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!
Archabbot Leopold Krul (1918-1992)
When elected ninth archabbot of Saint Vincent in 1979, Father Leopold Krul was 61 years old and fell under the new term limits for abbots, which required them to resign from office when they reached the age of 65. Despite his short tenure, however, Archabbot Leopold’s contributions to Saint Vincent during his four years as abbot were far-reaching and substantial.
He reinvigorated the community’s prayer life with renewed emphasis on traditional spiritual devotions, frequent private prayer and the Divine Office. He led a thorough and productive reassessment of the community’s educational, pastoral and missionary apostolates. He gave regular conferences to the monks on monastic spirituality that fostered the continuing spiritual growth and development of the Benedictine community.
He reorganized and strengthened the community’s monastic formation program and established the Human Resources Council to develop and oversee policies regarding the education, guidance and assignments of the monks.
In his role as chancellor of Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary, he guided these institutions through the shoals of inflation and enrollment fluctuation and implemented the financial and administrative restructuring required to ensure their future success. During his chancellorship, he also prepared the college for its momentous and smooth transition to coeducation.
His pastoral responsibilities and activities, which extended even beyond Saint Vincent, included many speaking engagements at the functions of Slovak and various other organizations. He gave numerous conferences and retreats to religious communities of men and women.
Everyone who knew him recognized Archabbot Leopold as a holy man, some even remarking that he was “perhaps a saint.” With a long and intense commitment to his monastic vocation and deep devotion to the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit, he embodied the kindness, generosity and goodness that Saint Benedict in his Rule required of an abbot.
Those who knew Archabbot Leopold were impressed not only by his “monastic levelheaded-ness” but also by his warmth, humor and deep spirituality. He was an inspirational and beloved spiritual leader. “I am convinced that the Holy Spirit guides us at all times,” he wrote, “and my desire is to fulfill God’s will.”
Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.
C‘69; S‘73; and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
Archabbot Egbert Donovan (1913-1998)
In 1967, Father Egbert Donovan was elected eighth archabbot of Saint Vincent. It was the revolutionary ‘60s, a time when Saint Vincent experienced the full brunt of the changes, positive and negative, occurring in the world and in the Church. To some, the changes were welcome, to others, threatening. For all, the future was uncertain. The danger of loss of nerve and capitulation to strong, often misguided pressures from within the monastic community and from without loomed.
It was a time that called for a special kind of man to lead the large and complex institution that was Saint Vincent, a man with a strong sense of personal identity, yet open to change, a man of wisdom, fatherly understanding, and elastic patience. In the providence of God, Archabbot Egbert was exactly that kind of man.
Upon his election, Archabbot Egbert faced the challenge of managing a debt-burdened community charged with responsibility for a wide range of pastoral, educational and missionary apostolates. It was a community that was aging. Professed monks were departing and the number of new vocations to the monastic life was declining. There was also the challenge of implementing monastic renewal in the wake of the Vatican II reforms.
To have accepted, as Archabbot Egbert did, the challenge of seeing Saint Vincent through such a difficult period was a selfless act of devotion to duty. To have resolved the conflicts, to have healed the divisions that accompanied revolutionary change, to have held the community together and infused into it a rebirth of unity and charity as he did — these were achievements of the highest order, made possible because the blessing and grace of God were with him.
A tolerant, unbiased, flexible leader, Archabbot Egbert was a humble man with an appealing, self-deprecating sense of humor— a good and holy father in the mold of Saint Benedict. In his Holy Rule, Saint Benedict instructs his monks to show their abbot “unfeigned and humble love,” (RB 72: 8 – 12). With Archabbot Egbert, this was not a difficult part of the Rule for the monks to follow. Members of the community who knew him relate many wonderful experiences and conversations with Archabbot Egbert; they tell stories that elicit a smile or a hearty laugh; they reminisce about his kindness and his willingness to help them in any way he could. Those who knew him will all tell you that he was a dearly loved Father Abbot.
Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.
C‘69; S‘73; and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
The beginning of a new academic year invites us to permit ourselves some quality leisure, to take a deep breath before the pressure is on, to refresh our appreciation of why we are here, and what we hope to engender in one another and in ourselves. Toward that end, we borrow the words of John Henry Newman, adapted from his classic work, The Idea of a University.
