About & History
Saint Benedict’s at Benet Lake is a community of Benedictine monks located on the state boarders of Wisconsin and Illinois. Our property is located in both the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Archdiocese of Chicago.
St. Benedict’s was founded and made a priory in 1945 by Fr. Richard Felix, OSB, a monk of Conception Abbey in Missouri. A seasoned street preacher and founder of Our Faith Press, a publisher of Catholic pamphlets, Fr. Richard’s dream was to start a missionary congregation with small Benedictine monasteries evangelizing throughout the United States. After looking at dozens of locations, Fr. Richard obtained property at Benet Lake, right on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, both with large Catholic populations.
The first Eucharist was celebrated at Benet Lake on March 21, 1945, and the small community began to grow. Along with living out the Rule of St. Benedict, the monks engaged in farming, staffing parishes, and ran a Latin language school. The priory was raised to the rank of an abbey in 1952, and Fr. Richard was elected the first abbot. The monks had a Bible Museum which consisted of statues/figures of biblical scenes. Droves of pilgrims from Milwaukee and Chicago came to Benet Lake to visit the museum.
To help the abbey grow in friends and benefactors a prayer guild was started. The prayer guild consisted of a Book of Remembrance, the “Golden Book,” which still exists to this day. It lists the names of those who have past and the names of those who wish to be remembered in our prayers. Pastoral work and high school teaching in the smaller priories also supported the community. Abbot Richard established new priories in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio and New Mexico. Two priories became independent abbeys: Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massechusetts, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, in Pecos, New Mexico. At the request of St. Pope John XXIII, the community established five missions in Latin America between the late 1950s and early 1990s. At its peak, the community of St. Benedict’s Abbey numbered 70 members. In the late 70’s and into the 80’s, and 90’s the monks focused their attention on retreat ministry.
By 2010, the closing of small priories, the deaths of members and the lack of vocations had reduced the size of the community. In 2013 the monks began a series of conversations in regards to her future with the monks of Conception Abbey, the founding motherhouse.
In October 2014, the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey voted to become a dependent priory on Conception Abbey, and the monks of Conception Abbey agreed to the reunification.
Today St. Benedict’s Priory at Benet Lake consists of four monks. Even though Benet Lake is a small community, the monks remain dedicated to Abbot Richard’s vision, evangelization. We do this by our retreat work. An average 3,500 retreatants come to Benet Lake every year.