The Monastery of the Holy Spirit dates to 1944, when a group of Trappist monks traveled from Bardstown, Kentucky, to northern Georgia. The group settled in Conyers, a small community with a Catholic presence, and began building their monastery to resemble the Abbey of Gethsemane.
The monastery offers a calming environment. The Trappist monks, known officially as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, live a life of prayer and quiet contemplation in service to their community and the Lord.
“We spend time every day in prayer, study and work and find a balance in that,” said Brother Mark Dohle, retreat director at the monastery.
As a result, many of the areas around the monastery are designed for quiet reflection, encouraging guests to enjoy personal time in prayer.
The monks lived in a nearby barn for eight months while they built the main monastery and completed the church in 1960. The barn is now a museum. The monks have continued to build; the monastery complex now includes a bakery, a garden center, the visitors center and the Retreat House, among various other buildings. The monks are also renovating and updating the existing structures.
The Retreat House at the monastery has three floors, accessible by elevator, and includes lodging, a refectory for meals and a conference room available to visitors. Overnight accommodations are available for 40 guests, with a mix of single and double-occupancy rooms. Guests are not required to observe complete silence, but it is encouraged in many areas of the monastery during daylight hours because of the monks’ Cistercian lifestyle. Some areas are also designated as speaking areas.
The monastery is known for its bonsai garden. The original bonsai belonged to the Rev. Paul Bourne, a bonsai master who was trained in the Japanese art and contributed extensively to its growth in popularity in the southeastern United States. The garden includes many styles of bonsai including one that’s almost 200 years old.
Guests may also enjoy the 31 miles of walking, hiking and biking trails that span the property. The trails reach around the picturesque lake and cross over Honey Creek in places.
Many of the retreat programs are scheduled either Friday through midday Sunday or Monday through Thursday. The monks lead many of the programs, each in their area of expertise. Examples include Contemplative Prayer or The Way of Christ in Our Lives. Special topics include dealing with anger or grief, calendar events such as Holy Week and Lent, or topics of interest such as the gospel of John or writing and journal keeping. Planners are encouraged to book a few months in advance, since retreats at the monastery are popular.
Guests can also experience a taste of the monastic life of the Cistercian Order. Worship services are open to visitors who would like to take part in the divine office throughout the day. Services start each day with a short time of prayer and contemplation at 4 a.m. and are followed by Mass at 7 a.m., midday prayers, vespers and compline.
A Personal Touch
The monks have a hand in everything at the monastery. Guests can bring home food items prepared by the brothers at the on-site bakery; fruitcakes are among of the most popular items. Bonsai-care tools, stained glass or items handcrafted by the monks can also be purchased at the Abbey Store, the largest Catholic retailer in the state of Georgia.
Many of the brothers living at the monastery are also accomplished authors and have penned numerous works on the Catholic faith, monastic life and other topics. Their books are available in the Abbey Store.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Location: Conyers, Georgia
Size: The Retreat House totals 18,000 square feet.
Capacity: 40 overnight guests