Dom Jacques Winandy, Pioneer of Modern Eremiticism

Dom Jacques Winandy, a Benedictine monk from Belgium, who spent seven years on Vancouver Island in the 1960s founding a remote hermitage, died in 2002 at his home abbey in Clervaux, Luxembourg. He was 96 years old.
…..A close friend of Trappist monk Thomas Merton of Kentucky, who also sought more solitude within the monastic life, Dom Winandy was an internationally acclaimed Scripture scholar. In 1964, already well-known in Europe as the elected abbot of his community, Dom Winandy came to the small town of Headquarters, Vancouver Island, at the invitation of the Bishop of Victoria, Remi de Roo. Dora Winandy sought to establish a tiny hermitage on the banks of the Tsolum River, a few miles west of Merville. The colony of eight hermits, which he led, was mostly unknown to local residents and even to the Catholic Church in general. But it became well-known to the worldwide monastic community, offering a way of life known in the early church that had all but disappeared in the last 500 years.

…..At Vatican II (1962-65), monks worldwide were discovering their historical roots, studying the life of St. Anthony (AD 250-350) in the deserts of the Middle East. Many 20th-century monks felt a call to return to this third century AD eremitic life with its simplicity and monastic integrity, and to enter into pure and constant prayer. Dom Winandy provided the opportunity for aspiring monks to live the hermit life. Merton said in 1968: “When you undertook this project of offering to people a hermit group with a minimum of structure, it was even before the council, even before Bishop de Roo made an intervention in the council, speaking of the need to recognize the hermit life in the church and to permit some monks to fulfill solitary vocations. Your work was epoch-making and it had a decisive effect on the rest of us.”

Dom Jacques Winandy was born in Liege, Belgium, in the early 20th century and became a Benedictine monk Clervaux Abbey in Luxemburg. He did not really want to become a monk at Clervaux. His family had other wishes for him. His father in particular wanted him to live in a monastery closer to the house, like many parents would. When World War II started, the monks of Clervaux lived in exile in religious houses in Belgium. Winandy was excepted as a Carthusian during this time; however, he was elected as abbot of Clervaux immediately after the war, a role he reluctantly accepted. He served as abbot until 1957. He spent time as a hermit before, after a year in Rome, being sent to the Benedictine abbey in Martinique. There he met Br. (now Fr.) Lionel Pare. Pare shared Winandy’s interest in the eremitical life. They obtained permission to start of group of hermits, living individually but under the direction of an elder in 1964. They found an amenable bishop, Bishop Remi De Roo and the space for solitude on the Tsolum River in British Columbia, Canada, near Merville. Winandy remained in a hermitage in British Columbia until 1972, when he returned to a hermitage in Belgium, not far from Clervaux Abbey. He spent the next twenty-five years of his life there before his last six months at Clervaux while infirm. Winandy’s eremitical life had a profound impact on a revival of the vocation of the hermit in the Catholic Church.


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