The mark of an educated person is one who never inflicts pain, who is refined and accurate. One who is mainly occupied in removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of others; with the benefits of an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and heat without them. The truly educated person in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of interlocutors, all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; the great concern being to make everyone at ease and at home.
The refined person has eyes on all companions; tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome, making light of favors while doing them, and acts as though receiving when conferring.
The fine example of a human being has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best, never mean or belittling in disputes, never taking unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments. From a long-sighted prudence, the maxim of the ancient sage is observed, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend, having too much good sense to be affronted at insults, and too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. Such a person is patient and forbearing.
When thrust into controversy of any kind, the disciplined intellect safeguards from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it.
Whether right or wrong in one’s own opinion, in such a person nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, indulgence: rigorously trying to understand the minds of opponents, allowing for their mistakes. An intelligent person knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits.
The educated person will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic, supporting as venerable and beautiful those things which he personally does not espouse.
Saint John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890)
I have been a monk at Saint Vincent Archabbey for 56 years and I was a student at SVC before that. Over all those years, I have noticed something about the faculty, administrators and staff of the two schools and many departments of our institution. In a quiet way, not all, but almost everyone who works here, including the monks, just about anyone who stays around for more than a couple of years, well, they just have a certain spirit of loyalty to Saint Vincent about them. Many stay with us for their whole careers, passing over sometimes even more lucrative or higher-status jobs, but more than content with what is taking place on our campus. Oh, we complain a lot about just about everything, but that’s because we really care so much about what Saint Vincent is doing.
I think all this has a lot to do with the Benedictine charism of Stability. Certainly, many of us Benedictines stay at the College and/or Seminary often in spite of broader or higher-level expertise that can’t be utilized in a small academic institution. But there is something about building and contributing to a solid tradition that takes years to accomplish, and a lot of unheralded hard work. Surprisingly, this dedication and stable workplace is not disagreeable most of the time. The sense of unity we feel comes about by working in common for a goal that transcends the here and now, and yet is firmly grounded in the here and now.
Now, Saint Vincent has never been an overly pious kind of place, but this kind of language is in fact God talk. Yes, deep down I think we all unabashedly and very deeply consider God as the greater partner in the work we do. Each of us, in our own way, sees our combined work as in some way God-inspired as well as divinely guided and empowered. This goal of doing God’s will is crafted for the downright human engendering of all who come to us or look to us as a place where God is praised and the right thing is done. We celebrate the 175 years and feel privileged to be a part of them!
Br. Elliott C. Maloney, O.S.B.; S.T.L.; Ph.D.; C’68; S’72
Tuesday, August 24, represents the anniversary of the dedication of Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica (1905). We offer thanks to God for those who were inspired to envision and bring into existence sacred architecture which would magnificently conduct the eyes and hearts of all who crossed its threshold to experience the joy of God’s presence, the forgiveness of their sins, and the hope of redemption unto life everlasting.
to whose glory we celebrate the dedication of this house of prayer:
We give you thanks for the fellowship of those who have worshiped in this place,
and we pray that all who seek you here may find you,
and be filled with your joy and peace;
through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, now and forever.
(Collect for the Anniversary of the Dedication of a Church)
Herewith is a reflection for our readers to enjoy, by Fr. Brian D. Boosel (on the occasion of the centenary of its dedication):
The Rev. Brian D. Boosel, OSB; Ph.D.; C’96; S’02
Archabbot Denis Strittmatter (1896-1971)
The sixth archabbot of Saint Vincent, Denis Strittmatter, was elected to succeed Archabbot Alfred Koch in 1949. A native of the town of Hastings in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, he had come to Saint Vincent at the age of 14 studied in the Prep School and College and entered the Novitiate in 1916. After studies in the Seminary at Saint Vincent, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1923 and served in several of Saint Vincent’s parishes in Western Pennsylvania until 1929 when he was appointed by Archabbot Alfred to Saint Emma’s Industrial and Agricultural Institute on the James River near Richmond, Virginia. Saint Emma’s was a school for African-American boys sponsored by the Archabbey, and Father Denis served first as assistant director and then as director of the Institute until 1947, when he returned to the abbey as director of maintenance. Two years later, he was elected archabbot.
