Who is a Cistercian Associate?
A Cistercian Associate is a person who feels a calling from God to lead a contemplative and spiritual life in the world, a life modeled on the wisdom of Cistercian values and practices, and who seeks a community of like-minded people.
We in the AIC feel called to follow the example of Christ as revealed in the Gospels. To this end, we have found the Cistercian tradition flowing from the Rule of Saint Benedict very important in our formation as lay contemplatives living in the world.
We have observed and participated in the consistency and harmony by which the brothers and sisters incorporate prayer, sacred reading,and work in their daily routines, and how they embrace the Cistercian values and practices that shape their lives.
Through our participation and our involvement, we have discovered that many of these Cistercian values and practices are relevant for those of us outside monastic communities who wish to live in a Christ-centered way in the secular world.
What is the purpose of the AIC?
It is important to understand that the AIC is not a prayer group or a spiritual support group that meets at New Melleray or Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in order to experience the peace and tranquility of a monastery. Nor are we trying to make ourselves into secular copies of monks and nuns. The purpose of the AIC is to assist one another in learning about monastic values and practices in order to incorporate them into our everyday lives. Our call to be associates involves the willingness to accept these challenges and responsibilities: As Lay Cistercians we are called to live the Gospel message in the world even though to do so often involves choices and behaviors that are “countercultural”.
As members of the Church we are called to be faithful to our calling by being active and contributing members of our local parishes and congregations.
How do I become a member of the AIC?
Visitors who have attended the annual AIC orientation meeting are welcome to begin attending monthly meetings with others who are in the initial formation group. This is an opportunity for new members to discern whether they feel called to continue meeting with us. Those who wish to do so are asked to fill out a short registration form in order to have their names added to our membership list.
Is monthly attendance at meetings a requirement for membership?
The AIC meets on the second Saturday of each month. Members are expected to be in attendance every month; however, it is not unusual for outside responsibilities and family commitments to make it necessary for members to miss a meeting on occasion. When this happens it is the responsibility of the member to make arrangements to have any handouts or materials forwarded. Because all initial formation topics are repeated in a three-year cycle, members always have an opportunity for attending a missed session at a later time.
When members develop a pattern of missing meetings, no matter the reason, they may be asked to discern whether membership in AIC is appropriate at this time in their lives. Members in on-going formation may take a leave of absence for up to one year, or may move to emeritus status. Members in initial formation may withdraw and re-apply for membership when their situation allows it.
What is meant by formation?
It is important to understand that becoming a Cistercian Associate is a process of change as we learn to apply monastic values and practices to our lives outside the monastery. The formation process is intended to help us achieve the changes we need to make in our personal lives as well as our lives together in the AIC community. The AIC has two formation tracks.
During initial formation new members meet together for special teaching presentations and discussions intended to help them understand core monastic concepts that are important elements in the contemplative life. Topics are presented on a 3-year rolling schedule in order to ensure that members complete the series prior to discerning a commitment to be faithful to what they have learned.
While AIC members do not make formal vows, they do have the opportunity to publicly acknowledge their personal resolve to be faithful in applying what they have learned during initial formation to their individual lives.
The On-going formation program is for those who have made their personal commitment. In addition to a deeper exploration of monastic values and practices, on-going formation also includes a stronger emphasis on being of service within the AIC community.
Does the AIC have a program for persons who do not live in the immediate area and are unable to attend monthly meetings?
Yes. The AIC has established an on-line community, Conversi, which is also associated with New Melleray and Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbeys. To learn more about Conversi, visit their web site: Conversi – an Online Community.
Do I have to be a Catholic to be a member of the AIC?
Membership in the AIC is open to any Christian adult. Currently there are several non-Catholics–including members of the clergy from other denominations–who are active members.
How do I decide if the AIC is for me?
The decision to become a member of the AIC is a personal one. Here are some statements that may help you discern whether membership in the AIC is for you:
- I feel a calling from God to explore a contemplative lifestyle in the world.
- I would like to find ways to express Cistercian values and practices in my everyday life.
- I am a Christian.
- My overall health will not interfere with living a contemplative lifestyle in the world.
- I have the time to give one day a month to participation in AIC meetings. I have the ability and means to travel to AIC meetings once a month.
- With the exception of family and work obligations, I will endeavor to attend all meetings of the AIC.
- I am not seeking a support group or a prayer group, but rather a community of individuals interested in learning about and applying the values and practices of the Cistercian charism as these are explained to me in the three-year Initial Formation track.
- I will identify one or more contemplative practices which I will faithfully pursue every day.
- I will spend time each month thinking and praying about what I have learned at the AIC meeting, and seeking ways to incorporate it into my daily life.
- I will love and respect all members of the AIC community.
- I will not use the AIC as a means of promoting personal or political agendas.
- I will support the AIC through my personal dues and in being of service to the AIC community.
- If family or work obligations interfere with participation in the AIC, or if I discover that living a contemplative lifestyle as a member of the AIC community is not for me, I will withdraw from the community in order to allow other interested people the opportunity to explore this lifestyle for themselves.
I am interested in membership in the AIC. Where do I begin?
Although membership in the AIC is not restricted at this time, limitations of space and monastic resources may make it necessary to restrict the size of the community in the future. The annual Visitor Orientation Day is held in September of each year. To place yourself on the list of prospective visitors, please email the Membership Coordinator.