The monks of Saint Albert are a young, home-grown contemplative order of priests and religious in Nicaragua. Until recently there were no male contemplative religious orders in this Central American country. And the five men who have embraced this religious life in Estelí, in the north of the country, are themselves quite young, being aged between 30 and 40. They are so to speak „pioneers“ of the monastic life in their home country and at the same time a testimony to the youth and vitality of the Church in Nicaragua.
After Haiti, Nicaragua is the poorest country in all Latin America. And the Catholic Church herself faces numerous problems here. Quite apart from the political unrest of 2018, which also brought great suffering to the Church, there are many pastoral challenges to face. The sects are numerous and very active, and today the proportion of Catholics is barely half the total of the country‘s 6.1 million population. On top of this an economic crisis has hit the Church, and in particular the contemplative religious communities, very hard.
And then the coronavirus pandemic has struck, making things still harder for the brothers. For one thing they can no longer accept guests in the monastery, while at the same time the little they did receive in the way of gifts from the people has now all but completely dried up. On top of this, all five men themselves caught the virus, one of them so severely that he required intensive care. And the cost of his hospital care was then an additional burden for this young Nicaraguan community.
Yet despite this, the brothers have experienced the pandemic as a time of spiritual deepening. Father Francisco, for example, writes to us to say, „During this time I experienced a growth in my faith life.“
ACN has been regularly supporting these young monks with Mass stipends, and we have helped again recently with 5400 Euros. The Fathers always celebrate these Holy Masses for the intentions of those benefactors who have given them. In this way, in addition to the concrete, material help given, a profound spiritual bond is formed between the benefactors and the priests who are praying for them.