Under Archabbot Denis, Saint Vincent flourished and grew. Increased numbers of young men presented themselves as candidates for the Benedictine life and a postwar spirit of optimism about the future of the monastic community pervaded the house. By 1956 there were 272 members of the community, the highest number in Saint Vincent’s history up to that time. Enrollment in the Seminary more than doubled during his abbacy, and enrollment in the college increased by 20 percent. During this period, the Prep School also maintained a full enrollment and high academic quality, attracting students from Pennsylvania and nearby states.
Archabbot Denis oversaw a building boom in the course of his 14-year abbacy, and the campus grew with the addition of Wimmer Hall, the Library, Carey [né Kennedy] Auditorium and Gymnasium, and Bonaventure and Gerard Halls.
From 1953 to 1965, Archabbot Denis served as Abbot President of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries while continuing to serve as Archabbot of Saint Vincent. He was a Council Father at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), where he represented the American Benedictines, and he initiated the process to establish Saint Vincent’s missions in Brazil and Taiwan.
Archabbot Denis’s tenure as leader of Saint Vincent came to an end shortly after the disastrous fire of January 1963 that destroyed many of the buildings of the Archabbey and College. His health was declining, and the Holy See granted his request to step down from the abbacy.
Archabbot Denis left for his successor a strong and vibrant community which entered the turbulent decade of the 1960s with optimism and hope. He lived in retirement for eight years and was regarded by the confreres as a gentle and beloved father who was never absent from the daily round of the Divine Office or any community function.
Archabbot Denis is remembered by all who knew him as a good and faithful monk whose life embodied the Benedictine ideal of living, praying and working so that in all things God might be glorified.
Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.
C’69; S’73; and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
“To venture into the wilderness, one must see it, not as it is, but as it will be.”
The quote by Carl Becker that adorns the Cox Corridor in the U.S. Capitol raises a captivating question: What did Boniface Wimmer envision when he determined to venture out to plant the Benedictine tradition on American soil? He faced immense obstacles to overcome in getting permission to achieve this, yet he persisted doggedly.
I believe one driving force was the Benedictine tradition of education and desire to plant enriching ideas and knowledge in young minds, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “Plant a thought, reap an act. Plant an act, reap a habit. Plant a habit, reap a character. Plant a character, and reap a destiny.”
Education starts with knowledge and ideas that John Henry Newman defines as “acquired illuminations.” In stressing education, Abbot Boniface Wimmer, Newman’s contemporary, provided light to guide a student’s life toward a joyful, virtuous destiny. Newman would add: “Not to know the relative disposition of things is the state of slaves or children.” Education, therefore, does not only provide illumination but wisdom, and especially freedom.
The Rev. Eugene F. Hemrick, Ph.D.; author and friend of all things Benedictine Diocese of Joliet
Catholic Syndicated Columnist, residing in Washington, DC, and serving at Saint Joseph’s on Capitol Hill
Founding Director of the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood
“Saint Vincent, Saint Vincent
Our Mother and our guide!
To honor and love thee
Shall ever be our pride!”
When I think of Saint Vincent College, I am reminded that it truly is the cornerstone of my life.
As a child, my family would often visit Saint Vincent for basketball games, family events, to fly a kite, or say hello to Br. Norman Hipps. Both my father (C’73) and grandfather (C’37) are Bearcats, so the tradition is strong in my family! I loved the welcoming environment, wide-open landscape, and vastness I felt when looking up at the Basilica from the steps.
As a college student, Saint Vincent formed me into the person I am today. I learned the value of hard work and perseverance, compassion and charity, and how God would guide me through it all. No matter how busy the days were, daily Mass at the chapel was always a calm and fulfillment I could turn to and catch my breath, always leaving with a refreshed mindset of what was most important in life. I even met my husband, Matt (SVC ’08), for which I am ever grateful.
