Remembering Abbot Owen

Just over one year ago, the seventh Abbot of St. Benedict's Abbey, Owen Purcell, OSB, passed to his eternal reward.  He is remembered below by Fr. Daniel McCarthy, OSB.

Abbot Owen John Purcell
July 25, 1931 – November 8, 2013

Born in Leavenworth, Kansas, John attended school at the old cathedral. Brother Owen professed vows on July 11, 1952 and was ordained a presbyter on May 30, 1957. He earned a master’s degree in Latin and spent over a decade serving at Maur Hill, where Father Owen experienced another spiritual awakening, prompted by an awareness of his vulnerability.

In turning his will and life over to the care of God as he understood him, like pealing an onion away by layers, he stripped away masks, pretenses, postures to his inner self, discovering, he said, “around the essence, around the still point: God equals love equals now. In this present moment, around and round we go, and it never stops: ‘mercy, within mercy, within mercy, within mercy’”, quoting Thomas Merton. This awakening coincided with the reform following the Second Vatican Council and his chaplaincy at the Mount, where he came alive yet again, forming enduring friendships.

He was elected our seventh Abbot on December 28, 1989, serving until his resignation in the Spring of 1994 due to the burden of office. Abbot Owen guided many people in their honest discovery of themselves and respected others while forming mutual bonds of love, saying, “wisdom cuts through the marrow and fat of our own self delusion; wisdom renders us naked and so open to the God of love”.