1. Community amongst Associates
• nourished by a common spiritual life
• celebrated in friendship and the Eucharist
• fostered by continuing formation in the charism
• expressed in prayer for one another and for the monastic community
• framed by monastic hours of prayer
• embodied in annual Associates Retreats and regional groups
• informed by regular newsletters
2. Functions of community structure
The structure of ‘The Associates of Southern Star Abbey, Kopua’ shall be continually tested against the principle of simplicity, and the ultimate function of fostering community which serves deepening personal formation in the charism.
Consultation with the Monastic community
In consultation with local coordinators, and spiritual directors who are Associates27
Preliminary Formation (National Coordinator)
Continuing Formation (National Coordinator and others)
In consultation with the monastic community and with spiritual directors who are
Coordination of meetings
national (National Coordinator)
local (local coordinators)
Over-all responsibility (Leadership Team with National Coordinator
newsletter (National Coordinator with Leadership Team)
website (Leadership Team)
supply of permanent resources (Leadership Team with National Coordinator)
Over-all responsibility (Leadership Team with National Coordinator)
local group (mutual)
geographically isolated Associates (Leadership Team with National Coordinator)
Spiritual directors who are Associates are an additional resource28
national (Treasurer appointed by Chapter)
People inquiring about becoming an Associate of Kopua come from very diverse backgrounds and spiritual journeys. Their spiritual formation has already begun, long before. The Holy Spirit may now be leading them into the Cistercian charism, or their inquiry may simply be part of a search for their particular spiritual identity in Christ, a search which may lead them elsewhere. Discernment is required both at this stage of inquiry and during the intentional preliminary formation stage.
Three elements are necessary before the intentional preliminary formation stage is entered:
committed membership of a Christian church
an actual encounter with the Cistercian monastic community life at Kopua
contact with the National Coordinator of the Associate Community.
The National Coordinator enters into discussions with the inquirer about whether or not he or she is being called to live the Cistercian charism as an Associate of the Abbey. This exploration is private and unstructured, extending over an indefinite period at the discretion of both inquirer and Coordinator. At the end of this, the National Coordinator may invite the inquirer to participate in the intentional preliminary formation stage.
Inquirers receive the Newsletter distributed to Associates and friends of the Abbey, and are welcome to participate in Associate study courses.
The preliminary formation stage
The purpose of this stage is to acquaint an inquirer with basic Cistercian spirituality and identity, incorporate him or her into relationships with the Associate community and the monastic community, and mutually discern God’s leading.
The stage normally lasts about eighteen months, though there is flexibility. For most, it will begin at the end of a calendar year, after communication with the National Coordinator who also names them in the Associates Newsletter.
It involves mentoring, study, and the shaping of a personal Rule of Life which will support the living of Cistercian values.
Formation in the charism is primarily in the hands of the National Coordinator, but also comes through the fellowship of the Kopua whanau, in many and diverse ways.
The content of this will vary for each individual, according to the previous familiarity of the candidate with these necessary themes:
the Rule of Benedict (with the aid of a recommended commentary)
the Cistercian tradition
The Hours of Prayer
Contemplative life-style, drawing especially on the document Toward the Formation of Kopua Associates
Completion of the study course on ‘Stability’ is required for all candidates.
The Associate Community through its National Coordinator and Leadership Team makes study courses and other material available.
Shaping of a personal Rule of Life:
This is developed in consultation with the National Coordinator. It builds on the themes of the study, and especially on ‘contemplative life-style’. It seeks to be specific about “when’s” and “where’s” and “how’s”, yet simple, flexible and achievable.
Relationships to Associates and the Associate Community:
People in Preliminary Formation are encouraged to participate in Associate Retreats, and in local Associate groups where this is possible.
At the conclusion of this stage, and in the light of the personal Rule of Life which has been developed and the recommendation of the National Coordinator, the Abbot may choose to formally recognise the candidate as an Associate. In recent years, people have valued the option for this recognition to take place within the context of an Associate Retreat and in the presence of the monastic community gathered for worship.
Being recognised as an Associate is the beginning, not the end, of formation. The monastic vow of conversatio morum should be paralleled by a commitment of Associates to a lifelong process of formation.
This process includes at its core:
the modelling of the charism provided by both monastics and fellow Associates
an ever-deepening acquaintance with the Rule of Benedict
formation by the regular practice of Lectio Divina
appropriation of the discipline of the Hours of Prayer
cultivation of silence in the service of contemplative prayer
exploration of monastic spirituality and its adaptation to life beyond monastic enclosure
Continuing formation is the responsibility both of the leaders of the Associate Community and of every individual Associate. There is mutual accountability for our journey into the fullness of the charism.
