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Father Luke: A Centennial Monk
Last founding Father of the Monastary of the Holy Spirit celebrates 100 years of life


Father Luke Kot, 102, the last of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit's founding monks, passed away January 9, 2014 in the Monastery infirmary.

Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday, Jan. 13, 9 a.m. in the Monastery of the Holy Spirit church, 2625 Ga. Highway 212, SW, Conyers.

Condolences and donations may be sent in Father Luke's memory to The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212, SW, Conyers, GA 30094 or online at




Monks aren't given to celebrating birthdays much, but the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is making a very special exception this weekend for one of its own.

Father Luke Kot, the last surviving member of the 20 original monks that came down from the monastery in Kentucky in 1944 to start the Trappist monastery in Conyers, turned 100 years old this week. The Monastery is marking the milestone in a special celebration on Saturday, and family and close friends are flying in from across the country for the occasion.

Still peppy and talkative as a teenager, Father Luke zips along the walkways at a no-nonsense pace with the help of a red walker other monks affectionately call his "Cadillac."

Even at 100 years old, Luke has an impressive recall of details and dates.

The date the monks moved from their temporary "pineboard monastery" into the current Monastery building? Without skipping a beat, he'll tell you not only the year but the day: "December 3, 1960."

Father Luke never thought he would live this long and seems to be struck by the length of his stay.

"The time I've spent in the monastery - 83 years. There's only three of us ever saw 80 years in a monastery," he exclaims over and over. Another monk at the monastery, Father Malachi, will be 100 years old next year.

But his life is not his own, Father Luke explained. His life is lived for God. He's served these 83 years as the monastery's tailor, a secretary under nine abbots, a construction worker, and an aide in the infirmary. Above all, he served by praying for the world and serving the poor.

"I said,‘Till death do me part.' But death hasn't come yet, so I have to keep living for Him. That's why I'm living so long.'"

He sighs. "The monks say, ‘No you're going to be 105,'" he said ruefully. "So what am I going to do?"

Father Luke was born Joseph Chester Kot on August 3, 1911, in Great Falls, Mont. He grew up in Niagara Falls, N. Y., with two older sisters, Julia and Stella, and one younger sister Helen. His Polish immigrant parents, Mary and Joseph, didn't know how to read or write since there were no schools in the part of Poland where they grew up. But Father Luke described how his mother could recall endless stories. His mother worked as a nurse's aide and unregistered midwife, often helping deliver the babies of women who couldn't afford a doctor's visit.

Out of his immediate family, he's the only one surviving, although he comes from a long living line. His father died at 94, his mother at 86, and his sisters at 99, 97, and 82.

He remembers the day he began seriously to consider the monastic life. He was 14 years old and attending his 17-year-old sister's wedding on the third floor of a Catholic school.

"I danced around, but Polish weddings last three days. So I sat that one out. I said, ‘You know what, my sister, she got married when she was 17... What am I going to do when I'm 17 years old?' I look out the window and there was the church; there was the rectory where the priests live... I said, ‘Oh the religious life. I could join that.'"

But it would take another 13 years before he would join.

"I said, ‘Lord, the United States, do they have a monastery here? It's like a pagan country. People are poor and a lot of them are rich, but the rich don't help the poor. Lord, if you find a monastery in the United States, let me know. I'll join it till death do me part.'" said Luke. And he found that monastery.

One day, at the age of 27, Kot came home from work at a book binding factory and randomly opened up the pages of a magazine. There was an article on an introduction to the Trappist life. "I said ‘That's it!'"

Father Luke spent six years at the Trappist monastery in Kentucky before he and three other monks who confessed to the same priest were asked if they wanted to go to the new monastery in Georgia.

Life at the monastery in Kentucky was stricter than the life they forged at the Conyers monastery.

"We ate no meat. That was forbidden. We got up at 2 a.m. in the morning. Now we get up at 4 a.m. That was our life."

The monks also took a vow of silence and used a unique sign language, with a vocabulary of more than 500 signs, to communicate.

At the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the rules were slightly altered, necessitated by the hard work of building the Monastery from the ground up.

When Luke and the 19 other founding monks arrived in 1944, Rockdale was covered in cotton fields and forests. Ga. Highway 212 ended in a yellow yield light at the forested land that was recently purchased for the monastery. The monks asked the state to continue the road so it connected with Ga. Highway 20.

"When we came, this place was held by a man who was a businessman who liked to make whiskey in the forest. He had black helpers; they were making whiskey. And at the same time, he had some black helpers who were working on the farm," recalled Luke.

"When we got the land, we had to change. We got rid of the farm. No more whiskey. We didn't want to be farmers. We wanted to be monks. That was our purpose. The purpose of our life is to pray for the world, for other people, and the help the poor."

The people in Conyers were slightly bewildered by the silent group of monks with their cowled robes.

"We came during World War number two. That was 1944. They wanted to know who we were. Are we Germans? Are we from Europe? They were scared of us.

"There was one man that came to us. He said to our superior, ‘I want to do a favor.' The Abbot said, ‘What do you want to do?' He said, ‘I want to give you a real fire truck.'

"So he gave us that fire truck, and we became firemen. And when there was a fire, they called us up, and we extinguished the fires. So when the people saw that these monks are even firemen, and prayers, (they said) they're OK; good that they came down here."

On Saturday, Father Luke will be reunited with nephews and nieces, many who are into their eighth decade, and old friends and be toasted by his brother monks.

The young-at-heart Father Luke already had a plan on how he'll count life after 100 years old - by starting at the beginning again.

"I may be 100. But there's two zeros. I don't want them to mean anything. So I'll be 1 year old next year. I dropped the zeros."


For more pictures from the August 6 celebration for Father Luke, click here or go to