Extract from an article published in the book of the fiftieth anniversary of AIM "So far yet so near"
ABECCA - EMLA
Latin American Monastic Encounter
Patricia Henry, osb
AIM had already existed for almost twenty years before our Region 10 ABECCA (Asociación Benedictina-Cisterciense del Caribe y los Andes) came into being.
One of the blessings of our regional association in ABECCA has been the opportunity to share with sister and brother Cistercians, both OCIST and OCSO, as well as with a wide variety of Benedictine monasteries. AIM has been a key factor in making our regional and continental meetings possible.
The Abbots Primate have often taken the opportunity to address important issues for the Benedictine Family in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Rembert Weakland, Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order from 1967 to 1977, encouraged the formation of ABECCA over thirty years ago. The difficulties we faced then and continue to face are far greater than those of Regions 11 (Brazil) and 12 (Southern Cone). Our region covers many thousands of kilometres, and embraces communities from North, Central and South America as well as several Caribbean Islands, in which three languages are spoken (Spanish, English and French) not to mention a variety of native languages.
From a monastic point of view, we have faced another challenge, the ability to include and embrace not only women and men, Cistercians and Benedictines, but also and perhaps most difficult, nuns and sisters. Abbot Primate Weakland encouraged us to move beyond our differences that could almost be compared to “class distinctions” and to bond as sisters and brothers of equal value, with a diversity of expressions of our monastic charism.
More recently, Abbot Primate Notker Wolf has encouraged us to let go of the cultural baggage that at times burdens European monastic life, and to find Latin American and Caribbean expressions of our charism.
In this long and at times painful process, the presence, support, and encouragement of AIM has been invaluable. In recent years Abbot Paul Stonham has been a most helpful representative of AIM both at our regional gatherings and at individual monasteries.
Many of us remember how time after time AIM has made it possible for us to attend gatherings, whether they be ABECCA, EMLA or REMILA. You have supported poor communities so that they could be present as well as helping us cover the costs of organisation. These events are important for us, not only as a wonderful opportunity for reflection on some monastic topic, but even more so, as the occasion to meet with one another, share our stories, understand and respect our differences, pray together and establish links of friendship and hope.
Many communities express appreciation for the Bulletin, both for the formative articles and for the chronicles. The latter have been most helpful in broadening our vision and awareness of the enormous extension of our Benedictine family. The bulletin is also an excellent means of communication and interest among our communities and has helped us to feel close to our sister and brother Benedictines and Cistercians. Many also acknowledge the value of the boxes of books received. The support of AIM has been very important to us! Thanks to AIM we have had excellent opportunities for initial and ongoing formation.
ABECCA covers a vast expanse of land and sea; our monasteries are small and wide-spread. At times when we have been starting a new foundation, or have weathered a disaster of some sort, AIM has been present with concern, care, and a quick response.
One monk said it well when he wrote, “I think that the AIM secretariat has been the most efficient organ of the Benedictine Confederation in helping our monasteries to have a sense of belonging in an ongoing and permanent way."