Westminster Abbey (British Columbia)

Westminster Abbey is a community of Benedictine monks in Mission, British Columbia, established in 1939 from the Abbey of Mount Angel, Oregon. The abbey is home to the Seminary of Christ the King and is a member of the Swiss American Congregation within the Benedictine Confederation.

The abbey's official name is the Abbey of Saint Joseph of Westminster; Saint Joseph is the abbey's patron saint. The abbey was designed by the firm of Gardiner, Thornton, Gathe and Associates.[1]

Church of Westminster Abbey


The seminary was founded in 1931 by Archbishop William Mark Duke of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Five monks, including Father Eugene Medved, later Prior and Abbot, were sent from Mount Angel Abbey, Oregon, to British Columbia in 1939 to found a priory and to take over the running of the Seminary of Christ the King, which was then located in Ladner, B.C..[2][3][4]

The following year, the monks moved their new priory together with the seminary to Burnaby, near Vancouver, B.C., neighbouring New Westminster. It became a conventual (independent) priory in 1948. In 1953 the Holy See raised it to the status of an Abbey. Prior Eugene was elected as the first Abbot of the new abbey.[2][3]

The same year, construction began on a new abbey, church, and seminary, designed by the Norwegian architect, Asbjørn Gåthe. The new location was on the outskirts of the town of Mission. The monks began to live on this site beginning in 1954; buildings were gradually added, culminating in the abbey church in 1982. The abbey is located on a hill northeast of the town centre, with a view up the Fraser River valley.[2]

Father Maurus Macrae was elected abbot in 1992 after the death of Abbot Eugene. He continued as abbot until his death in 2005, when Father John Braganza, the present abbot, was elected.[4]

The abbey currently has around 30 monks.


Panoramic image of the interior of the church.

Benedictine monks live by the motto of their order, Ora et Labora, ("Pray and Work"). The roughly 30 monks at Westminster Abbey also follow this.

In 1950, Benedictine sisters came to help the abbey, and continued there until they left in 1968. Since then, all kitchen, farm, and most other work at the abbey has been done by the monks themselves.


The monks pray the Liturgy of the Hours, namely Lauds, Midday Prayer, Vespers and Vigils at four different times throughout the day. These are usually sung publicly in the Abbey church.


The monks operate the Seminary of Christ the King, with a Minor (high school) and Major (college) seminary, both for young men. The students reside on the grounds during the school year. They also participate in the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours. The minor seminary is the only Anglophone high school seminary in Canada, and also the only minor seminary run by Benedictine Monks in the world. The major seminary is a private institution authorised by the government of British Columbia to grant degrees.[4]

The students are taught by the monks, as well by many volunteer teachers. The Major seminarians are also taught by local diocesan priests.


Father Dunstan Massey is the abbey's resident artist. He has painted several frescoes around the abbey, and he has also created a series of concrete bas-reliefs affixed to pillars inside the church.[5]


The abbey's farm is worked by the monks. It houses up to 40 cattle, raised for their meat. There are also chickens, whose eggs and meat are eaten. Most of the meat eaten at the abbey comes from the farm.

The abbey, including the farm and woods, covers over 70 hectares of land.



  1. ^ Geoffrey Simmins, The Architecture of Two Benedictine Abbey Churches in Western Canada from University of Calgary retrieved 5 March 2015
  2. ^ a b c Westminster Abbey Mission from Seminary of Christ the King, retrieved 5 March 2015
  3. ^ a b Seminary of Christ the King retrieved 5 March 2015
  4. ^ a b c Westminster Abbey website - History retrieved 5 March 2015
  5. ^ Westminster Abbey website - View art gallery retrieved 5 March 2015

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 49°09′13″N 122°16′16″W / 49.15360°N 122.27100°W / 49.15360; -122.27100