The instruments of formation are therefore multiple.
observance of an appropriate personal Rule of Life
regular attendance at a retreat at Kopua (and when possible this retreat should be one of the scheduled Associate Retreats). The maintenance of an authentic link with the Abbey is crucial.
sharing in the study courses offered annually by the Associate community
regular participation in a local Associate group when geography makes this possible.
Discussions here may complement the theme of the annual study, or be tailored to the specific need of the group
regular meetings with a spiritual director who has some awareness of the values and disciplines of Benedictine-Cistercian spirituality.
The choice of theme for the annual studies is best made year by year, in the light of needs and the availability of resources. It is possible and probably desirable to run several courses in any one year, for people with different needs and interests.
Flexibility and simplicity must be features of continuing formation. There is a diversity of circumstance which must be allowed to influence our approach: ‘one size does not fit all’. In particular, special efforts must be made to enable the formation of geographically isolated Associates.
The responsibility of the monastic community in the formation of Associates is:
to model the charism
to give continuing advice about Formation (both its process and its content) to Associate leaders
to give some input at Associate retreats if a monastic is available.
Some Associates will be fortunate enough to receive spiritual direction (occasional or regular) from the monks. This is a privilege, not a right. The pastoral care of the Associate Community and the formation of its members are not the responsibility of the monastic community. The latter’s role is to authenticate the Cistercian character of the Associate community, to be the focus of its ‘stability’, and to offer such advice, resource and admonition as it is able to without straining its resources for its primary vocation. That vocation is to live the monastic life under the Rule of Benedict.
Study themes include:
The Rule of Benedict; Cistercian tradition; Lectio divina; Hours of Prayer; Contemplative
lifestyle; Conversatio morum; Stability; Simplicity; Being contemplative in a suffering world;
Benedict’s Ladder of humility:Kopua Writers
4. Local Groups
Because there is not enough room at Southern Star Abbey for all Associates to gather together at once, and because Associates are scattered around New Zealand (many of them some considerable distance from the Abbey), local groups are the main way of ensuring some face-to-face community, with all that that means for formation, fellowship and encouragement.
A modest majority of Associates are in such groups. There are still a significant number of geographically isolated Associates.
Leadership patterns vary, having evolved in an ad hoc way. Frequency of meetings also varies, from monthly to six weekly to quarterly. (Similar groups in other countries also vary considerably, but their norm is a monthly meeting.)
To build a community of loving obedience to Christ, shaped by the spirit of the Cistercian charism
To encourage one another in our continuing formation and growth into that charism and in the observance of our Rule of Life.
We do this by
Praying for and with one another
Sharing our journey, in love, openness and vulnerability
Meeting faithfully together. The frequency and timing of meetings will vary according to the circumstances of group members, but it is essential to have sufficient frequent and regular time together if authentic community is to be created.
The elements of our meetings are
The Office/Prayer of the Church
Study, reflection and discussion
The members of our groups are
Recognised Associates of Southern Star Abbey
People in ‘Preliminary Formation’ referred by the National Coordinator
Spouses of Associates who will attend meetings regularly
Benedictine Oblates who desire fellowship
(It is not appropriate for simple inquirers about Cistercian spirituality to be included. The normal path to becoming a member of the Associate Community is not through participation in a local group but by visits to Kopua and contact with the National Coordinator. Authentic personal links with Kopua are essential. Essential too for the local group is the building of stable trusting community fully focussed on the charism.)
Leadership of local groups
Within the parameters set by the Leadership Team in these Guidelines, decisions about the life of the group are for each group to make
Pastoral care is mutual
Formation in the charism is mutual
The role of local coordinators is one of communication about significant news and about meetings (venue, times, content etc), and of ensuring that the tasks of group life are identified and shared
Local coordinators are chosen by the group, every three years
It is helpful for local coordinators to be in regular contact with the National Coordinator and the Leadership Team.
5. Ecumenical dimension
Associates recognise in Saint Benedict an ideal and model of ecclesial life the roots of which predate the divisions of Western Christianity. They themselves are drawn from a number of Churches, and rejoice in that spiritual community they find together as Associates.
They respect the discipline and order of the Roman Catholic Church within which the monastic community of Southern Star Abbey Kopua live. They are committed to active membership in a Christian Church, and regard their membership of the Associate community as complementary to that commitment and as an expression of ‘stability’.