CONYERS — The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, as well as members of the greater community, are grieving the loss of Father Anthony Delisi, who was described by his brother monks as a “giant” who “planted seeds of faith in others.”

Delisi died peacefully in the company of his fellow monks on Monday. He was 87.

A funeral mass and burial will be held on Saturday, May 14, at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, beginning at 10 a.m. Delisi’s body will rest Friday night at the monastery church, with brother monks praying at his side.

Delisi spent 67 years in the monastic way of life. He served more than 61 years as a priest, being ordained in 1954.

“He was a giant,” said Brother Callistus Crichlow in describing Delisi’s contributions to the monastery and community.

Brother Chaminade Crabtree compared Delisi’s passion for gardening with his practice of helping others grow spiritually.

“Father Anthony loved gardening — preparing the soil, planting, watering and nurturing, and harvesting,” Crabtree said. “I think the same goes for his life. He loved to help people grow in love of God. He did it with individuals and in his talks to groups. Just like in gardening, Father Anthony planted seeds of faith in others and had a special way of encouraging growth.”

Salena Troy, a parishioner at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers, said that she met Delisi at the monastery bookstore while she was looking for books on Catholicism, and for the past 14 years he has served as her confessor and “spiritual director.”

“He molded my spiritual life. He taught me to have a great love for the poor, the homeless — to nurture the sick,” Troy said. “That is the greatest gift that he gave me, to have compassion in every situation.”

Troy said she is a volunteer at the monastery and will attend Friday’s vigil and Saturday’s funeral mass.

A native of Avonmore, Pa., where he was born on Aug. 28, 1928, Delisi attended Bell Township High School, Saint Vincent Preparatory School in Latrobe, Pa.; Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pa.; and Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He received a master’s degree in liturgical studies from Notre Dame University.

He joined the Conyers monastery, then called Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, at age 20 in 1948 and is the only monk to live under all seven abbots who have served since the monastery’s founding by the Trappist order, formally called the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. He was designated superior in 2002.

Beginning in the 1970s, Delisi made numerous trips to Africa to serve as priest, teacher and chaplain for monks and nuns in Kenya and Nigeria. He described his African missions as “the best years of my life,” and included accounts of his work there in his 2011 memoir, “Black Like Licorice: A Contemporary Monk’s Call to Africa.”

Delisi’s contributions at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit include serving as almoner early in his career, delivering food to individuals and families in need; establishing the monastery’s food bank; teaching classes; coordinating hospitality for visitors on retreats; guiding the monastery in economic growth; and coordinating liturgy changes proposed by the dioceses and the order.

In 1987 he was instrumental in creating and guiding the first lay Cistercian organization in the country, the Associate Oblates of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit. Members of the laity, like Troy, strive to live their lives in secular society by the spiritual principles of the monastery. The group has grown from the original five members to 80.

“Father Anthony was like a pillar in the community,” Troy said. “He was a strong man who would tell you like it is. You thought your problem was so justified, and he would turn it around to compassion and understanding.”

“Sometimes Father Anthony’s encouragement came in speaking rather directly to the issues,” Crabtree said. “He could be abrupt. But he had that spiritual insight about him that he saw the ‘weeds’ of a person’s life. He simply wanted to help others see those weeds, too.”

Delisi helped the monastery establish organic gardening as a profitable business and taught gardening at the African monasteries.

He also was fond of collecting arrowheads, and he helped preserve a section of the monastery where slaves are buried.

Delisi also was a writer and lecturer who wanted to share spiritual insights with others. He held weekly conferences with the monks, and his talks were collected in a book, “What Makes a Cistercian Monk?” In addition to “Black Like Licorice,” his other books include “Praying in the Cellar: A Guide to Facing Your Fears and Finding God” and “A Week of Waiting: Poems with Commentary.”

In recent years Delisi served as the official greeter at the monastery’s visitor center.

He is survived by four nephews and a niece and numerous cousins. He recently collaborated with relatives to construct an extensive family tree, a project he delighted in sharing with his fellow monks.

“Father Anthony touched many lives,” Crabtree said. “He had a large garden of friends. The goodness of his life is in the testimonies of those whom he touched with that which makes gardens really grow — love.”

“The torch is passed. We now have to carry it in his shoes,” Troy said.

Condolences may be sent to: Abbot Francis Michael Stiteler, OCSO, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers, GA 30094.

Memorial donations may be sent in Delisi’s memory to: The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212, SW, Conyers, GA 30094-4044.

Brother Chaminade Crabtree contributed to this article.

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Trending Videos