October 1, 2023

By Marcus Ashlock

There is a power all Christians know and understand when we gather in Christ’s name. He promises us that he will be in our midst when we congregate for him: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). For Catholics who believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not only is Christ there in a spiritual way, but he is also literally present with us at Mass or during adoration when he is displayed in the monstrance.

The one, true and living God makes himself available to usbeyond space and time, all over the world at once. It is one of the glorious miracles of our faith. Imagine believing it is only a symbol, not the True Presence, placing limits on God’s ability to reach those who worship him.

This power brings a community of believers together, giving them a spiritual home through fellowship and faith. He is present in the reading of the Word; he is present as we gather in the Body of Christ, his Church; and he is present in a unique way in the Blessed Sacrament. More importantly, we know the power of his presence when it is gone.

Once known as Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota, Abbey of the Hills Inn and Retreat Center recently received permission from Bishop Donald DeGrood to once again have the Blessed Sacrament kept at the Abbey. On March 17, 2023, Bishop DeGrood presided over the formal liturgical process of preparing the space for the tabernacle.

“Between my marriage, the birth of most of my kids, and then my ordination, this event the bishop came up and did was one of the most holy events I’ve ever witnessed,” said Deacon Paul Treinen, director of Abbey of the Hills. “He blessed the tabernacle and made the decree the Abbey would have it within its Catholic chapel.”

The return of the Blessed Sacrament to the Our Lady of the Snows Chapel is a milestone for the Abbey. The Benedictine monks of St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana had been traveling throughout the Dakota Territory since the 1870s, before South Dakota was even an official state. In 1950, they decided to build a permanent monastery near Marvin. Sixty-two years later, in 2012, the monks had dwindled to 14 men, with an average age of 79 years, and no new vocations in 15 years. Blue Cloud Abbey closed, and the Blessed Sacrament was consumed for the last time.

“It was a big grieving process because there were a lot of folks who found their spiritual home here, one that they wouldn’t have found otherwise,” Deacon Paul said. “Most of the people were Catholics, a lot of them were not Catholic. But it was their place to come and be in community, to have that peace and reflectiveness, to have that rhythm of prayer the monks would have.”

According to Deacon Paul, the community was surprised at the suddenness of the closing, but also knew this was a special place, one whose presence was built around the Abbey. A group of people came together through prayerful discernment, ultimately listening to the Holy Spirit, and formed a nonprofit organization to purchase the Abbey.

“The process begins with prayer. I think it’s also letting the Lord reveal what he wanted us to do with this,” Deacon Paul said. “When we first opened, having the Blessed Sacrament wasn’t on our mind. We were just trying to figure out how we could pay our bills.”

Deacon Paul stated he approached the late Bishop Swain several times with priestly support, asking permission for the Blessed Sacrament to return to the Abbey. His answer was always, “It was not the right time.” A decade passed before God revealed his timeline to Bishop DeGrood. The Eucharist was to return to the Abbey in 2023. The community who lost their monks and the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was to experience a renewal, a eucharistic revival.

“I just know the Lord’s using it and will continue to use it in a way that will be in keeping with our Catholic roots, but I’m also interested to see how this eucharistic revival might touch our non-Catholic brothers and sisters,” Deacon Paul said.

The Abbey of the Hills Inn and Retreat Center is open to all walks of faith, whether you like to write, hike, pray or play. To contact the Abbey of the Hills for your next event, visit them on their website at www.abbeyofthehills.org.