Conference "Economy and monastic life”

Religious orders have a great task in the dialogue between church and economy

[Translate to Englisch:] Katja Rost, Birgit Feldbauer-Durstmüller, Bischof em. Maximilian Aichern

"To be the guardian of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow", the Benedictine monk and bishop emeritus Maximilian Aichern told the 50 workshop participants on the topic "Economy and monastic life" at the Stift Lambach. The Controlling Institute of the JKU Linz and the Monastery of Lambach brought together international experts in an interdisciplinary two-day workshop.

"Religious orders have a great task in the dialogue between church and economy, because they themselves live in the economic world through their institutions and businesses. Monasteries are thus plantations of the edification of God's people and they become the guardians of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow". Bishop emeritus Maximilian Aichern, himself a Benedictine and in his early years abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St. Lambrecht in Styria, expressly pointed out in his opening address "that great sensitivity for human dignity is needed in the work processes. Sustainability, justice, mercy and responsibility for creation are central. The intercultural search for solutions in solidarity to the many challenges is expected of the religious and is directly demanded of them.” It is always about the realisation of the social teaching in all areas and the participation of the workers in all areas. "The focus must not be either-or, but both-and." Aichern refers again and again to the "Benedictine way of life" and emphasises: "It needs the courage to change, especially in permanence. Solidarity, a simple lifestyle, the willingness to share and a deep respect for the poor are needed. The monasteries are special places for the questions of the future. They are not under the pressure of growth or profit maximisation. Monastic communities are a cosmos in miniature and thus they are navigators or compasses for social development."

Digital Religion

The topic "Monasteries in the digital age" was the impulse of sociologist Katja Rost from the University of Zurich. "We are only learning to deal with this new reality. Disadvantages and advantages are still to be researched in detail. Extreme monopolisation is a danger because it creates irreversible dependencies." The topic of surveillance and digital dictatorship as in China is being addressed, as well as anonymity and the associated loss of control, which is causing a growth of hatred and aggression on the Internet. "Too many people today have no idea how the internet and social media works." Rust knows that "behind rankings, there's usually hot air." Attention economy and metrics, number magic dominate, and speed is just as much a problem for the young, according to research. Offline is a marginal issue, "but it's booming." Monasteries can be alternatives here and become effective along the new basic innovations. "Health, well-being and spirituality are becoming the future fields of mankind and monasteries and religious orders can answer this in a special way," the sociologist is convinced. Digital religion will become a large field of research. "Rest, work and prayer in monasteries are opposed to permanent accessibility. Seclusion - behind monastery walls - can be seen and lived differently today."

Cooperation that strengthens each other

The Prior of the European Monastery Gut-Aich father Johannes Pausch and the Chairman of the Board of SPAR Austria Gerhard Drexel explained the "Principles of their cooperation for the advertising and marketing of monastery products" to the controlling experts and the numerous religious who attended. Pausch: "In the monastery community we have worked out seven principles for a co-operation and found out that this compatibility was given. Everything has developed further in this cooperation between the monastery and Spar. Collegiality, authenticity and solidarity were important to us. Our products had to fit into the context of the partner." Pausch sees religious communities in such cooperation issues between "monastic megalomania or inferiority complexes".  Chairman Drexel sees in co-operation as substantial, "that fair, cooperative and creative action is taken". Its commercial enterprise stands for a pluralistic, humane and open society.

Why it pulls high-level personnel into the monastery

"Religiousness and spirituality can be lived out very little in economic fields." Church historian Barbara Müller and human resources manager Dorothea Alewell, both from the University of Hamburg, see this as an incentive for managers to seek orientation in monasteries. They see monasteries as "other places", where for businessmen an interruption and disturbance of everyday life occurs. "Prayer, participation and passing on leadership knowledge are therefore the offers of the orders." In addition, managers are always in "dilemma situations" that cannot be resolved, "but can only be endured and shaped in tension". Religiously formed people are more capable of "enduring paradoxes, unavailability or suffering". This is how offers such as "temporary monasteries for executives" are currently emerging.

Relationship, community, prayer

The garden discussion in the evening dealt with the topic "The attraction of monastic life in times of a much-lamented shortage of young people". Moderated by Ferdinand Kaineder, the speakers were Br. Wolfgang Sigler from the Abbey of Münsterschwarzach, Sr. Marta Bayer from the Benedictines in Steinerkirchen, Fr. Jakob Auer from the Archabbey of St. Peter, Fr. Ludwig Wenzel from the monastery in Melk and the sociologist Katja Rost from the University of Zurich. "Personal relationships and a supportive community life are the essential elements, prayer and openness to transcendence indispensable.

Financial management, ethical investment and leadership

The second day will be devoted to monasteries from the perspective of finance, ethical investment, wealth issues in monasteries in Africa and the experiences from leadership courses for monastic leaders. In his lecture, René Andeßner, a business economist, looked at monasteries from a financial perspective. He pointed out the hybridity of this form of organisation, which is also reflected in the diversity of financing sources. As a solution to cope with this complexity, Andeßner suggested a multi-level view combined with a multi-level cash flow statement. This would make it possible to achieve transparency of financial flows and a rational basis for financing and transfer decisions. Money and Ethics Advisor Klaus Gabriel explained motives and strategies of ethical-sustainable investors and pointed out challenges and opportunities of ethical-sustainable investments for church institutions, especially for monasteries.

The book "Unternehmen und Klöster" ["Companies and monasteries"] (Springer Gabler Verlag), published by the organisers, was also presented during the workshop. The head of the Institute, Birgit Feldbauer-Durstmüller, is concerned "that business administration, ethical issues and monastic realities meet here". Abbot Maximilian Neulinger of the monastery of Lambach emphasised the interdisciplinary, "which has always been present in theology and also plays an essential role here".

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