St. Paul’s Abbey was founded in 1924 by a group of monks that included veteran missionaries from East Africa as well as younger ones from Germany. They were under the leadership of Fr. Michael Heinlein, OSB, from the Archabbey of St. Ottilien in Germany. The major purpose of this foundation was to recruit and train American monks to help carry out the monastic and missionary traditions of the Congregation of St. Ottilien. From the very beginning the foundation was placed under the patronage of Theresa of the Child Jesus and known as Little Flower Monastery.
The monastery grew rapidly as more monks were assigned to it from Germany. It became a simple priory in 1928 and a Conventual Priory in 1936. Fr. Michael served as superior for 17 years. In 1935 the first American monk made his profession. Local vocations increased so that in 1947 Fr. Charles Coriston was elected the first abbot and the title of the monastery was changed to St. Paul’s Abbey.
The major concern of the young foundation in the 1920’s was agriculture and the developing of a community life. In 1932 a new monastery-seminary building was completed. The minor seminary remained part of the work of the community for 35 years. Camp St. Benedict began in the 1940’s and was a major summer apostolate for over 30 years. In 1945 the community was able to send its first two missionary monks to South Africa. Since that time the monastery has been serving the missions in East and South Africa.
In 1962 a new monastery was complex was opened. The former building housed the Queen of Peace Retreat House that continues to provide a place of renewal for the laity. The Abbey Gift Shop, begun in the 1950’s, has been completely renovated and serves the spiritual needs of a large area by providing religious articles and books. Agriculture still continues. A good number of acres are devoted to the growing of Christmas trees. In recent years the community has experienced a diminishment in numbers. But the monks continue their mission connections by welcoming African confreres to live with them. These are given the opportunity to study English or participate in spiritual renewal programs. Some are supported as they study in other Benedictine Seminaries and Colleges in some of the nearby parishes as they have done from the first days at Newton.
In 2001 six Korean monks came to St. Paul’s Abbey to reinvigorate the community. Now, American, Korean and Tanzanian brothers live together and pray to God together.