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Gaudium Mariae Abbey, San Antonio de Arrendondo, Cordoba, Argentina

EMLA 2019Gaudium Mariae Abbey was founded in 1979 by the Benedictine nuns from Saint Scholastic Abbey in Victoria (Buenos Aires province), achieving abbey status in December 1989. In the beginning, the community comprised seven nuns. Now it has 22 nuns in solemn vows, one in temporary vows and one postulant.  The generous influx of candidates motivated us to respond to a missionary appeal, and in 1987 we founded Our Lady of Paraná Monastery in the eastern part of our country about 350 km from our home.

Our monastery is 40km (25 miles) away from Córdoba city in the Córdoba Archdiocese where we have had an excellent presence since our foundation. Priests, religious and lay people from parish churches and ecclesial movements visit our guesthouse.   We share the liturgical prayers with them and benefit from their testimony and experience. Many times, they tell us of their pastoral projects and let us join them by supporting their efforts with our prayers.

Our nearest city – just 7km (4 miles) away - is the second most important tourist city in Argentina: Carlos Paz.  Many tourists come to the monastery to experience a deep spiritual meeting with God. Many of them ask for advice or some guidance, which we seek to provide. We also welcome weekly local groups of tourists during the summer season to let them know about our charism and faith-related topics, and to celebrate Mass.

Our monastery is located in a rural zone framed by a low mountain range. We have 6 hectares (15 acres) of land that was donated by the Franciscan priests who are our chaplains and who reside 900 meters (half a mile) away. The Franciscans also have retreat house.   We can collaborate with them and host up to 400 people for conferences, retreats, meetings, etc.  One example of this was our hosting of the 2019 Encuentro Monastico Latinoamericano (EMLA) meeting in October 2019, allowing all of the monastic superiors to come together.

Our building was erected with great effort and with the assistance of many church institutions from abroad. AIM was always there to support us.  We stay very close to the Argentinean Church in difficult moments, such as the one Latin America is currently going through.

Our main and specific service to the church, as contemplative nuns, is constant personal or communal prayer on behalf of all people. There are many who ask for our prayers and feel supported and comforted by them. We gather for the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day and sing the psalm book in a week. The whole liturgy is sung in Spanish with Gregorian modes adjusted to the vernacular language.

Our daily income depends on our guests’ “free help”, the sale of handcraft products (religious wood, copper or leather crafts, knitting and clerical vestments) made by nuns from the Abbey and donations that we get from friends, benefactors and guests. AIM helped us to establish our bookshop that not only is a source of some income but also lets us help people by providing advice about readings and books. It has become an increasing pastoral task.

Our monastic guesthouse (partially built with help from AIM) is frequently visited by young families, priests and devoted people who need help, attention or advice. Our oblates are a small group of middle-aged people from different part of the country. They get instruction from one of our nuns and once a month laypeople from nearby and Córdoba city come for conferences on Bible study and spiritual topics.

Every year, about 150 local children come to the monastery to have their first catechism, taught weekly by eight nuns. Over time, some of these children and adolescents, who are altar servers, have started a group for young people, “JGM”, which means Gaudium Mariae Youth. They are guided by three nuns and helped in many spiritual tasks which include prayer, dealing with doubts or concerns and life challenges. At the same time, older adolescents, who are called “the prophets”, accompany the little ones.  Most of these activities are carried out in a hall that was built with help from AIM. We are deeply thankful for all of AIM’s help.