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M. Basil Pennington OCSO Archive

Identifier: 01-exws_mbpennington

Scope and Contents

This collection is divided into four series: 1) Audio-visual materials 2) Graphic materials 3) The M. Basil Pennington, OCSO Papers - 236 archival boxes and 4) The Pennington Family Collection - 50 archival boxes. The first three series cover the career of Father M. Basil Pennington, OCSO (1931-2005) as a Trappist monk and focuses largely on his writings and presentations on centering prayer, as well as his involvement in ecumenism and interfaith relations. It is comprised primarily of typescripts of Pennington's books and articles, as well as published newspaper and periodical articles. It also includes conference materials, pamphlets, diaries, correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, documents relating to various Cistercian monasteries and multimedia recordings that belonged to Pennington. The fourth series, the family collection, contains genealogical material on the Pennington family and its origins in England, including correspondence between family members and others, as well as photographs (prints and digital images).


  • Creation: 1951-2003
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1964-2000
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/07/1995


Biographical / Historical

M. Basil Pennington (1931-2005) was born in Brooklyn, NY and died in Worcester, MA. He received degrees from Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, 1951; Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, S.T.L., 1959; Pontifical University of the Gregorianum, J.C.B., 1962, J.C.L., 1963 and did graduate work at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Benedictine International College of St. Anselm. He held memberships with Studies in Formative Spirituality (international board of consultants), Canon Law Society of America, Catholic Theological Society of America, and Association of Cistercian Scholars.

Pennington was a writer, educator, and Cistercian monk and abbot. He entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO; also known as Trappists) in 1951 and ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, in 1957, at St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, MA. There he served as a professor of moral theology, from 1959-61, a professor of theology and church law, 1963-2005, a pastoral counselor at Retreat House, 1959-61 and 1963-2005, librarian at Institute of Monastic Studies, 1960- 61, a lecturer at the institute, 1971-72, assistant director of novices, summer 1962, and vocation director, 1978-81. He was the head of Monastic Council on Church Law, 1964-2005, a member of the Commission of Law, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, 1969-2005, and the head of Interreligious Monastic Colloquium, 1977. He was also a member of advisory board, Center for Contemplative Studies, North American Board for East-West Relations, and a member of board of directors of the Lilly Foundation, the John Paul II Center for Prayer and Study for Peace and Food for the Poor, the Mastery Foundation and a member of Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality and Academie Nationale de Reims. He also served as the founding editor of Cistercian Publications, 1968-73, and was chairperson, 1973-76. Additionally, he was the organizer and director of ecumenical conferences and symposia, a guest lecturer at conferences, institutes, and universities all over the world and a consultant to the Second Vatican Council.


266 boxes

12 Volumes : Photograph Albums

Language of Materials



Papers of Father M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, TrappistĀ  monk who wrote extensively on Catholic contemplative practices and was associated with the Centering Prayer movement at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Drafts and typescripts of articles and books, serials and periodicals containing articles by or about Pennington, notes, correspondence, multi-media, also includes genealogical research concerning the Pennington family.

Arrangement Note

This collection is divided into four series: 1) Audio-visual materials 2) Graphic materials 3) The M. Basil Pennington, OCSO Papers - 236 archival boxes and 4) The Pennington Family Collection - 50 archival boxes.

Physical Access Requirements

WMU Special Collections. Non-circulating. Contact department for access.

Source of Acquisition

M. Basil Pennington. St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts.

Method of Acquisition

On permanent loan from St. Joseph Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, via the Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies (formerly Institute of Cistercian Studies) at Western Michigan University.

Inventory of the M. Basil Pennington OCSO Archive
In Progress
Jill Hamilton Clements, David Clark, David Eschelman, Sydney Small, and Ira Esch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Special Collections Repository

Western Michigan University Libraries, Special Collections
Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490