The community, dedicated to Saint Joseph, was founded in 1899 on the land of the Hof Wermelt, a farm given for the purpose by the Wermelt family, by the monks of Beuron Abbey. It was formally declared an abbey in 1904. The first abbot was ordained in 1906. In 1941 the community was expelled from Westphalia by order of the National Socialists, but the monks were able to return in 1946. In 1951 the community was able to establish a further monastery: Nütschau Priory (Kloster Nütschau) near Bad Oldesloe.
The abbey is part of the Beuronese Congregation. As of 2007, the community numbers 48 monks.
Several of the monks are active in scholarly work; others work in pastoral care and the care of guests. There are two retreat-houses close to the abbey.
The Haus Ludgerirast offers room for up to 47 people taking part in different courses, seminars or retreats, of which there is a wide choice. Many people also spend their holidays near the abbey.
In the Haus St. Benedikt education centre (Jugendbildungsstätte) there is room for about 80 young people from all kinds of schools, for students or for family-groups with children (there is a playground nearby). There are also rooms for groups attending one-day events (lectures, retreats, meditation groups and so on).
The abbey itself can house about 10 (male) guests making retreats or wishing to take part in the community life of work and prayer.
- Raphael Molitor from 1906 to 1948
- Pius Buddenborg from 1948 to 1976
- Clemens Schmeing from 1976 to 1999
- Pius Engelbert from 1999 to 2006
- Laurentius Schlieker since 2006 (elected as prior for three years)
- Albert, Marcel: 100 Jahre Benediktinerabtei Gerleve, Münster: Aschendorff-Verlag. ISBN 3-402-05486-8
- Pius Engelbert (Ed.): Saeculum. Zeit und Welt. 100 Jahre Abtei Gerleve, Münster: Dialogverlag, 2004. - ISBN 3-933144-93-0
- (German) (English) The Abbey's Homepage