Now, as mutual alumni of Saint Vincent, we have experienced some of life’s most significant moments on campus. From the joys of our wedding in 2012 and the baptisms of our four children in the years to follow to the sorrow of saying goodbye to my mom in 2018, we have shared laughter and tears but always felt comfort from the monks who are like family in this place that feels like home.
Matt and I often reflect back on our lessons from those college days with our kids; the people we met, the values that were instilled, and the many memories we fondly hold. We love taking them to campus to enjoy the welcoming environment, wide-open landscape, and vastness they feel when looking up at the Basilica from the steps. However, when we look into their eyes and see that they are swept up with the special feeling that is Saint Vincent College, as well, that is the most fulfilling lesson of all.
Kimberly (Stevens) Feigel, CPA; C’07
Office Manager at Matthew J. Feigel, DMD LLC
“The Gospel transcends every peculiarity of race or nation and therefore cannot be considered foreign anywhere or to anybody.” (Ad gentes § 1.8).
Due to a common misunderstanding of our unique monastic vow of stability, many people are surprised to learn that the Benedictines have been, from the sixth century, a missionary order. In more recent times, when John XXIII was Pope, he made an appeal to religious congregations to send missionaries to Latin America to further the work of evangelization by sharing the Gospel in lands far and wide.
In 1963, the monks of Saint Vincent responded to that appeal by preparing men for Brazil, to immerse themselves in the local culture and to become fluent in Portuguese. We accepted the invitation to establish a monastery in Vinhedo, São Paulo, Brazil, to continue a Benedictine presence there which reaches back to the year 1590. Since then, the monastery is flourishing with native Brazilian vocations, in gratitude to the grace of God, prayers, and support from the extended Saint Vincent community.
At São Bento Priory, pastoral activity has formed and served 10 ecclesial communities. We have provided care for the infirm, while the religious education for lay leadership and youth ministry has grown. In our retreat house, marriage enrichment retreats are promoted. We hold workshops for religious educators, workshops on prayer, workshops on religious education for postulants and permanent enrichment for religious in vows, Cursillos and retreats in general.
As we observe our 175th Anniversary, Saint Vincent can rejoice that the Benedictines have been faithful to Saint Benedict’s exhortation: “Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus” (“that in all things God may be glorified”)! God’s summons is always a call to go beyond ourselves in love. God has created you and me today to offer Him some definite service in our time. In the words of a sixth century African homilist:
“The disciples spoke in the language of every nation. At Pentecost God chose this means to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit: whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue. We must realize, dear brothers, that this is the same Holy Spirit by whom love is poured out in our hearts. It was love that was to bring the Church of God together all over the world. And as individual men and women who received the Holy Spirit in those days could speak in all kinds of tongues, so today the Church, united by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.”
Fiquem com Deus!
Father Mario Fulgenzi, O.S.B.
Retired Prior of São Bento Priory, Vinhedo, Brazil
"Our responsibility is not for the past; our responsibility is for the future."
The 175th anniversary of Saint Vincent marks the beginning of Abbot Boniface Wimmer’s mission to America. Convinced that the Benedictines were the best suited of all religious orders to undertake such a risky mission, Wimmer found support in King Ludwig I of Bavaria. With the hope of establishing the first Benedictine monastery in the New World, Wimmer inspired youthful co-workers to join in his mission to sow the seeds of faith in the New World.
One hundred seventy-five years later, Saint Vincent serves thousands of faithful through its pastoral, educational and missionary apostolates in the United States and around the world. The great danger, however, in celebrating any anniversary is to focus on the past. As the late Father Demetrius Dumm reminded the Benedictine community on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, “Our responsibility is not for the past; our responsibility is for the future.”
The mission of Boniface Wimmer is ultimately the mission of Jesus Christ – to help people understand the kingdom of God and to share eternal life. It is the responsibility of each generation to pass this wonderful message on to future generations.
At 175, it is now our responsibility to be sure that those who come after us will have the opportunity to come to hear the word of Christ which we received from those who have gone before us. Finding the energy in the midst of the global pandemic may present a challenge, but Saint Paul reminds us that faith is not faith if its object is seen. None of us knows the future, but we do know that Christ is with us in every moment in life’s journey.
