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Munsee: Our Country Place

Munsee: Our Country Place

Munsee is the name of the 100-acre property owned by Newark Abbey. It is only an hour’s drive from the Abbey in Sussex County, New Jersey. The property currently has 7 buildings and a lake, is located near the Appalachian Trail, and shares a border with Stokes State Forest. The Flat Brook runs through the land adding to the soothing ambience of the forest. The property is also only minutes from the New Jersey School of Conservation, a school dedicated to teaching youngsters about the outdoors.

The property has become an integral part of the Backpacking Project and is used for recreation in all seasons by monks, Oblates, parishioners, lay faculty, and students alike, as well as by many groups of friends from outside the immediate abbey and school community.

Fr. Mark Payne, O.S.B. has been a part of Newark Abbey for over 30 years. As one of his biggest projects every year, Fr. Mark ran the Backpacking Project, which involves taking the entire freshmen class on a 50-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Fr. Mark said, “It is hard to realize that we ran the backing project for several years before we ever dreamed of Munsee! For about 8 years we hiked many teams of freshmen from High Point, NJ to the Delaware Water Gap with no shelters of our own. Each year we walked through Stokes State Forest never dreaming we were passing by 100 acres of forest, fields and shelters that we would come to rely on for the safety and peace of mind of youngsters and adults.”

“We have been remarkably blessed by the generosity of the alumnus who donated this beautiful place. The sounds of sirens, horns, and hollering are the reality of [the daily life in Newark]. At Munsee, however, the quiet babble of the brook is the only sound, except for, the birds -- another world!”

Fr. Phillip Waters, O.S.B. visits Munsee regularly. He wrote about Munsee:

Camp Munsee was a gift to Newark Abbey and St. Benedict's Prep given by Robert Brennan. For many years, Fr. Lucien Donnelly was the resident caretaker and host of the building he called Bethany House. Three important groups take advantage of Munsee: the first group is the students of St. Benedict's Prep. Backpackers camp there, and it is often a refuge in stormy weather. Other project groups make use of it as they have opportunity and need.

The second group is the members of Newark Abbey. It is a quiet restful place for prayer, recollection, relaxation and outdoor exercise: rare opportunities for monks in a busy urban setting. The third group is the extended family of Newark Abbey and St. Benedict's. Our Oblates, groups from St. Mary's Parish, and other parishes use it for retreats. Scouts and other groups use it to camp. Fr. Mark Payne has shouldered most of the responsibility for upkeep since Fr. Lucien's death in 2000. He visits regularly to look over the place and visit its neighbors. We all are grateful to Bob Brennan for his foresight in giving this gift to all of us.

A Brief History

The monks had long been considering the need for a place in the country to serve the school, monastery, and parishes. Various Individuals had reported back, from time to time, on sites encountered on their mountain hikes that seemed suitable. One in particular, a tract of land in Sussex County, the former Camp Munsee, struck many as quite attractive.

A meeting with financial advisors was held to discuss the advisability of purchasing the property. A phone call a few days later, however, revealed that the property had been sold to another buyer. There the monks left the issue and went on to think of other things. Then, out of the blue, a few months later, Bob Brennan announced to the Abbot at the annual Alumni Communion Breakfast that he had quietly purchased the Camp Munsee land to present as a gift to the monks and the school.

Since that time, several buildings have been thoroughly renovated or expanded.




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