Monasteries | Abbaye Notre Dame de Brialmont (B)
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Brialmont
tel. +32 (0)43 88 17 98 ~ fax +32 (0)43 88 10 44
An overview of the economic activity in Our Lady of Brialmont Abbey (B):
The economic activity in Brialmont Abbey can be divided into two general sectors, production activities and the reception of guests, both of which are related to the sisters'monastic objectives.
The community's main production activity is raising mushrooms, about 6 ½ tons of button mushrooms per year. Some of these mushrooms are sold fresh and some are processed, yielding several different finished products. All their mushroom products can be purchased in their own Monastery Store as well as in the stores of several other monasteries in Belgium and abroad.
At present, about two-thirds of the sisters help with the actual production of the mushrooms, and all of the sisters contribute to the realization of the final products.
The nuns of Brialmont have a chicken coop as well. This business within the agrarian sector is also one of their economic activities.
In 2004 a new, completely renovated Monastery Store was opened. The sisters had two goals in mind when they chose this option: on the one hand, they needed a commercial outlet for their own products; and on the other, they wanted to open a monastic book store and to be able to offer a generous selection of other traditional products from the area as well as from other monasteries. The Monastic Store is an entity in itself with its own profit-making objectives.
Monastic hospitality is also part of the economic structure of Brialmont Abbey, even though the sisters don’t try to make a profit in this sector. All proceeds from the new guesthouse (which was also opened in 2004) are used exclusively for maintenance and improvement of the accommodations.
The economic structure of Brialmont Abbey is strongly agrarian by nature and is completely realized by the members of the community itself. This choice grew out of the sisters’ desire for some form of manual labor. It’s to their advantage that this type of production isn’t very common in Belgium, so they have a good market where they can sell their products. Nonetheless, there are some unavoidable difficulties. The community’s economy is dependant on fluctuations in the market, especially when these affect deliveries of raw materials. The sisters’ facilities for producing mushrooms are also subject to the legal norms which apply to any agri-food industry. Another difficulty is related to the structure of the community itself: the number of sisters is decreasing but they are still required to maintain a constant rate of production. Actually their renovated facilities and their financial needs require a higher rate of production, but the sisters have chosen to restrict the manual labor involved in producing the mushrooms exclusively to members of the community, thus safeguarding the privilege of common monastic work. This added value also reflects the real investment of the community in their work.
The short-term prospects are rather modest, limited to maintaining the economic structure within the framework of the community while taking the present economic context into account. The experience of the past two years, however, has shown that there is potential for expansion and development, both in producing mushrooms and in operating the Monastery Store. The guesthouse, on the other hand, has experienced rapid expansion in a very short time and is now almost always full.
The overall economic structure of the monastery is balanced and stable. The sisters of Brialmont can peacefully consider an increase in production, dependant on the available number of workers within the community. The infrastructure is productive and is relatively new, and there is the possibility of planning further expansion of economic activities in the more distant future.