With some help from the History Department, I traveled to the 2019 Cistercian and Monastic Studies Conference where I presented a paper on the nineteenth-century monastic revival in France as exemplified by the Trappistine women’s Abbey of Notre Dames des Gardes. This conference is part of the larger International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan where 3,000 academics from around the world congregated from May 9 through May 14. The Cistercian and Monastic Studies Conference is a comparatively small enclave within this larger gathering, with about 40 papers presented. The presenters of these papers included scholars from England, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Greenland as well as from universities around the United States. A few erudite monks also made presentations, as did a number of independent scholars. While the focus was on medieval monastic life, I was on a panel that examined early modern monastic life. In addition to me, my panel included an Austrian monk and a professor from Munich.
I learned about the value of being involved in an academic conference. After presenting my paper, the editor of Cistercian Studies Quarterly asked me to submit it for potential publication. A Benedictine monk at the conference who had edited a recently published book, The Benedictines: 530-1530 (Cistercian Publications 2019), asked me to contribute a short chapter on a nineteenth-century French Benedictine convent for a forthcoming companion volume. My experiences at this conference also taught me the value of working in an area—nineteenth-century French monastic life—that very few people have written about in English.