Peace, prayer and education in Roscrea County Tipperary.

Mount Saint Joseph Abbey is home to a community of thirty eight monks of the Trappist branch of Cistercians. There has been a monastery here since 1878. The peaceful abbey, farm, bakery, guesthouse and a boarding school which the Cistercian monks run for boys are all situated on a six hundred acre estate three kilometres west of Roscrea.

Their purpose is still the same as it was for Cistercians in the 6th century when Saint Benedict wrote their Rule, explains Father Abbot Dom Colmcille O'Toole. The monk is a person who is called to leave the world and devote himself to God and to the community that he joins,

It's a very radical sort of a thing to do.

Living by Saint Benedict's Rule is central to the monks' lives, and they listen to a chapter of it every day as they eat their lunch in the refectory. It is a life of work and discipline, with dedicated prayer times throughout the day and night.

The guesthouse at Mount Saint Joseph Abbey is busy throughout the year. One regular visitor is Bishop Donal Lamont. Deported from Zimbabwe (at that time Rhodesia) twenty years ago following his human rights work and criticism of the Rhodesian government's racial discrimination, he always feels welcome at the Abbey guesthouse, where he can take some time out,

I came here to renew the batteries of the inner man.

The boarding school has been educating young men for almost a century, with an emphasis on sport and debating. Famous past pupils include three former cabinet ministers in the last coalition government, and the current Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dick Spring. He remembers debating being particularly encouraged in the school as a means of fostering life skills, rather than steering students towards politics.

College President Father Kevin Daly who was a member of the teaching staff and Dean of Discipline during Dick Spring's time at school remembers him as,

A good lad...he loved sport.

The Tánaiste however refuses to be drawn on the question of his behaviour as a teenager at the Cistercian College at Mount Saint Joseph,

I'm afraid I can't answer that question, not during my political career.

This report for 'Nationwide' was broadcast on 23 September 1996. The reporter is Mary Fanning.