Worth Abbey is one of the thirteen monasteries of the English Benedictine Congregation, which is the oldest of the Benedictine congregations.
Its lineage stretches back through an earlier English congregation set up in the thirteenth century, and through them to the monasteries restored by Ss Dunstan, Ethelwold and Oswald in the tenth century, which in turn were a continuation of monasteries founded by Ss Wilfrid and Benet Biscop in the seventh century, who in turn were inspired by what they saw at St Augustine’s monastery at Canterbury, who had been sent by the Pope to England in 597.
All this nearly came to an end under King Henry VIII with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. By 1607 only one monk of the pre-Reformation congregation survived, Dom Sigebert Buckley. In 1607 he welcomed two young English monks of the Cassinese Congregation into the English Congregation. These two monks joined other English monks in exile who were training for the English mission. It is through this missionary work that the present day congregation finds part of its work in parochial duties throughout the country.
By the nineteenth century monasteries were again established in England. Today the work done by each community varies from house to house. Some are engaged in the running of schools attached to their monasteries, some are involved in offering retreat’s. In addition 32 parishes and 20 Mass centres in 16 dioceses in Britain are served by monks of the congregation.
But the EBC also has a tradition of contemplative and mystical prayer, which was revived by Fr Augustine Baker (†1643) when he was chaplain to the nuns at Cambrai, it is this mix of apostolic endeavour, springing from a contemplative monastic life that gives the EBC its distinctive flavour.