Skip to main content

175th Anniversary

175 anniversary 300

Weekly Reflections
175th Anniversary »

Beginning with Founders' Day on Nov. 19, 2020, Saint Vincent will begin celebrating its 175th Anniversary - our demi-semi-sept-centennial.

As we celebrate this milestone in our history, we will be commemorating the occasion throughout the coming year, concluding on Founders' Day 2021. As part of this celebration, there will be a series of weekly reflections emails, written by members of the Saint Vincent monastic and college communities, as well as alumni and friends. You can sign up here to receive these weekly emails. We will also be posting these reflections here on a weekly basis. Be sure to stay tuned to the website and your inbox for more to come as we celebrate 175 years of Saint Vincent! 

  • Reflection 15 - March 4, 2021: Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D., SVC ’69; SVS ’73

    Archabbot Leander Schnerr, O.S.B. (1836-1920)

    Like his predecessors Boniface Wimmer and Andrew Hintenach, Archabbot Leander Schnerr, Saint Vincent’s third archabbot, was an immigrant. He and his family came from Germany in the 1840s. He arrived at Saint Vincent in 1850 as a boy of 14, entered the novitiate, completed studies in the college and seminary, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1859. Except for a brief period in the 1860s when he served on the faculty of Assumption College in Sandwich, Ontario, (one of Saint Vincent’s early apostolates), he spent his entire priestly life before becoming abbot laboring as curate and pastor of Saint Vincent’s parishes in Newark, Covington, Chicago, Erie and Pittsburgh.

    A prototypical “parish father” among the Saint Vincent monks, he was precisely the kind of leader the other parish fathers longed for: an active and competent administrator, pastoral, affable, practical and outgoing, who enjoyed dealing with the nuts and bolts of managing a large and vibrant enterprise. As his contemporary, Father Louis Haas, noted: “The executive ability he displayed in the administration of parish affairs, temporal as well as spiritual, coupled with his engaging qualities of heart and mind, made him the choice of his brethren to rule the community and augured well for the future of Saint Vincent.”

    Archabbot Leander led Saint Vincent for 26 years. He oversaw completion of the Archabbey Basilica; increased the ethnic diversity of the college by including the children not only of German and Irish immigrants, but of Polish, Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Italian and Cuban immigrants as well; strengthened the academic quality of the seminary, college and prep school; established new parishes and monasteries; raised Saint Vincent’s missions in Cullman, Alabama and Peru, Illinois, to the rank of abbeys; and safely guided Saint Vincent through the shoals of World War I and the “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918. All this, while suffering frequent bouts of severe illness himself.

    A good and holy man, an inspiring leader, a devoted father of the Saint Vincent community, Archabbot Leander worked tirelessly throughout his life that in all things God might be glorified.

    Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.

    SVC ‘69; SVS ‘73; and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
  • Reflection 14 - Feb. 25, 2021: Mother Mary Anne Noll, O.S.B., Prioress at Saint Emma Monastery

    Ninety years ago today, on the feast of Saint Walburga, Feb. 25, 1931, Mother Leonarda Fritz O.S.B. and nine Sisters arrived at Saint Vincent Archabbey and College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania to begin their 56 years of ministry of cooking and serving in the various dining rooms. Several times I heard the late Archabbot Egbert Donovan, O.S.B., describe how as a Prep School senior, he asked when the Sisters were coming and watched them step foot into Saint Vincent’s heart. Every year Archabbot Egbert remembered their anniversary and told me what a difference the Sisters made at Saint Vincent.

    By 1939 the Sisters numbered 40. Why did the Sisters come? For a reason with which many people can identify: to earn money! They came to earn money to support the Benedictine Sisters in their motherhouse, Abtei Sankt Walburg, Eichstätt, Germany, where vocations were flourishing, inflation was out of control and Hitler was on the horizon.

    As the first women on campus, our Sisters added the first feminine expression of “glorifying God in all things” (Rule of Saint Benedict 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11). The Sisters offered hospitality in the way they cooked and served in the various dining rooms.

    Most of you who attended Saint Vincent from 1931 – 1987 have stories about “Mother Bearcat” (Mother Leonarda) or “Sister Potatoes,” or “Sister only-one.” Many students, seminarians – yes, and monks – heard the Sisters call them, Spitzbuben! The Sisters’ tone of voice added to the English equivalent of “rascal!” The monks during those decades remember how the Sisters welcomed their guests and made their Vow days and Ordination days special.

