Our Lady of Dallas Abbey, the home of the Cistercians in Texas, is located in Irving off Highway 114, near Texas Stadium, Las Colinas, and the University of Dallas. It comprises thirty-six acres dotted with elevations and mesquite trees, and its brick buildings exhibit both modern and traditional architectural features. Its chapel, built in the early 1990s, is a massive limestone building with no veneers and few modern features; according to one critic, "the Cistercian church evokes 900 years of history, scholarship and prayer." The members of the community dedicate themselves exclusively to the love of God and the service of their fellow men. To be undivided in their loyalties they renounce marriage and individual ownership and subordinate their wills to the higher ideals of their institution. They belong to the world-wide Cistercian order, hence are called Cistercians. The name derives from Citeaux (in Latin, Cistercium), their parent abbey in Burgundy, founded as a reform branch of the Benedictine order in 1098. The Cistercians, who adopted the white habit and black scapular, quickly spread over all of Europe and influenced medieval life in numerous ways. Their constitutional document, the Charter of Charity, is said to have inspired parliamentary government. The Cistercians in Irving came from the abbey of Zirc in western Hungary, founded in 1182. Upon higher request, Zirc, cloistered at first, accepted full educational and teaching responsibilities in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Afterward the monk-priests also acquired academic degrees in the liberal arts and taught in one of the five modern college preparatory schools of the abbey. They trained generations of prominent public figures and intellectual leaders.
Hungarian monks living in the United States after the Communist takeover were invited by Bishop Thomas Gorman to the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth. They moved into their own monastery, built on the campus of the University of Dallas, in 1958. Five years later their priory was raised to the status of an abbey. Since then, buildings have multiplied on their grounds, and American vocations have increased their ranks. The Irving Cistercians follow a rigorous daily schedule. Their communal prayer life includes the recitation of the monastic office, made up largely of psalms, and on Sundays they also chant traditional Gregorian melodies. As teachers, they staff their own Cistercian Preparatory School for boys grades five through twelve, built on their premises in 1963, or serve as teachers or administrators at the University of Dallas. They carry out their priestly ministry in the abbey, as well as in parishes, convents, and military bases of the metropolitan area.
Individually, the monks are well-versed in languages and have earned advanced degrees in the classics, modern languages, science, history, music, philosophy, and theology. Some have published scholarly books and articles, given talks on a variety of subjects, or cultivated the fine arts on a highly professional level. Thus one can see attractive sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and prints all over the monastery. Collectively, the Cistercians contribute their spirituality, achievements, and cosmopolitan enthusiasm to the culture of North Texas.