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Prayer Preserves

A monastic jelly factory links business and religion

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In the slide show above, Molly Connors (CAS’03, COM’10) explores St. Joseph’s Abbey, whose monks cook up more than a million jars of fruit preserves every year.

Some spirituality you can spread on toast.

For more than 50 years, the Trappist monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass., have supported lives of contemplation, study, and worship by producing about 1.5 million jars of specialty fruit preserves every year. Flavors range from strawberry-rhubarb to mango pepper and are sold in stores throughout New England and online.

The men of St. Joseph’s rise just after 3 a.m. to begin a day of prayer interspersed with “the work of their hands,” a founding edict of their order, established by St. Benedict in the sixth century. Traditionally that labor was farming, but today farming won’t pay all the bills. So the monks turned to more lucrative pursuits, such as sewing vestments and renting a guesthouse on the property. But the jelly kitchen is a favorite assignment among the monks, says Brother Daniel Charpentier.

“I think our product is special, because it’s made with God in mind,” he says.

Molly Connors produced a radio version of this piece for the Advanced Radio Reporting class of Anne Donohue, a College of Communication associate professor of journalism. It first aired May 17, 2009, on WBUR, BU’s National Public Radio station, as part of a series of student-produced stories called Made in Massachusetts. The photos in the slide show were shot by Connors, Brother Emmanuel Morinelli, Brother Brian Rooney, and Chris Berdik. Special thanks to WBUR producer Matt Largey for his assistance.

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.

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