By Kaelanne Jordan
On Thursday, June 24, the Solemnity of the birthday of St John the Baptist, 38 year old, Brother Gerard Mopeli Sehlabo will pronounce his vows as a Benedictine monk of Mount St Benedict Abbey during the 6.45 a.m. Mass in the Abbey Church.
Brother Gerard is a native of the Kingdom of Lesotho, a country encircled by South Africa. He came to know of the Mount via its website. After corresponding with the Abbot, John Pereira OSB, and accepted by him, he arrived in Trinidad on Monday, February 24, 2020, to begin his monastic life. He completed his Novitiate (under pandemic conditions) and will now be clothed with the habit of a professed monk.
In a live interview with Abbot Pereira via Mount Television Network, on June 22, Brother Gerard told the Abbot that he is “very happy” and looks forward to making his first monastic profession at the monastery.
“But at the same time, this is the beginning of my journey…and I still need more prayers…,” Brother Gerard said.
Responding to what led him to the Caribbean monastery, he explained that it was during research that he “fell in love” with the atmosphere at the Mount.
“As you know during the time of Jesus Christ, He used to spend time up in the mountains to pray. So, when I looked at the place and I realised it is situated high up the hills, and that’s where I felt that I will be able to encounter the Lord,” Brother Gerard said.
With various religious communities within the Catholic Church for males, Brother Gerard summarised his calling to monastic life in four key areas: interior solitude, fraternity, silent communion and generous dedication to the Gospel of Christ.
Upon his arrival, Brother Gerard was received as a postulant (a candidate, especially one seeking admission into a religious order) for a period of four months. Soon after, he was received as a novice and clothed in his novice’s habit. He underwent formal courses in monastic spirituality and the history of monastic life. Brother Gerard was also allowed to be a part of the community and to discern whether this is the type of life he wants to spend for the rest of his life.
A sign of hope
Abbot Pereira said that Brother Gerard’s profession gives the monks in the monastery a sign of hope that even during this difficult time of the pandemic, “life is springing forth”.
Echoing similar sentiments, Brother Gerard commented, “We all know Covid is as very negative thing. Nobody like it. Everybody wants it to end.”
In reflecting on his journey, he said that there was some positive. “Because I have to be honest… this is a discernment, a journey of self-discovery. You discover every day new things, and at times we get confused and we need to turn to the Lord and search for answers. That is when I must say that the pandemic has helped me somehow. That I was unable to decide to go back as the borders were closed during my times of frustrations,” Brother Gerard said.
Abbot Pereira then posed this question to Brother Gerard: ‘How do you see the future of the Mount?’.
Brother Gerard responded that he sees a “very positive” future for the monastery.
“And in the few coming years I believe the monastery will flourish with many more sincere men,” he said.
Asked to share some advice to the young man seeking a monastic way of life, Brother Gerard commented that vocation is all about love; love is all about giving oneself to God as a gift. He emphasised while there are many
“confusing voices” that speak to us, “listen carefully and be able to choose which way the Lord wants you to take.