At exactly five o’clock, three knocks struck the wood door of St. Benedict’s Abbey. As the monks waiting on the inside answered and opened the door, a flush of light entered the dimly lit corridor followed by three young men wearing simple black cassocks and belts. These men were being welcomed into the Abbey and formally entering into the first stage of becoming a Benedictine monk: the postulancy.
Thomas Hoopes, Peter Rumpza and Timothy Simpson had all undergone months and even years of discerning their vocations, and although their searching for God’s will in their lives is far from over, they have courageously taken the first step this Thursday towards following the call to the religious life in the Benedictine community in Atchison, Kansas.
After being greeted by Abbot James and other monks at the door, the three postulants followed them in a procession to the Abbey church where they joined them along with family and friends in evening prayer, or Vespers. As the postulants stood side by side with the monks of the Abbey singing the psalms, the brotherhood and stability inherent in the Benedictine order was clearly visible.
This kind of ordered life centered around prayer is part of the reason Timothy Simpson felt called back to Atchison. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, Timothy attended Benedictine College for four years, running cross country and track and majoring in Marketing and Business Management. He graduated in 2016 and began working and trying some different things, but he continued to feel a call for something more. “The voice of God was leading me here,” he said. He looked around to several different orders, including the Franciscans, but he was led back to the monks in Atchison because he felt “the call to home, to stability”.
For Thomas Hoopes, the call to the Benedictine order came from the monks themselves. Growing up in Atchison, attending Maur Hill-Mount Academy and being a member of St. Benedict’s Parish, Thomas interacted with the monks on a daily basis. “I saw the example of the holy monks”, he said, “and I wanted to be like them”. After high school, Thomas attended the seminary in Conception, Missouri before deciding to return home to join the monks that he had known for most of his life.
Peter Rumpza, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, was also struck by the monk’s example. He attended a come and see retreat at the Abbey in 2016, and saw a love and humility in the monks that was inspiring. It was “Christ’s love at work” he said that ultimately gave him the courage to follow God’s call.
Peter compared this first stage that he and his fellow postulants were entering into to an “extended retreat”. They will spend the next four months continuing to pray and discern God’s will for them, but this discernment will be done within the community, allowing them to live and pray alongside the monks and receive more clarity as they approach the next step, the novitiate.
Whether they find that life as a Benedictine monk is meant for them, or they find that they are called to serve the Lord in a different way, these men are being given an opportunity to make great strides in their faith and their knowledge of God.