    In the brochure which accompanied the Founders' Day art exhibit in 1989, the late Brother Nathan Cochran, O.S.B. aptly summarized the indelible mark that the Sisters left on the communities at Saint Vincent:
    They came with the gifts of youth: vibrancy, enthusiasm and first fervor. Time and grace matured these gifts into steadfastness, dedication and true service. Whenever they dished out meat, poured coffee, baked cakes, washed dishes, dropped buns from balconies or decorated Christmas cribs, they gave us the feeling of family, home, rootedness and sisterly (and sometimes motherly) love. Their gentleness rubbed off on us so that we have become a little more gentle. Yet they also taught us perseverance, because who but dedicated and God-seeking individuals can smile and serve people for more than 50 years?

    In the Saint Vincent Review in 2002, Fr. Donald Raila, O.S.B., wrote an article, “The Sisters of Saint Benedict – Earnest in prayer and mighty in their labor of love.” Another monk asks, “Who can ever forget the colorful Bavarian flower boxes which adorned their windowsills spring, summer and fall?” (The nuns resided in what are now the faculty offices in Placid Hall.)

    Having entered our Community in 1962, I have the great blessing of knowing all but five of our founding Sisters; these five all died under the age of 53 and are buried in Saint Vincent cemetery. As the first American Prioress elected in 1993, it was so humbling to hear the twenty-three original Sisters address me as “Mother” on the very first day of my election. “Well, that is what we are supposed to do,” said Sr. Gaudentia who worked in the monastic refectory for 53 years and died at age 98; “after all, you are now our superior.” Our founding Sisters never gave conferences but were amazing teachers in this “School of the Lord’s service” (Rule, Prologue, 45), one of the names Benedict gives to a monastery.

    Vergelt’s Gott (May God reward you), Um Jesu Willen (for Jesus’ sake), and Rosenkranz beten (to pray the rosary) sprinkled their speech. After a day especially filled with work, Sr. Walburga spoke about offering it up and putting “another bag” into heaven.

    We nuns at Saint Emma Monastery in nearby Greensburg, strive to continue this legacy of being “earnest in prayer and mighty in our labor of love.” We invite you to check out our website listed below to follow the legacy that our founding Sisters gave us and how we live it today so it becomes our future as well.

    Mother Mary Anne Noll, O.S.B.; Prioress
    Saint Emma Monastery
    Greensburg, Pennsylvania

    For more information on the history of these Benedictine nuns, read our Benedictine Touchstone at this website to watch our YouTube, follow us on Facebook for our reflections, and check the calendar for upcoming events.
  • Reflection 13 - Feb. 18, 2021: Ishmael Solomon, C’15, G’17

    While reflecting on the theme “That in all things God may be glorified,” all I can think about are the talented men and women who work for this institution. As a Saint Vincent College graduate, I have always been amazed at how much employees sacrificed to see former students like me succeed. We entered a fall semester full of challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus. Once again, I was amazed to witness the school’s talented community execute the college’s plan to successfully navigate the challenging first semester. While I thank the Lord for this amazing feat, I would also like to thank the people of Saint Vincent College.

    Ishmael Solomon, C’15, G’17
    Associate Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct
  • Reflection 12 - Feb. 11, 2021: Br. Nicholas Koss, O.S.B.; SVC ’66; Ph.D.

    In the early 1920s, Saint Vincent Archabbey, upon the request of the Vatican, explored the possibility of opening a university in Beijing, China. The first Saint Vincent monks were then sent to Beijing in 1924, and in 1925 the university was opened. 2025 will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of Fu Jen University. Even though the Benedictines had to leave the university in 1933 because of severe financial difficulties, they will be remembered for all they did at that time during the 100th anniversary celebrations.

    After the Chinese Communists took control of China and Fu Jen University was closed, it was re-established in Taiwan in 1961. Saint Vincent Archabbey was closely involved with the re-establishment of the university, and since the early 1960s has been sending monks to Wimmer Priory in Taipei to assist with the teaching at Fu Jen University. 2021 will be the 60th anniversary of the re-establishment of Fu Jen University. At that time, Fr. Hugh Wilt, O.S.B., Fr. John Murtha, O.S.B., Fr. Claude Pollak, O.S.B., Fr. Paul Maher and other Saint Vincent monks will be honored for their contributions to making Fu Jen University one of the leading Catholic universities in Asia. Wimmer Priory is currently developing with local Taiwanese joining the community.