It was Wimmer’s trust in Divine Providence that gave him the courage to begin his mission. Let us pray that the same Holy Spirit that inspired Wimmer 175 years ago will energize his followers today to move “Forward, Always Forward, Everywhere Forward.”
The Rt. Rev. Douglas, R. Nowicki, O.S.B., Ph.D.
Eleventh Archabbot of Saint Vincent
Speculatio Cum Devotione, Investigatio Cum Admiratione
(“Knowledge with Devotion, Research with Wonder”)
We began to speak about the new COVID virus in my Microbiology class in January of 2020. Now, close to a year and a half later, who could have known about the mental, emotional and physical toll? It was overwhelming to teach and learn online or in a hybrid mode while taking care of ourselves, each other, our students and our families. Although we cannot understand why, God has a plan.
While we question a plan we did not create ourselves, we can see glimpses of answers sometimes. Earlier this month, while working in-person with my biology peers for the first time since March 2020, I was mentally, emotionally and physically rejuvenated; typically, I would take this interaction for granted since we see each other and work together frequently but at that meeting, the collaboration lifted me. The pandemic made me appreciate people more, it made me focus on the big picture and reminded me that God, above all, is great.
Science and religion support one another as the Saint Vincent community has done for 175 years. I am honored to teach at a place that supports the growth of students (and faculty) to become well-rounded and blessed individuals incorporating both science and religion as part of the liberal arts education.
Jennifer Koehl, Ph. D.
Chair and Associate Professor of Biology
Looking over my 61 years as a Benedictine, there have been many characteristics that have stood out to me and one of the hallmarks of the true Benedictine spirit is Hospitality.
This has been expressed by the lives of so many of those whom I have known over the years. Not only the monks, but also the Benedictine Sisters who staffed our kitchens and dining rooms for so many years. They were an example of “seeing Christ in everyone we encounter.” They were able to bring a certain warmness and kindness to the people whom they served.
They were a big influence in the formation of our younger monks who worked with them day in and day out in the monastic refectory. We monks have learned from them and have made it our aim to practice that true spirit of the Rule in so many ways over the years “the virtue of welcoming.”
A virtue so utterly important in our present-day when there exist so many divisions and suspicions of others. The true spirit of Saint Benedict is exhibited through this hospitality towards our students, parishioners, alumni, visitors, and all those to whom we come in contact each day.
Fr. Paschal A. Morlino, O.S.B.
Pastor, Saint Benedict Church; Baltimore, Maryland
Founder: Adelphoi – Vision to create a program to support the needs of children and families
Father’s Day 2021
Rod Dreher proposed “The Benedict Option” as a way to move forward in our challenging times. He described how the Rule of Saint Benedict provides the culture-changing wisdom that could create a leaven to transform our world from the ground up. In my own reflections, it seems to me that Saint Benedict actually promotes “The Joseph Option.” His wisdom for monasteries helps them to become another Nazareth where we live the lives of Mary and Joseph always in the presence of Jesus. In Nazareth, the Gospel principles were lived out in such an unremarkable way that the locals were shocked when Jesus declared himself to be the Messiah (cf. Luke 4). And yet the Gospel principles were lived out in such a powerful way that God himself was always fully present, and it became the starting place of a new creation.
We can see the connections of Benedict and Nazareth in several ways. A Benedictine monastery is founded on the vow of stability so that the collective holiness from living out God’s will steadily permeates the place and it becomes an oasis of peace for visitors. I like to imagine that Nazareth was quite a peaceful place to visit and that the Holy Family was a wonderful model of hospitality in the decades they dwelt there. In a Benedictine monastery, the keynote is found in chapter 19 of the Rule: “We believe that the divine presence is everywhere . . .” and the orientation of everything in the monastery fosters greater awareness of that fact. In Nazareth, Mary and Joseph helped each other remember that their little boy was the Incarnate Word of God and they did everything in the divine presence. Saint Benedict described the monastery as a “school for the Lord’s service” (RB Prologue 45) and Pope Saint Paul VI described Nazareth as “the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel” (Homily 5 January 1964 in Nazareth).
