During my Christmas stay with relatives in Grapevine, Texas, I had the opportunity to visit the Cistercian Abbey in Irving, about 9 miles away.
In the Abbey chapel I found a 2011 booklet of Christmas carols in Hungarian. That was not surprising, because the founders of the Abbey were refugee monks from Hungary. After the Communist government in Hungary disbanded the monasteries in 1950, many of the monks continued their monastic life clandestinely, while others found refuge in other countries. In 1954 several of them came to Texas at the invitation of the Bishop of Dallas-Fort Worth. The initial group was joined later by more Cistercians from Hungary. In 1961 the Cistercians of Dallas were established as an independent monastery under the patronage of Our Lady of Dallas.
Some of the monks were faculty members of the Catholic University of Dallas when it opened its doors to its first students in September 1956. The University now has a student enrollment of 3,000 students.
In 1962 the monastery founded a Cistercian Preparatory School (grades 5-12) at the request of a group of Catholic parents. The school now has an enrollment of 350, and the present headmaster, Father Peter Verhalen, O. Cist, is the first alumnus to serve in that post.
In 1991 the decision was made to build an Abbey church. The building was constructed in less than one year, and was financed by fund-raising led by alumni of the school.
The Abbey church of Our Lady of Dallas is constructed of 427 huge blocks of Texas limestone, each weighing approximately 4000 pounds. The huge stones maintain their natural texture and color, both on the inside and outside of the church, giving the structure a rugged simplicity that matches the life of the monks.
The church was dedicated by the bishop of Dallas in May 1992. It serves the students as well as the monastic community, and is also open to the public. Last night, December 24th, after the recitation of the Office of Readings at 11.30 p.m., Christmas Mass was celebrated at midnight. The music of the Mass was the traditional Gregorian chant sung by the monks led by their choirmaster, Father Bernard Marton O. Cist.