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Melleray, situated in Brittany (Loire-Inférieure), Diocese of Nantes, in the vicinity of Chateaubriand, was founded about the year 1134. Foulques, Abbot of Pontron, in Anjou, founded from Loroux (a daughter of Cîteaux ), sent monks for the foundation of a monastery in Brittany. They were delighted with the solitude of a place near Old Melleray, shown them by Rivallon, pastor of Auverné, which Alain de Moisdon, proprietor of the place, donated to them. Guitern, the first abbot, erected the original monastery in 1145, but the church was not completed until 1183, under Geffroy, the fourth abbot. Melleray, a small monastery built for about twelve religious, remained regular until during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when relaxation prevailed as a result of the acquisition of great wealth and the introduction of the system of commendatory abbots. Etienne de Brezé (1544) was the first commendatory abbot, and from his time both spiritual and temporal welfare declined, until toward the end of the seventeenth century when, through the efforts of Dom Jouard, vicar-general of the order, the rule of St. Bernard was re-introduced, and the monastic buildings restored. In 1791 it was suppressed, and the few religious were dispersed. This, however, was not the end of Melleray. The Trappists, expelled from France, took refuge at Val Sainte, Switzerland ; from there, urged by their rapid increase, and for fear of the spread of the revolution, Dom Augustine de Lestrange established them in various parts of the world. Through the generosity of Sir Thomas Weld, a wealthy English Catholic, the father of Cardinal Weld, they settled (1795) at Lulworth, Dorsetshire, England. Their monastery was soon created an abbey, and Dom Antoine was elected the first abbot (1813). In 1817, with changed conditions and the restoration of the Bourbons, the monks of Lulworth returned to Melleray. The restored abbey flourished, increasing from fifty-seven to one hundred and ninety-two members in twelve years. During the Revolution of 1830 they were again persecuted, especially those of foreign birth, of whom they had a great number. To make homes for these they founded Mount Melleray (1833) in Ireland and Mount Saint Bernard (1835) in England. Dom Antoine (d. 1839) was succeeded first by Dom Maxime, then by a second Dom Antoine, and finally by Dom Eugene Vachette, the present abbot. Under Dom Antoine II several monasteries were established, among them Gethsemani, in the United States. Dom Eugène, elected in 1875, was for many years the vicar-general of the Congregation of La Grande Trappe, and was instrumental in effecting the reunion of the three congregations into one order (1892). Since then he has been vicar to the Most Reverend General of the Reformed Cistercians. Recently he has established an annex to his monastery in Woodbarton, Diocese of Plymouth, England.
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Situated on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains, near Cappoquin, Diocese of Waterford, Ireland, was founded in 1833. Father Vincent Ryan was chosen leader of the religious sent by Dom Antoine, Abbot of Melleray, for this foundation. After many efforts to locate his community he accepted the offer of Sir Richard Keane, of Cappoquin, to rent a tract of barren mountain waste, some five hundred acres, subsequently increased to seven hundred. In the work of reclaiming the soil, they were assisted by the country folk; entire parishes, led by their pastors, came, each in turn, to give free a full day's work. In 1833 the corner-stone was laid by Sir Richard Keane, in the presence of the bishop and a large concourse of clergy and people. In 1835 the monastery was created an abbey, and Father Vincent, unanimously elected, received the abbatial blessing from Dr. Abraham, bishop of the diocese, this being the first abbatial blessing in Ireland since the Reformation. Abbot Vincent vigorously undertook the work of completing the abbey, but died 9 Dec., 1845. Under the short rule of his successor, Dom M. Joseph Ryan, but little was accomplished, as he resigned after only two years. To Don Bruno Fitzpatrick, who succeeded as abbot in September, 1848, it remained to consolidate and perfect the work so well begun. He also founded, in 1849, the monastery of New Melleray, near Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.A. and, in 1878, Mount Saint Joseph, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. But the most conspicuous of Abbot Bruno's works was the founding of the Ecclesiastical Seminary of Mount Melleray. Originating in a small school formed by Abbot Vincent in 1843, it was developed by Abbot Bruno and his successors, until it attained its present rank. Abbot Bruno died 4 Dec., 1893, and was succeeded by Dom Carthage Delaney, who was blessed 15 Jan., 1894, and presided over Mount Melleray for thirteen years; his successor, Dom Maurus Phelan, solemnly blessed by Dr. Sheahan, Bishop of Waterford, 15 Aug., 1908, is the present abbot. The community numbers thirty-eight choir religious (of whom twenty-nine are priests ) and twenty-nine lay brothers.
Mount Melleray having become crowded, it was decided to attempt a new foundation. While plans were being discussed, Bishop Lorans, of Dubuque, Iowa, visited the abbey (1849). He expressed a strong desire to have a colony of Trappists in his diocese, and offered a tract of land about twelve miles from Dubuque. Abbot Bruno immediately sent two of his religious to inspect the land, and receiving a favourable report, he accepted the offer. Later in the same year he laid the foundation of New Melleray Abbey, appointing, as its first superior, Father James O'Gorman (later consecrated first bishop of Omaha, Nebraska ). Father Clement Smyth, the third superior, was also elected bishop, being placed in charge of the Diocese of Dubuque . In 1859 the monastery was made an abbey, and Father Ephraim McDonald elected its first abbot. The second abbot, still in office, is Dom Alberic Dunlea, whose community now numbers thirty-six members.
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