At Saint Vincent, we have another Nazareth where countless people have come in the last 175 years to enter into the divine presence. In the peace that comes from the first moments on the grounds to encounters with the various residents and finding a high point in the Basilica and the liturgy, hearts are changed, love grows, the Gospel is internalized and our world is improved a little bit at a time. It is providential that the Year of Saint Joseph coincides with our 175th anniversary. As we approach Father’s Day let us invoke our fathers Saint Joseph and Saint Benedict to help us foster another Nazareth and bring Jesus more tangibly into our world, so that “in all things God may be glorified!” (Rule 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11).
Fr. Boniface P. Hicks, O.S.B., Ph.D.; Seminary ’04
Author: “Through the Heart of Saint Joseph” (2021)
Spiritual Director Saint Vincent Seminary http://saintvincentseminary.edu/
Manager and Host of We Are One Body® radio https://www.waob.org/
Prayer from Patris Corde
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
And defend us from every evil.
Archabbot Alfred Koch, O.S.B. (1879-1951)
Alfred Koch was the fifth archabbot of Saint Vincent. He spent the first 12 years of his priesthood as a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary order. In 1916, at the age of 36, he entered the Benedictine novitiate at Saint Vincent and was professed as a monk of the archabbey the following year. For the next 13 years, he taught sacred scripture, exegesis and homiletics in Saint Vincent Seminary and served as the seminary’s prefect and spiritual director.
Father Alfred was an affable yet demanding professor, administrator and spiritual guide. His approachable personality, together with his clear vision, spiritual depth and decisiveness, made him a popular teacher and spiritual adviser. Unlike the previous three archabbots, he had not come to Saint Vincent in his youth nor had he been nurtured in the archabbey’s schools. His experience in the community’s apostolates was limited to the seminary, and his relatively recent profession made him junior to all the monks his age and to many of those younger than he. He was considered a newcomer by some and an outsider by a few. But his easy manner, natural brilliance and palpable holiness marked him as a leader and eventually won the confidence of the entire community.
Upon the sudden death of Archabbot Aurelius, the monks elected Father Alfred their archabbot. He shepherded Saint Vincent through the traumatic aftermath of the first China mission and led the archabbey and schools safely through the threat of bankruptcy, the Depression, and World War II. He oversaw a trying period of retrenchment and belt-tightening and then led the community’s successful financial recovery. Under him Saint Vincent joyfully celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1946.
Archabbot Alfred became ill and stepped down from the abbacy in 1949, turning the leadership over to his successor, Archabbot Denis Strittmatter. In retirement, he remained, as he had always been, beloved of all the monks in the community. Remembering him many years after his death, one of the senior members of the community, who had been a novice when Alfred Koch was archabbot, said of him, “We all loved Archabbot Alfred. He was a beautiful human being, an ideal Benedictine, a true father for all of us.” A humble and faithful monk, he lived his life so that in all things God might be glorified.
Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.
C’69, S’73, and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
Cherished Memories on the Feast of Corpus Christi (2021)
Back in the Summer of 2017 an article entitled Saint Vincent Bread Tradition Alive in Patton was slated to be published (See Heart to Heart, https://issuu.com/saintvincentarchabbey/docs/2017_summer_heart_to_heart_sm p. 18). I warned my secretary of the impending tsunami of phone calls and emails that were looming on the horizon. Sure enough, the article went to press and the inquiries, began. Could they “pick up three loaves on Tuesday?” Would you “be kind enough to mail a loaf to Wyoming?” “Can you send it just like they did in the old days wrapped in butchers’ paper and tied with twine?”
Just why is it that this very ordinary monastic mixture of flour, water, salt, yeast and vital wheat gluten causes such a flood of memories, conjures such complex emotions, induces such impassioned reactions in those who hold Saint Vincent dear?
Maybe it’s because that particular bread represents the hard work of the monks who tilled and planted, harvested and ground. Maybe it’s the drops of sweat dripping like dew from heaven from the bakers’ brow anointing the manna as they pulled 80, 8-pound loaves from the cavernous ovens. Maybe it’s the memory of “Sister Bread” who plated a day-old slab of stale bread, maternally slathering it with gravy in order to create a palatable portion of “Saint Vincent Steak” for some Scholastic or Prepster. Maybe it’s the memory of countless thousands of down-and-outs who presented themselves in Abbey bread lines and who found in those crusts both sustenance and hope. Is it any wonder that Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a woman baking bread (Matt 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)?
