On 14th December 2016 the Pluscarden Community celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. Previously, Pluscarden had been a dependent house of Prinknash Abbey, the founding monastery, with its Superior appointed by the Abbot of Prinknash.
The granting of independence had various stages. There was the vote of the Prinknash Chapter, then the official grant by the General Chapter of our Congregation in September 1966. Then in November 1966 the newly constituted Pluscarden Chapter, in its first ever act, voted to elect its own Prior. The process was completed when the one elected, Prior Alfred Spencer, was installed in office by Abbot Dyfrig of Prinknash on 14th December 1966.
Abbot Francis of Prinknash travelled up to help us celebrate the Day. He is pictured with Fr. Abbot Anselm and Dom Adrian, the last survivor of the community at that time.
Also pictured are the Pluscarden lay brothers, who made their solemn profession on the very day of the election, 21st November 1966. Before the Second Vatican Council, lay brothers did not have solemn vows, and did not customarily vote in Chapter meetings. In the picture is Br. Gilbert, who was at Pluscarden to work in our stained glass industry, but decided to retain his stability at Prinknash. The brothers are (left to right) Br. Fergus, Br. Gilbert, Br. Andrew, (Abbot Dyfrig, who received their profession, and presided over the election), Br. Mungo, Br. Bernard, Br. Duthac.
Included here is Fr. Abbot's fine homily given at the celebratory Mass on 14th December; also accounts written by Abbot Dyfrig, and by Abbot Alfred.
Account of the Installation of Prior Alfred by Abbot Dyfrig.
From PAX, the Review of the Benedictines of Prinknash, n. 318, Spring/Summer 1967
Father Alfred was for a number of years the novice master at Prinknash. He was installed on 14th December, and with that act Pluscarden ceased to be a monastery dependent on Prinknash. It was with very mixed feelings that I made that last journey to Pluscarden: feelings of thanksgiving and joy that the hard work of the past sixteen years had been so abundantly blessed; sadness at the inevitable break in our lives. Most of the monks at Pluscarden had been professed and ordained at Prinknash, so that it was with a very real sense of loss that I came away after the Installation. We feel sure, however, that there will always be a strong bond of fraternal charity maintained between the two communities, and we here, on our part, will watch the progress of the Priory with the greatest interest. Of course we feel honoured that Pluscarden chose their Prior from the mother house, and we know that in Father Alfred the best monastic tradition will be maintained. We wish him a long and fruitful rule and hope that he will soon be gladdened by an influx of vocations.
Abbot Alfred’s reminiscence on the 25th Anniversary of Pluscarden’s Independence, 1966-1991
(This is a lightly edited extract from Abbot Alfred’s Letter published in Pluscarden Benedictines, No. 92: December 1991)
In September 1966 our General Chapter met in the Abbey of Subiaco, and it was then that Pluscarden was given the status of a Conventual Priory. Pluscarden was to be no longer a dependent house of Prinknash, but was to have its own Conventual Chapter, its own novitiate, and the right to elect its own Conventual Prior. In his letter from the Chapter to us at Prinknash on 19th September, Abbot Dyfrig reported that he “had been given independence by acclamation.”
Abbot Dyfrig returned from Rome to Prinknash on 10th October. On 16th November, the feast of St Dyfrig, he received the Solemn Profession of ten of the Prinknash Brothers and gave them the Cowl. The following day he left for Scotland. On the 21st November it was the turn of the five Pluscarden Brothers to be Solemnly Professed, thus giving them a Chapter vote in the election of their Superior. So it was that the Pluscarden Chapter met for the first time. Its business was to elect a Prior, and the lot fell upon me. Such an election has to be approved by the Abbot President in Rome. In those days there were no Fax machines, let alone email. The confirmation came through on 5th December. From 10th to 12th December the Provincial Chapter met at Prinknash. Immediately after that, I left on the night train for Aberdeen with Abbot Dyfrig, arriving on Wednesday 14th December. We were met there by Fr Maurus and Dr Macfarlane. After Mass at Queen’s Cross Convent, we called on Bishop Michael Foylan, who had invited us for lunch, then drove over the snow-covered roads to Elgin, arriving at the monastery as the bells were ringing for Vespers. Abbot Dyfrig lost no time in installing me in the Chapter House and then, before Vespers, in my stall in Choir.
It is these significant events in the life of the Community that we have been recalling in the past weeks. A threefold silver thread: the Silver Jubilee of the Solemn Profession of Brs Andrew, Bernard and Mungo: the Silver Jubilee of the Monastery as an independent house, and the Silver Jubilee of the Superior. We kept these quite simply with a Mass in thanksgiving, a festive dinner and a recreation in the evening. We did so with deep gratitude to God for the blessings of the last twenty-five years.