Monks' Bread | Monks' Specialty | About Us
One of Genesee’s first monks, Br Sylvester McCormack, was a sailor in the navy who used to bake bread for his shipmates. At Genesee he continued to bake for the brothers. Since they did not put spreads of any kind on their bread, Br Sylvester had to create a loaf that was so good you didn’t need to put anything on it.
As the community evolved, the first Monks’ loaf was shared with guests and the many local tradesmen who volunteered time and expertise to construct the Abbey’s first buildings. Everyone loved the bread and requests to buy loaves to take home began pouring in. Soon, monks were selling bread at local parishes on Sunday mornings. They built what was, for its time, a state of the art bakery. While it takes most new monasteries several years to develop an industry, Monks’ Bread was so successful that the Abbey attained financial autonomy within its first full year of operation.
Over the years Monks’ grew exponentially, at one time with franchises all over the country. The brothers earned enough to support themselves and gave whatever they had left over to the poor. They supported two daughter-houses of their own, in Nigeria and Brazil, both of which are still going strong.
As the “boom years” of the 1950s faded and a more conventional size monastic community (presently 24 monks) was left in its wake, the brothers have found creative ways to right-size the operation , still helping to bake the bread (the main oven operator is a monk) and closely involved in the business.
Br. Theodore Daly, who worked closely with Br Sylvester from the outset, early on developed numerous sidelines to Monks’ Bread, experimenting over the years with a variety of cakes and cookies. At present, what’s become the Monk’s Specialty Bakery produces a wide array of biscotti, cheese crisps and fruit and nut bars, all of which have enjoyed great success.
The longer shelf-life of these products and the smaller scale of production they require has allowed older monks, no longer able to bear the heat and heavy lifting of the bread bakery, to work alongside younger monks and newcomers, and to continue with the communal practice of manual labor.