Mepkin Abbey Selects New Superior
On Nov. 3, Fr. Joseph A. Tedesco will become the fifth leader of Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery located on the Cooper River outside of Moncks Corner. The monks chose Fr. Tedesco to be their new superior, and Fr. Elias Deitz, Abbot of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky and Mepkin’s Motherhouse, confirmed this choice. Fr. Tedesco succeeds Fr. Stan Gumula who has led the Mepkin community for the past 12 years.
Fr. Joe, as he is known in the community, entered Mepkin in March 2008 and made his solemn profession as a monk on June 28, 2014. He has worked on the farm, cooked and supervised the kitchen, managed the Abbey Store and Reception Center, and as director of monks in temporary vows.
“The Holy Spirit was truly with us as we journeyed together as a community to come to know what God was asking of us,” said Fr. Joe. “This helped us to clarify how to go forward. I feel blessed to know as I begin the spiritual leadership of Mepkin, that we are open to the Spirit, supportive of one another and energized as a community. So, I can say that we are full of gratitude for the past, hopeful for our future, and approaching our present with passion. This is the gift we have given to each other.”
The son of Anthony and Anna Tedesco, Fr. Joe was born in Philadelphia. He has two sisters (one is a member of the Society of the Holy Child) and two brothers (one his twin.) He attended Catholic grammar and high schools in Philadelphia, received a B.A. in theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 1975, and an M.A. in Theology from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore in 1979. He was a priest in the Diocese of Trenton and served there from 1979 to 2007, in parishes as associate pastor and pastor and in various diocesan roles.
In 2015, Fr. Joe published Food for Thought: Mepkin Abbey Fare which contains the mostly vegetarian recipes he cooks for the monks and visitors.
Mepkin Abbey is part of the Roman Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists. Currently, 17 men are members of the monastery. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict, spending their days in prayer, work and spiritual readings and welcoming visitors all year long. Some visitors come just for the day; others come for retreats lasting several days to a week; some men come for several months as part of the monastic guest program. Every November, Mepkin hosts its annual Creche Festival and this year almost 8,000 people will come to see some of the abbey’s collection of nativity sets from around the world.
Founded in 1949, the monastery has had four leaders. Fr. Anthony Chassagne served as the founding superior from 1949 to 1954 and as abbot from 1954 to 1974. Fr. Christian Carr was superior from 1974 to 1977 and as abbot from 1977 to 1990. Fr. Francis Kline was abbot from 1990 to 2006, and Fr. Stan Gumula, the current abbot of Mepkin, was elected in 2006. His terms ends on Nov. 3 when Fr. Joe will assume spiritual leadership of the community, serving as its superior. Because of age requirements, Fr. Joe could not be elected abbot.