Our History


Mt. St. Mary’s Abbey of Trappist nuns in Wrentham, Massachusetts, has been experiencing an enormous influx of new members. Mother Angela Norton, the abbess, decides to send sisters to found a new monastery. 


New Melleray Abbey and Archbishop James Byrne of Dubuque invite Wrentham to make the foundation in Iowa. 


18 October: M. Angela brings the 13 founding sisters to Dubuque. Mother Columba Guare will be the superior of the new monastery. 


We begin making candy to support ourselves. Sr Rosemary goes to Wrentham to learn how to cook caramels, and we call our new industry Trappistine Creamy Caramels. 


Br Placid of New Melleray becomes our farm manager, a position he will hold for nearly 20 years. We start withdrawing the land from soil bank and planting Christmas trees, then row crops. Eventually we establish a rotation of soy, corn, oats and alfalfa. Our pasture lands are rented to neighbors for cattle grazing. 


We accept our first new candidate. 


3 May: The abbey church is built and consecrated.


7 May: Mississippi becomes an autonomous Abbey. Mother Columba Guare is elected the first abbess.

22 August: Kathy Lyzotte, the first new member to persevere at Mississippi Abbey, enters as a postulant. 


Transfer of major offices in the monastery (prioress, cellarer) from founding sisters to new members. 

Major expansion of the candy building. 


10 April: Blessing of the new wing begun in 1977 (dormitory, refectory, scriptorium). 


Initiation of a Long Term Guest program for women desiring an experience of monastic life. 

7 May: Sr Gail Fitzpatrick is elected second abbess of Mississippi Abbey.


Construction of an acre pond in our farm fields, to help with soil conservation, to encourage wildlife, and to beautify our land. 


Renovation of Abbey Church and installation of the organ. 


Mississippi and New Melleray begin a joint lay association, the Associates of the Iowa Cistercians. 


Creation of Mississippi Abbey’s first web site. 


We send five of our sisters, accompanied by two Norwegian sisters from other monasteries, to begin a new monastery in Norway on the island of Tautra, site of a medieval Cistercian monastery.

We hire a professional forester to manage our woodlands. 


Oct 30, the first death in our community; Sr Augustine Funk, the oldest of our founders. She is buried on All Souls Day, Nov 2, inaugurating our cemetery. 


Construction of a new candy factory. In August we move in and cook our first batch. 


Conversion of the old candy house into St Benedict’s Welcome Center, housing our first giftshop and our first meeting room for visitors, as well as office space for sisters. 


Purchase of adjacent 80-acre farm, to shield us from encroaching housing development. 

25 March: Tautra Mariakloster, our foundation in Norway, becomes an autonomous priory. 

7 May: Sr Nettie Gamble is elected third abbess of Mississippi Abbey.


1 September: death of M. Columba Guare, our first abbess. 


Major renovation of our monastery, including a new senior wing, library and prayer room, adding ramps, converting old library into refectory. 


7 May: Sr Rebecca Stramoski is elected fourth abbess of Mississippi Abbey. 

8 September: Blessing of our first statue of Our Lady of the Mississippi, placed in our front circle, in memory of M. Columba. The statue was designed and built for us by artist Philip Howie. 


July 11, Feast of St Benedict, we open our Jubilee Year of foundation with a Mass and other celebrations. 

We publish a book, A Life of Hope, about our monastery


July 11, Archbishop Jackals presides at the Mass to close our jubilee year. Friends from near and far join us for several days of celebration. 


We purchase some adjacent property; it includes a house right by our entrance, a blessing, since we had to remove our previous Gate House due to termites. 



Our gift shop and guest houses, and guest access to our church, are closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We re-open our church to guests in June. 


Our candy business is now officially renamed “Monastery Candy”.