Fifth International Meeting of Lay Cistercian Communities

Called to be transformed into the image of Christ. . . (2 Cor 3,18)

New Melleray Abbey / Mississippi Abbey • Dubuque • May 21-28, 2011

The Bonds of Charity That Unite Us

Lay people, desiring to embody in their lives the essential values of Cistercian spirituality, have gathered together in communities attached to monasteries of Cistercian monks or nuns. The spirituality that inspires these Lay Communities is formulated in the document “Lay Cistercian Identity.”

In order to foster communion among themselves and with the Cistercian Family and, in the spirit of the Charter of Charity, these autonomous communities have united together in an International Association of Lay Cistercian Communities. The present document describes the functioning of this Association.

The Association will hold a Meeting every three years.

At each International Meeting a Steering Committee composed of three members representing English, French and Spanish languages will be elected by the delegates. The main role of the Steering Committee will be to serve as an interface between the Lay Communities on the one hand and the Cistercian Orders and Congregations on the other. The Steering Committee will develop the necessary means required to maintain the Association. In addition, it will organize the International Meeting every three years.

Representatives of Lay Cistercian communities that are members of the International Association and who have been elected by their Lay Cistercian community will participate in this International Meeting. In addition, monastic representatives from the monasteries with which the communities are associated may participate.

In order to allow the proper functioning of the Association and its autonomy, each Lay Community that is a member of the Association will make a financial contribution. The Steering Committee will be responsible for managing the Association’’s accounts. A written financial report will be submitted to the membership at each international meeting.

Other expressions of the bonds of charity between the Lay Communities are, for example, regional meetings of the Lay Communities, sharing of resources, documents, reports, etc., and possibly joint meetings.

Characteristics of Lay Cistercian Communities

Lay Cistercian Communities, by their nature, share a great deal in common with one another and with the monasteries with which they are associated. They are all united by a bond of charity, a bond of fraternal love and support, and a bond of fidelity. There exists a frequent bond of prayer that deepens the love and respect of one for another.

The following is a list of objective characteristics of Lay Cistercian Communities that the Association recognizes:

  1. Lay Cistercian Communities receive written recognition from the Abbot/Abbess of the monastery with which the lay community is associated.
  2. Lay Cistercians communities are assisted by a liaison from the monastic community appointed by the Abbot/Abbess.
  3. Lay Cistercian Communities recognize and adopt the Lay Cistercian Identity document approved in Huerta in 2008.
  4. Lay Cistercian Communities have a Charter and Statutes, approved by its members, which outline the spiritual goals of the group as well as its functioning and the link it has with the monastery.
  5. Lay Cistercian Communities have a leadership council, comprised of lay members, that is responsible for the administration of the group.
  6. Lay Cistercian Communities have developed a formation program comprised of a curriculum of topics and learning activities that address the values and practices of the Cistercian Charism.

Note that this list of characteristics is not prescriptive in nature. The Association does not judge the quality of a Lay Community nor take this list of characteristics into account when a group applies for membership. Rather, it is in all cases the Abbot/Abbess of the monastery with which the group is associated that determines whether a lay community may become a member of the Association and at what level. This is, rather, a list of minimal and ideal characteristics that Lay Cistercians themselves have identified as worthy of emulation.

Statute on Membership in the International Association of Lay Cistercian Communities

  1. The Association is comprised of lay communities that are associated with a Cistercian monastic community. The Association recognizes two types of membership:
    • Provisional Lay Cistercian Communities Before the time when a lay group receives official recognition from the monastic community it is associated with, there is a period of establishment, growth and development.
    • Recognized Lay Cistercian Communities After a period of discernment, a monastic community “represented by its Abbot or Abbess” (Identity Document, 4.3) may decide to recognize a lay community as an “expression of the Cistercian Charism” (MGM 2008, Vote 71).
  2. Lay Cistercian Communities complete an application form. This application, signed by the Abbot/Abbess, indicates which type of membership is relevant for the group making the application.
  3. Only Provisional or Recognized Lay Communities associated with a Cistercian monastery may attend meetings of the Association.
  4. If an Abbot or Abbess should rescind the recognition of a Lay Community, then that community’s membership in the Association is rescinded.