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A Business and a Ministry

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They are devoted to a life of prayer and also manual labor. The Trappist Monks at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa earn their living by working with their hands. The monks craft caskets.

Eighty three year old Brother Felix Leja has made hundreds of caskets since the Trappists started this business in 1999. Brother Felix entered the monastery in 1950. Leja says he puts himself in God's presence and depends on God to direct him to do the right thing.

The monks build twenty five to thirty caskets a week in the shop just down the road from the abbey. The caskets are made from pine, oak, cherry and walnut which comes from a 13 hundred acre forest nearby.

Thirty year old Brother Nicholas Koenig is from Geneseo. He makes urns. Brother Nicholas prays while he works, hoping that the finished product will provide comfort to those who have lost a loved one.

Brother Paul Halaburt faithfully goes about his work in the upholestery department. He puts lining in each casket.  Every casket and urn is blessed. That is an expression of peace and comfort.

The casket business is the primary source of income at New Melleray Abbey. Brother Tobias Shanahan says, to a great extent, the business has become the monks' connection to the outside world.

The monks are devoted to the Rule of Saint Benedict. That is a life of prayer and using their hands, hoping to bring a sense of peace to the families they serve.