In April of 2008 I posted a blog item about the Monastery of the Holy Cross, an urban Benedictine monastic community on Chicago’s South Side. Specifically I talked about the award-winning bed-and-breakfast they operate out of one of the monastery buildings.
The community has an interesting history, tracing its roots to three founding brothers who had done mission work and felt called to form a community of prayer. In 1991 they were invited to Chicago in order to establish a contemplative presence in the city and were given a parish church that had been closed. They began renovations of the church and over the next few years were able to purchase several adjacent properties, allowing them to welcome more guests and accommodate more monks. In the mid-1990s the community sought to affiliate itself with the Subiaco Congregation of the Order of Saint Benedict, and in May of 2000 the founding members made their solemn professions as Benedictine monks. On the same day the first new member made his first vows.
The story of the current prior of the community, Father Peter Funk, O.S.B., is as interesting as that of the community itself. Coming from a musical family, Funk studied music theory at the University of Chicago and was getting hired as a cantor at Chicago parishes and leader of music at the university’s Catholic campus ministry. With his childhood friend Jon Elfner, Funk formed a jazz-rock fusion band called Om in 1994, which also included bassist Aaron Kohen and a rotating group of other local musicians. They played their last gig at the Taste of Chicago in 1997. “I wasn’t surprised at all,” Elfner said of his friend’s decision to enter monastic life. “Knowing him as long as I did, he always vested a lot into his religious life.” Funk was prepared to give up music to focus on his monastic formation but got lessons with a voice coach instead.
These days, besides the community’s liturgical music (they devote three and a half to four hours a day to communal sung prayer), Funk also plays in a trio with fellow Benedictines Brother Brendan Creeden, Funk’s former novice master, and novice Ezekiel Brennan. The group performs at social functions the monastery hosts. While he doesn’t listen to much modern music anymore, Funk is still a fan of Steve Reich and Steve Coleman.
Source: ChicagoCatholicNews.com and the Chicago Sun-Times