26 March 2019


Ottigne | Belgium

The foundation of Clerlande dates to 1970. Although our history is not long, it is necessary to go back to the beginning to understand it.

The Monastery of Saint-André at Clerlande is a foundation of the Abbey of Saint-André at Zevenkerken near Bruges which, in turn, is a foundation of the Abbey of Maredsous, itself founded in 1872 by the Abbey of Beuron in Germany.

It was missionary zeal which lay at the origins of the Abbey of Saint-André, and which sent monks to Brazil, subsequently to Katanga, to China (since relocated at Valyermo, in California), to India; to the restoration of monastic life in Poland (Tyniec) and in Portugal (Singeverga). It was in the same Abbey, and motivated by the same missionary spirit that Dom Gaspar Lefebvre was to launch the liturgical movement by means, for example, of the dissemination of missals for the faithful and catechetical materials. The community numbered at that point representatives of more than ten different nationalities.

In the Nineteen-Sixties the Abbey of Saint-André found itself con-fronted in a very unusual way with a whole series of external circum-stances which signalled the approach of profound changes for the Abbey, and indeed for the whole country. Amongst others:

(1) The Language Laws of 1962 marked a significant change in feeling throughout Belgium, leading to the beginnings or to an accelerated realisation of the need for an important readjus-tment in the manner of presence of the Abbey of Saint-André in the Netherlandish-speaking part of the country

(2) The 30th of June 1960 marked the independence of The Congo. At that time, more than 90 monks of Saint-André were living in Katanga. In the years to come, most of these were to return to Belgium. In the context of a great abbey, such a return could cause a considerable number of difficulties.

(3) The Council (1962-1965): The aggiornamento proposed by Pope John XXIII. This was a time of great effervescense in the Church and in religious communities. Is a regular Benedictine monastic life actually viable in situations more subtle and less solemn than in the great monasteries? The experiment was going to have to be attempted.

(4) The Liturgical Renewal: Larger communities in their imposing surroundings did not always have the facility to propose reforms or to try experiments.

(5) The University of Louvain, after the social upheavals of 1963 and the demonstrations of May 1968, found it necessary to divide itself – not just for recruitment purposes, but the entire French-speaking segment of the University was to be trans-ferred to Ottignies. This new implantation led to a triple invitation to the Abbey of Saint- André, requesting it to continue to provide a monastic presence at Ottignies: from The University of Louvain, the Archdiocese of Malines-Bruxelles, and the Bourgmestre of Ottignies.

(6) The concern expressed at the Council for openness to the world has inspired the architecture and the layout of the mon-astery and the chapel, as well as the quality of the welcome, both at the guesthouse and, beyond it, in the activities of the brothers, and even in the area of our economic viability.

Such a coming together of circumstances brought us a message. The opportunity was immediately and courageously grasped. In an initial stage, this took shape discretely in April 1966 by a few brothers taking up residence in the house of the Redemptorist Fathers in Rue de Renivaux, Ottingies. Another more numerous group joined them at the present location in June 1971.

We carried with us: the openness of spirit of the Abbey of Saint-André (from where we get the quality of our welcome), their miss-ionary zeal (our foundation at Mambré, Kinshasa), also their experience and competence in the area of liturgy (our books, reviews, and liturgical celebrations).

Some Dates

• 1967 June 6th The arrival to Ottignies of the first five brothers in the house of the Redemptorist Fathers, Rue de Renivaux.

• 1969 August 21st The setting up of the asbl under the name of “Monastère de Saint-André de Clerlande, Ottignies.”

• 1970 June 29th The erection of the foundation as a Simple Priory, dependant on the Abbey of Saint-André at Bruges. Fr. Frederic Debuyst is named as Prior of the foundation.

• 1971 July The arrival of the other brothers and the occupation of the new buildings.

• 1972 December 25th Christmas: Clerlande is erected into a conventual priory, that is to say, independent.

• 1976 October 7th Fr. Martin Neyt is elected as Prior of the community.

- October 12th Chapter voted to open a house in Anderlecht.

• 1978 February 5th Chapter voted to make a foundation at Mambré, Kinshasa.

- October 8th The foundation at Mambré is erected canonically.

• 1983 February 28th Blessing of the new chapel by Cardinal Godfried Danneels.

• 1984 June Close-down of the house at Anderlecht

• 1986 August 19th Opening of a novitiate at Mambré (Kinshasa) welcoming the first novice, Brother José Mukendi

• 1988 March 19th Welcome to the first group of Oblates to the community.

• 1989 May 21st Election of Fr. Pierre de Béthune as Prior of the Community.

• December The foundation at Mambré becomes a Simple Priory.

• 2005 May 21st Fr. Bernard Poupard is elected as 4th Prior of the Community.

• 2009 May 2nd Fr. Jean-Yves Quellec is elected as 5th Prior of the Community.




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