    (And best wishes for much happiness to all of our Asian friends of Saint Vincent, on the Lunar New Year, Feb. 12, 2021!)

    Br. Nicholas Koss, O.S.B.; SVC ’66; Ph.D.
  • Reflection 11 - Feb. 4, 2021: Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D., SVC ’69; SVS ’73

    Each of the twelve archabbots of Saint Vincent has contributed something unique to the community. The second archabbot, Andrew Hintenach, was a gentle father beloved by all. His contribution was a contemplative spirit of prayer and devotion.

    Archabbot Andrew led Saint Vincent for only four years (1888-1892), but in that short time he accomplished much. He initiated construction of the Archabbey Basilica, oversaw “Americanization” of the monastery and schools, and contributed substantially to the advancement of the prep school, college, and seminary.

    His greatest contribution, however, was the spiritual renewal he initiated at Saint Vincent, a renewal that reawakened the spirit of prayer and devotion among monks and students alike.

    Archabbot Andrew was a humble and holy man who knew his limits. Believing the community needed more dynamic leadership than he felt able to give, he asked to be relieved of the abbacy. When the Holy See agreed, he handed authority over to another and returned to his role in the community as a simple monk. For the next thirty-five years, he continued to influence and inspire by his prayerful contemplation and humble work, ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus (“that in all things God may be glorified”).

    Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.

    SVC ‘69; SVS ‘73; and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
  • Reflection 10 - Jan. 28, 2021: Fr. Warren D. Murrman, O.S.B.

    When the fire alarm began to sound about 8:20 on the frigid morning of Jan. 28, 1963, it was a call to attention and a summons to action, not only on that day but for the succeeding era at Saint Vincent. The Great Saint Vincent Fire of 1963 destroyed the old Students’ Chapel (parish church, 1835-1905), most of the monastery, a large portion of the high school and some of the college facilities. In many ways, the fire marked a point of transition from much of the past and a passage into the future.

    The fire called forth the need and the opportunity for the Benedictine community to re-envision its monastic calling, its ecclesial understanding and the commitment to its apostolic works. It was Divine Providence that the fire occurred during the Second Vatican Council, for the power of that renewing event helped the community to face the challenges of the process of physical, emotional and spiritual evolution into the future. As is often true at times of apparent great loss, it may be said that the experience of the Great Fire was that of a springtime passage from ashes to new birth.

    Fr. Warren D. Murrman, O.S.B.; Doctor of Sacred Theology
    Professor of Liturgy
    Saint Vincent Seminary
  • Reflection 9 - Jan. 20, 2021: Jerome C. Foss, Ph.D.

    The great crack of the Liberty Bell came about in the year 1846. News of it must have been ominous, for it was a difficult year:

    • California declared independence from Mexico, and Texas was annexed to the United States. These events triggered a war that had been brewing between Mexico and America.

    • In the U.S. House of Representatives, a young Whig named Abraham Lincoln challenged President Polk’s defense of the war, claiming it was based on false reports.

    • Frederick Douglas saw the war as an attempt to further the interests of slave-holding states; he trembled thinking about the future of his country.

    • The world was battling the third wave of a horrible cholera pandemic that is thought to have killed 150,000 Americans between 1832 and 1849.

    • Ireland was in the early stages of the potato famine that would claim the lives of 1,000,000 people in the span of five years. Countless others would immigrate to places like the United States.

    • The new pope, Pius IX, issued his first encyclical, Qui pluribus, cautioning Catholics and others against ideologies such as communism and nationalism.

    The world seemed to be coming apart. Ancient foundations were shaking. The cause of liberty looked ephemeral and depleted. Who but Boniface Wimmer would have thought it a good year to found a new community and a new college? What hope! What faith! What a dreamer!

    It takes such dreamers to see past the cracks of our world in difficult times. One bell may fall silent, but new ones arise and fill the smug air with notes of goodness, beauty, and truth.

    “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. LEV XXV.X” (the words inscribed onto the Liberty Bell, taken from Leviticus 25:10).

    Jerome C. Foss, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Politics
    Director, Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture
  • Reflection 8 - Jan. 14, 2021: Fr. Thomas M. Hart, O.S.B.

    Visitors to the campus of Saint Vincent notice many things, where they say they can actually “feel” welcomed here, students greeting them, people holding doors for each other and more. Many of them wonder why so many of the doors have chalk markings on them, as in: 20 + C+ M+ B + 21.