Whatever the reason, bread, all bread, has always elicited feelings of home and hearth and the mystique of Saint Vincent Bread is no exception. Mythologized, even modernized after the loss of the ovens in the great fire, it makes little difference. Bread is life sustaining, pure and simple. Jesus knew that. That’s why He used that! “On the night he was betrayed, he took bread, and gave you thanks” (Eucharistic Prayer, from the Roman Missal).
Those who bake bread will tell you that there is something deeply satisfying about employing an ancient tradition in these present days to create, as Peter Reinhart says in Brother Juniper’s Bread Book, “a modern incarnation of a metaphor for goodness.”
I believe Saint Vincent Bread is nothing more and nothing less than a tangible reminder that a handful of monastics came to a foreign land in order to pray and work and be leaven in the Kingdom by rising above and far beyond the confines of the Enclosure in order to feed any, all and every hungry soul with bread – whether it’s fashioned with flour, water, salt and yeast or charity, self-sacrifice and service. It only matters that “in all things God may be glorified.”
Those latter ingredients mixed, combined, kneaded, formed and raised should elicit just as passionate a response in those who hunger in their souls. Once nourished may their renewed life allow them to do good in the Name of Christ. After all, a little leaven goes a long way. So . . . believe it or not, it is possible to feed the hungry masses Saint Vincent “bread,” even though the ovens are no more.
℣. You have given them bread from heaven.
℟. Having all sweetness within it!
(The Rite of Benediction)
Fr. Ananias G. Buccicone, O.S.B.; SVC ‘88; Seminary ‘93
Pastor, Our Lady Queen of Peace; Patton, PA
For Memorial Day 2021
It was smaller then
You’d pass the Library
And the old stadium.
When the weather was good
And there was time before study hall,
Scholastics would walk around the cemetery
His head shot off!
Wimmer had sent the College’s Math teacher
To serve the people of God
In Kentucky and Tennessee.
So Emmeran Bliemel, O.S.B.
10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
(Veterans care about the unit or the ship.)
Died anointing the dying
Battle of Jonesboro.
Will there be a Confederate flag (gasp!)
In Tuscumbia, Colbert County, Alabama,
Holy Cross Cemetery, on Memorial Day?
Yes! Frater Colman told us as we walked.
For Fr. Emmeran.
Sometimes, later, in the afternoon,
A Pater and an Ave having been said,
Willy and I would pluck a rose
Unopened and fresh
From the pile on some new grave.
It would live with us
A day or two longer!
It’s a long walk now.
I like especially among the crosses
When the little flags have been posted
On some monks’ graves
On Colman’s and Archabbot Paul’s
Mass at the Mausoleum now
Some comfort in the old rites
And the Archabbot presiding.
But the numbers
The numbers intrude.
What pain or demon or memory
Or loss of Hope
Causes the suicides,
Veterans who will not feel
The soft breezes of May
Wafting of viburnum and lilac
And the first of the roses
On Memorial Days?
Rest in peace now, brothers and sisters!
Richard Schulte P’64 C’68
SP5, 2/9 Infantry MANCHU, 1969-70
“Keep Up the Fire!”
I am filled with optimism that our community in the future will continue to draw young fellow missionaries to complete their formation and to be vibrant contributors to our apostolate. Our Benedictine community in Taiwan is happy to be committed to the Gospel of Jesus and the vast treasures of our Catholic faith.
I have been at Saint Vincent for thirty-plus years
And I have shared many a beer.
I started in as a young one when my mind was new
And now I am someone with a view.
I have become friends with students, monks, faculty, and staff
We all have had many a laugh.
I love my job, sometimes it can be trying
But I always will keep flying.
My family grew up here and it means a lot
To see the love that is fought.
When I look over the horizon, I see the rolling mountains
When I look over campus, I see the flowing fountains.
The beauty of Saint Vincent will always be in my heart
Because this is where I got my start.
Saint Vincent Post Office
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?