Chapel Basilica, Conception Abbey, Missouri
Forgiveness was central to Jesus’ ministry and mission. And the Benedictine monks of Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri have made it central to their own mission in the five years since gun violence tore their peaceful world apart.
Lloyd Robert Jeffress, a 71-year-old retiree, walked into the abbey 90 miles north of Kansas City on the morning of June 10, 2002 and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rife, killing two monks and leaving two others seriously injured. Jeffress later killed himself.
The doors at Conception Abbey are still unlocked and open and forgiveness continues to be the reigning theme as the members of the rural monastery quietly marked the fifth anniversary of the tragedy this week. Since the shootings, little has changed in terms of how the monks go about their daily routines and interact with visitors. Father Gregory Polan, the monastery's abbot, said ending the monastery's practice of openly welcoming strangers would defeat their purpose of living Christ's teachings.
If anything, said Polan, the shootings helped reinforce the teachings of Saint Benedict, the founder of the abbey's religious order, who instructed monks to keep death always before their eyes as a way to gain perspective on how to live their lives.
Local law enforcement has also kept a close relationship with the monastery, a bond that began on the day of the shooting. “The unbelievable strength and faith . . . have overwhelmed us,” said Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey. “We're always welcome. . . . It brought a lot of people closer together.”
* Source: An article for the Associated Press