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Health for body and soul at Monastery Fall Festival
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Families and visitors flocked to the 2011 Fall Festival at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. - photo by Michelle Kim

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit invites the public to celebrate health for the body and soul and reconnect with nature at the annual Monastery Fall Festival, Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

The Monastery, a working community of Trappist monks in Conyers, will feature its first ever health fair with free medical services, as well as a lecture series, "The Good Earth," highlighting natural treasures found on Monastery grounds followed by expert-led nature walks.

Monastery spokesperson Brother Callistus said after the success of last year’s Open House featuring the new Visitor’s Center, which saw about 2,000 attendees, organizers decided to add a health fair as an outreach and service to the community.

“The main purpose of the day is a Monastery outreach and a collaboration with the medical personnel who will be there,” said Callistus. “The main thing is to promote health care awareness and wellness to the general population at large.”

Medical personnel including general practitioners, chiropractors, eye doctors, lab technicians and nurses from a wide variety of fields are volunteering to provide free medical services for attendees. Rockdale Medical Center will also be participating in the day’s events.

Screenings and bloodwork will be done 11 a.m. – 3p.m. and include: vision, dental/oral, dermatology, prostate blood tests, lipids, blood sugar, Body Mass Index, bone density, foot screening, depression screening, blood pressure.

Attendees can also take a moment to learn about and reconnect with nature. The festival will feature “The Good Earth” lecture series with three speakers and topics.

“The Monastery is the largest green space in the metro area by a private entity,” said Callistus. The Monastery grounds covers nearly 2,000 acres and a natural cemetery. “We feel a responsibility to share the land with the public at large. Part of what we’re doing is informing, educating people about some of the richness and green space.”

The Monastery’s own Abbot Francis Michael will hold the first talk at 10 a.m. on “The Importance of Butterflies and Dragonfiles to the Ecosystem.” Afterwards, the Abbot will lead a nature walk identifying dragonflies and butterflies.

Callistus said he expects this to be one of the most popular talks. “When we’ve done retreats and talks on the subject of the land and he’s been a part of it, there’s been a huge following.”  The Abbot, who has lived in the Monastery since 1974, has photographed and identified every species of dragonfly and butterfly on the Monastery lands.

The second talk at noon highlights some of the earliest occupants of the land. Father Anthony Delisi, who has been at the Monastery since 1948, has collected a treasure trove of artifacts such as arrowheads and pottery shards from Native American and African American settlements. The artifacts were discovered over years of walks and agricultural cultivation of the land. 

At 1:30 p.m., Jim Allison, a resident botanist at the Monastery with the Ga. Department of Natural Resources, will give a talk on the plant and animal life at the Monastery and will lead a nature walk afterwards.  

Hiking, running, walking and cycling enthusiasts will soon be able to go from the Monastery to Arabia Mountain park. A representative of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance will present information on the exciting new PATH trail spur that will connect the monastery to the PATH trail at Johnson Park and the Arabia Mountain park. Construction on the trail spur is slated to be finished at the end of the year. 

Visitors will also find booths with monk-crafted foods, the Monastery's bonsai, locally grown organic produce, arts and crafts, hay rides, representatives from the fire department and National EMS, pony rides and children’s activities. The new visitor's center, Monastic Heritage Exhibition and bookstore will be open.

The Monastery is looking for donations to help support the health fair and medical services. Interested donors or volunteers can contact Brother Callistus at 678-964-2237.

For more information on the Fall Festival, visit