meet for prayer four times a day; Mary and I frequently joined them, as did a few other Road Scholar students.

For Sunday mass, the chapel filled with families from the surrounding area.

The monks host Road Scholars and other groups throughout the year, as well as personal retreats.

Father Hugh taught some of our classes; he plans and facilitates events.

He explained that groups are always welcome. “If you didn’t come here,” he said, with a grin, “We’d all be out working in the fields!”

As it is, the same families have worked those fields for many years, and the monks do other work.

Jerome, Idaho is near Twin Falls. Flights from Seattle go to Salt Lake City, with a transfer to a small plane to the Twin Falls airport.

When I arrived, several days later than Mary, Brother Selby met me at the airport (“Are you Joanne?”), and we drove through the sunshine for half an hour, past fields of silage corn and herds of Holstein cows.

As we visited during the drive, I eventually asked Brother Selby, “So, what do you do at the monastery?”

Sometimes I ask questions I’m not sure are appropriate. Fortunately, he was not offended.

Brother Selby smiled at me and said, “Joanne, we do the best we can.” Was that not a splendid response?

It appears to me Benedictines pray, teach, counsel, worship, study, write, maintain their buildings and grounds, welcome visitors and live a contemplative but engaged life, not removed from the world.

With kindness and acceptance, Benedictines welcome everyone.

A bonus feature of the week? During our evening walks, barn owls and great horned owls appeared—what a thrill to watch them.

I can think of many reasons to return to the monastery in Jerome.


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