    Catholics have a venerable custom to bless the home each year around the feast of the Epiphany (on or close to Jan. 6). It has often been called “chalking the door” because the priest would bless the house and all who dwell therein, then use chalk to write above the main entrance the specific year, separated by the letters C, M and B, thusly: 20 +C + M + B + 21.

    The letters stand for the Latin blessing: Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ Bless this House), as well as the legendary names for the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, most often seen symbolically to represent respectively: Asia, Europe and Africa, and thus that God wishes everyone to be saved, regardless of race, language or way of life.

    In this new year, our prayers go up for everyone, to have the freedom to live a life that is healthy, happy and peaceful. May you and those whom you cherish be blessed in ways unmistakable!

    Fr. Thomas M. Hart, O.S.B.; S ‘88
  • Reflection 7 - Dec. 30, 2020: Fr. Maurus B. Mount, O.S.B.

    A work of love and dedication by the monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey, the crèche has featured prominently in the celebration of Christmas at the basilica for generations. For the past forty to fifty years at least, with slight variation, the large impressive display consists of three scenes related to the story of Our Lord's Nativity and Infancy, viz.: a desert scene with the three wise men en route to worship Christ; a pastoral scene depicting the apparition of the angel to the shepherds, which features a river with running water, calling to mind the Twenty-Third Psalm; the stable featuring the central figures of Our Lord, Our Lady and Saint Joseph.

    The abbey received the high-quality plaster images for the crèche in 1971 from the nuns of the Latrobe Carmel, who had been gifted the figures from a church that had been closed. The quality of the plaster, and the manner of their construction indicate that they were made at some point before the beginning of World War II, perhaps even at the turn of the last century. One by one they are being restored by a priest of the monastery. The restoration and erection of the crèche owes its success to monks past and present (the late Patrick Lacey, O.S.B., as well as the novices and juniors deserve special mention), as well as the generosity of the parishioners and faithful who come to see it each year.

    In this singular act of devotion, everything about the annual display of our Christmas Crèche represents our desire, “that in all things God may be glorified” (Rule of Saint Benedict 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11).

    Fr. Maurus B. Mount, O.S.B.; Dr.phil; S’06

    O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

    Collect Prayer on Christmas Day
    The Roman Missal
  • Reflection 6 - Dec. 23, 2020: Mary Collins, Vice President for Student Affairs

    That in All Things, God May Be Glorified, Including Our Hope

    May the hope which was born at Christmas “fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

    Abbot Boniface Wimmer had a hope that propelled him across the sea to a remote and isolated part of Pennsylvania. Hope was needed in the beginning to establish Saint Vincent, and hope helped carry the Monastery and College through many years of challenges, including wars, a flu pandemic, a depression and a devastating fire.

    Through all of that, hopes were realized in continued growth, transformed lives and new missions and service.

    It’s our turn now, as Benedictines, students, faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends, to face with that same unfailing hope our challenges, including safely living and learning with Covid-19, economic struggles, political strife, racial inequalities and social injustices.

    Together we can overcome them and emerge with the wisdom to continue to fulfill our founders’ dreams, form new ones and pass on the inheritance of hope to those who will come after us.

    A Blessed Christmas to everyone. Hope is born this day!

    Mary Collins, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Reflection 5 - Dec. 17, 2020: Fr. Vincent de Paul Crosby, O.S.B.; SVS ’72

    The O Antiphons

    The Advent/Christmas season is rich in symbolism and tradition. I have experienced many Advents now in the course of my monastic life and I never seem to tire of its customs and rituals. Throughout its 175 year history, the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey have kept alive an ancient tradition. During the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights,” the seven "O Antiphons" are chanted during the Magnificat at Evening Prayer. Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title that comes from the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah. The Antiphons are as follows:

    O Sapientia - December 17: “O Wisdom.”

    O Adonai - December 18: “O sacred Lord.”

    O Radix Jesse: - December 19: “O Root of Jesse’s stem.”

    O Clavis David: - December 20: “O Key of David.”

    O Oriens: - December 21: “O Rising Sun.”

    O Rex Gentium: - December 22: “O King of all the nations.”

    O Emmanuel: - December 23: “O Emmanuel.”

    December 24: Centuries ago the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose in mind. On December 24, the monk would start with the last title and take the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – and read the Latin words Ero Cras, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for during Advent now assures us He will soon be here. These “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, they also bring it to a joyful conclusion.

    For an amplification of this tradition in word and art, see:;

    My hope is that these images might serve to take this tradition from within the walls of the monastery and capture the imagination of the Faithful.

