Published May 12, 2016
CONYERS—Father Anthony Delisi, Cistercian monk and priest of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, died peacefully with the company of his brother monks praying at his side on Monday, May 9. He was 87.
His body will be received at the monastery church on Friday, May 13, at 5 p.m. before vespers and will remain in the sanctuary all night with brothers praying at his side. The celebration of the funeral Mass and burial will be on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
Born Aug. 13, 1928, in Avonmore, Pennsylvania, Father Anthony entered the monastery in 1948 at the age of 20, made his solemn profession in 1953 and was ordained a priest in 1954.
At his death he had been in monastic life for 67 years and a priest for 61 years.
At the time of his death, Father Anthony was the only monk who lived under all seven abbots in the monastery’s history.
Father Anthony volunteered many years of service to newly founded monasteries in Africa, training and forming native monks and nuns to the Cistercian order. The experience in Africa was dear to Father Anthony. He often described it as the best years of his life. In 2011, he wrote a memoir, “Black Like Licorice: A Contemporary Monk’s Call to Africa.” The memoir covers his youth, his early years in the monastery, and his experiences in Africa.
Father Anthony’s contributions to Holy Spirit Monastery were immense. He was almoner of the monastery in the 1950s, delivering food to poor neighbors. His love for the poor would evolve into the establishment of the monastery’s current food bank. He taught classes to the monks in Church and Scripture, liturgy, and monastic history. While a student at the University of Notre Dame, Father Anthony became involved in the charismatic movement, renewing his own prayer life and the desire to help others grow in their Christian faith with emphasis on the workings of the Holy Spirit.
In the early to mid-1970s, he helped to establish gardening as a profitable business for the monastery. Although the gardening-for-profit eventually was discontinued after he departed for Africa, on his return he continued work on a fully organic garden for the community.
Father Anthony became retreat master after his return from Africa in 1987 and oversaw the hospitality given to retreatants for the next 15 years.
In 2002, he was asked to serve as superior ad nutum (temporary superior) of the monastery following the sudden resignation of Abbot Basil Pennington. For the next year, he provided stability for the community and important spiritual support.
He was the author of several books on monastic life and personal prayer. In his later years, Father Anthony was the official greeter at the visitor center. Between visitors and confessions, he made rosaries and took pleasure in training the volunteers to make rosaries.
In 1987, Father Anthony and Abbot Augustine Moore helped five laypersons to establish the Associate Oblates of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit. The group would evolve into the first United States Lay Cistercian community, devout people wanting to lead a prayerful life in a secular world. They are associated with the monastery, which supports the group by prayers and by providing a monastic advisor. Father Anthony founded and shepherded the local group. Today the group numbers 80 and six daughter communities were formed, mostly located in nearby Florida. The group meets monthly to learn and grow in the ways of the contemplative life. Father Anthony’s conferences to the group and his counsel to individual members have touched hundreds of lives.
Those wishing to send condolences or to make a donation in memory of Father Anthony may address them to Abbot Francis Michael Stiteler, OCSO, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212, SW, Conyers, GA 30094.