Current Work of Melk Abbey’s Benedictine Monks
Tasks & Activities
Ora et labora et lege. This summary of Saint Benedict’s monastic rule has always offered guidance and inspiration for spiritual life in our house. Its conveys the utopian dream that prayer, work and studies can be reconciled in a meaningful and humane way. The “workshop“ to accomplish this, as Saint Benedict writes, is the monastery.
(Regula Benedicti 4,78)
An essential task of each Benedictine community is regular common prayer (“liturgy of the hours”). For over 900 years monks have been praying in Melk Abbey several times every day. In addition to that, the Benedictines in Melk have had two tasks which go back as far as the time of the monastery’s foundation: their work as teachers and educators as well as pastoral care in their parishes. A secondary school for currently nearly 900 students is located in the abbey building, and 23 parishes are entrusted to the abbey’s pastoral care.
In the last decades, the different types of pastoral care have evolved and strongly diversified. New tasks emerged (“target-group-specific pastoral care”) which have to do with concrete needs, but also with the interests and talents of individual brothers: youth, hospital, prison, refugees, etc. Another important field of activity is culture.
With its library, archives and collections, Melk Abbey is also a place with a long memory which reaches far back into History beyond our generation and needs to be preserved for the future. Among the many activities in our house, scientific work has always had its significant place.
Melk Abbey is a cultural and spiritual center which plays an active part in its environment and can offer space to many people’s ideas. In order to achieve that objective this house needs to be sustainably managed and maintained. Numerous employees work here, making a decisive contribution to accomplishing the tasks in all the various fields of activity. The proceeds from tourism and the abbey’s enterprises are entirely used to finance these different tasks as well as maintenance of the building.
Current tasks of Melk Abbey’s Benedictine monks:
Spiritual guidance and pastoral care in the parishes
To support people in their life of faith constitutes an important and beautiful task for which Melk Abbey offers space and time. Many possibilities present themselves, such as worship services, a silent prayer in the abbey church, or a spiritual stroll through the abbey park. You are also welcome in the monastery’s guest house.
Pastoral care in the parishes
When the Babenberg family ruled Austria, Melk abbey was originally entrusted with pastoral care in 5 parishes. Over the centuries the number rose to 29 parishes, 23 of which are still ministered by Melk abbey’s monks. Historical developments have created the rather adverse situation that most of the parishes are quite a distance from the monastery.
“And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.” (Regula Benedicti, Prologue 45/46)
Melk Abbey operates a secondary school which was mentioned in a document as a monastery school for the first time in 1140. In 1966 a student exchange program was established with St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville (Minnesota, USA). Since 1967 classes have been coeducational.
After four years of middle school, students can choose between five different high school branches which focus on either old languages, modern languages, natural sciences, art, or music. The school attaches great importance to nurturing the special interests of the students by offering a large range of optional subjects and courses.
The monastery strives after the human and religious formation of its pupils, considering it also a pastoral task. This is particularly evident in the school’s pastoral care and social work programs, which have been developed since the 1990s and are supervised by professional staff.
Many activities with our students and the local youth let the monastery become a familiar place where they can feel secure, nurtured, and at home. Additionally the monastery offers them spiritual retreats and exercises. The house’s atmosphere and the contact with the Fathers and Brothers can prove very rewarding for the guests.
A healthy economic basis is needed to maintain the building’s Baroque cultural ensemble. The proceeds from tourism and the abbey’s enterprises are used entirely to finance the different tasks of the monastery, as well as maintenance of the building.
Employer & Economic Driving Force
Melk Abbey fulfills numerous important functions for the region – beyond pastoral care. It is also an economic driving force, a long-term employer for most of its staff as well as an educational provider: Melk Abbey Secondary School is attended by about 900 students, and nearly 100 teachers work here. Melk Abbey Restaurant has around 40 employees. For suppliers and contractors from the area Melk Abbey is a longstanding and dependable business partner.
Statistics excerpt (retrieved on August 31, 2021)
146 staff members, including 23 seasonally employed abbey guides
We are proud of:
Female quota – 89 women and 57 men are employed by Melk Abbey
50+ – Persons over 50 often have a hard time finding a job – in Melk Abbey 47% of the staff are older than 50.
Job tenure – about 15% of Melk Abbey’s staff have been working there for 30 years or longer!