    Fr. Vincent de Paul Crosby, OSB; SVS ’72
  • Reflection 4 - Dec. 10, 2020: The Very Reverend Edward M. Mazich, O.S.B.

    During the Advent season the readings and prayers at Mass express great joy over the nearness of the birth of Christ. Zephaniah, for example, says: “the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst” (Zeph 3:15), and Isaiah cries out: “among you is the great and Holy One of Israel” (Isa 12:6). In other words, there is an awareness that the Messiah is not only near, but is already here, though not yet fully recognized.

    We modern-day believers in Christ celebrate with even greater joy than Isaiah and Zephaniah because we know that Jesus our Messiah is here, and that in him we find not only justice but mercy, compassion and a new beginning — a true cause to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4)!

    As Saint Vincent celebrates its 175th anniversary, let us strive to recognize the presence of the Lord in all whom we meet, so that together we might joyfully continue the mission of our founder Boniface Wimmer and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God.

    The Very Reverend Edward M. Mazich, OSB; S.S.L.; S.T.L.; DPhil
    Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary; SVS ‘98
  • Reflection 3 - Dec. 3, 2020: Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D., SVC ’69; SVS ’73; and Wimmer Biographer

    Boniface Wimmer, founder and first archabbot of Saint Vincent, was an astute and enthusiastic student of history. He knew that during the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks had converted whole nations in Europe to Christ, nations like England, Germany, Hungary and Poland.

    It was Wimmer’s knowledge of history, combined with his evangelical zeal, that inspired in him a plan to transfer the ancient Order of St. Benedict across the Atlantic. “When we consider North America today,” he said in 1845, “we see at a glance that there is no other country in the world that offers greater opportunities for the Benedictine Order than the United States does, no other country that is so much like our old Europe was.”

    But Wimmer faced great obstacles when he tried to make his plan a reality. Many in Europe opposed him. Some of his Benedictine confreres laughed at him and called him a Projektenmacher, a “plan-maker,” an unrealistic dreamer. “Why go to America when there is so much work to be done here at home?” they asked.

    Wimmer’s answer was succinct. “We must go because we have to preach the Gospel to immigrants in America. We have to spread the Faith. We belong to the whole world!”

    Wimmer proved that those who thought he was an unrealistic dreamer were wrong. He was a dreamer, but he knew how to make his dream real. He came to America in 1846 and founded Saint Vincent. Today it is the largest Benedictine monastery in the world, and its community of Benedictine monks carries on educational, pastoral and missionary apostolates in the United States, Brazil and China. Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus!

    Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.

    SVC ’69; SVS ’73; and Wimmer Biographer
  • Reflection 2 - Nov. 25, 2020: SVC President Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B.

    In the fall of 1846, just after beginning the first academic year at Saint Vincent, Boniface Wimmer wrote:

    “With respect to myself, nobody can be filled with greater fear than I. Yet we must remember that God can raise children of Abraham from stones. This is the basis of my hope and confidence. The foundation is laid, the beginning made, the temporal support given – not only for me and my companions but also for others who are willing to work with us.”*

    Today, 175 years later, when we look around at all that confronts us, we could also be filled with fear, but we have hope and confidence in the same way and for the same reason that Wimmer did – God is with us. Scripture exhorts us, “to give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and so for both the blessings and the challenges Divine Providence sends our way, we are thankful. Blessed Thanksgiving.

    *Boniface Wimmer to Joseph Müller, Letter of October 26, 1846.

    Rev. Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., Ph.D.
    Saint Vincent College
  • Reflection 1 - Nov. 19, 2020: Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B.

    History is important. Remembering the past gives insight into the future, recalls accomplishments, and provides wisdom. We begin our observance of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Saint Vincent by remembering the people and the moments who made us who we are.

    In 1846, before a brick was laid or a shovel turned, Saint Vincent was a dream in the minds and hearts of a small band of people. Dreams realized saw a community of tens of thousands sent forth on a mission—people educated and formed through our commitment to education, nurtured in the Catholic faith through liturgy and worship, engaged in the world through service, and dedicated to the arts and culture. We could not have become what we celebrate today, without the commitment of monks, students, parents, grandparents, and countless friends.

    George Santayana wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I prefer, “Those who remember, take to heart, and learn from history, are blessed to repeat it.” As we celebrate the past, we eagerly embrace the next 175 years confident ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, that in all things God may be glorified! (Rule of Saint Benedict 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11). 
    Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B. 
    12th Archabbot of Saint Vincent