Home Pages July 2019

by Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB

Our theme for this issue is taken from the Benedictine Book of Song II hymnal, #52, Becket Senchur’s “On Our Journey to the Kingdom.” Bishop Vann, in his homily during Fr. Luke Turner’s ordination mass, reminded the newly ordained priest of its lyrics:

“On our journey to the kingdom / forward goes our pilgrim band / singing songs of expectation / marching to the promised land / Christ before us through the darkness / gleams and burns the guiding light / pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim stepping fearless through the night”

To me this hymn expresses a sense of unity with people past and the memories that people of the pew hold dear. We share some of these memories here. A parish dinner was celebrated when Fr. Terence was leaving Hiawatha, which occasioned the composition of the song below. I’ve always liked this song. Recently it was brought to mind by the death of three monk priests who served for a long time in our apostolates: Fr. Albert Hauser, Fr. Donald Redmond, and Fr. Denis Meade. I was a few years at Holy Spirit in Overland Park with Fr Albert. 

Excerpt from Abbot James’ Funeral Homily for Fr. Albert:

He was in a class here in the Abbey that we could say were among some of the giants, as he professed vows with Bishop Herbert Hermes, Fr. Emeric Fletcher, and Fr. Blaine Schultz.

One of the monks out in the parish had to be brought back to the Abbey for health reasons, and Abbot Thomas needed Fr. Albert to “pinch-hit” for nine months until the new assignments were given out the following year, at which time Fr. Albert would come back to the Abbey.

In the end, Fr. Albert’s unassuming way of discerning led to fifty years of pastoral ministry in the parish...

Father Albert’s act of obedience to Abbot Thomas led him into a world of ministry he could not have before imagined… “Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all,” St. Benedict writes, “not only to the abbot but also to one another as brothers, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God” (RB 71:1-2).

I shared last night at the Visitation, that when it came time for Fr. Albert to do rehab after the amputation of his leg, he really desired to go to the Life Care Center of Seneca; he knew the people out there. In his own gentle way, Fr. Albert explained the situation of what he indeed saw as a ministry there at the Life Care Center, being able to offer regular Sunday Mass and weekday Mass – a luxury for a nursing care center. Residents regularly knocking on his door asking that their confession be heard; the staff there coming to Fr. Albert as residents asked for anointing of the sick, or someone was dying and the needed to have last rites administered. Maybe I was duped in our mutual discernment as I let him stay there, but I am confident that if so, it was the Lord who duped me, and not Fr. Albert, as I knew Fr. Albert was indeed offering the command of Jesus, “Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” This was the great commission for Fr. Albert’s monastic life and his priesthood, that he lived among his brothers at the Abbey, and among his flock in the parishes.

The Song of Hiawatha (Kansas)
by a parishoner of St. Ann’s (2010)

The Family Holmes from Atchison,
Came to this town as railroad folks, 
And with the Raffs, they soon did say,
“Let’s go to Atchison to see the Abbot.” 

Fathers John and Ferdinand did come,
To start a mission of prayer and presence,
That has endured, an unbroken chain
Of monk priests who labored in Hiawatha. 

On horseback, sure, on railroad track,
For fifty years, their weekends here, 
For farmers, bankers and grocers, too, 
These six Benedictines did gather the flock. 

Lawrence, Norbert, Valerian, Leo, and Roderic, 
Raphael and Terence, Ralph and Gabriel.
Each brought their spirit of work and prayer,
Your young and old blessed by them. 

Moments of memory with monks are many,
Masses and Sacraments celebrated,
Those festivals of food and fun,
All live with us in mind and heart. 

Father Ferdinand rallied the church ladies
“Raise parish money by picnic and fair.”
Father Roderic did Sunday radio time,
His program called, “Your Question Counts.” 

Father Felix Nolte, a professor true,
Did come by train, no fear of the Klan,
He moved quickly, like a grasshopper,
A parade down Oregon when he left town. 

Father Terence claimed he satisfied
One hundred percent of all you folks,
Fifty percent when he did come,
And fifty percent when he did leave. 

Father Leo Ortman served two short years,
Father Raphael Moscinski did serve but four,
Each went to heaven with your love in arm,
In nineteen seventy-six and ninety-four. 

Abbot Ralph did build a Catechetic Center,
And then renewed the Wavada church 
To celebrate one hundred twenty five years,
The stained glass Spirit shining bright on all.

From the Archives

Work Activities of Novices Over the Years

The novitiate class of 1957 moved 6,000 wheelbarrows of dirt from underneath the Abbey church, creating floor space for storage, and providing dirt for a new parking lot. Fr. Benjamin Tremmel kept a talley of the number of loads wheeled outside. 

During Fr. Florian Demmer’s many years as novice master, he heard the recitation from memory all fifty verse of the Prologue Rule of St. Benedict in Latin. This was a fairly unique practice in our congregation. 

Speed Painting Video

In 2017 the newly renovated auditorium at Maur Hill Mount Academy was dedicated to one Abbot Barnabas Senecal in recognition for my 24 years of service to the school. An alumnus from Taiwan, Taveepong Limmakorn (’73), painted the portrait which hangs over the entrance. He sent the following email after the dedication: 

I am very pleased to hear from you and also very happy that you like the painting. Actually, the painting is only a small gift for you and the school when compared to the education and knowledge that you gave me.

Taveepong shared this video, showing the whole process of painting sped up considerably and accompanied by, without explanation, discotheque music.

History of 1964 Cemetery Transfer 

There were 109 monks buried in our first cemetery plot when a decision was made in 1964 to move it to its location on the flat ground north of the Abbey. 

Two reasons were recorded in The Raven Review. The old burial plot was going to be too small or it would gradually encroach on the south entrance to the campus and monastery. Secondly, the college was expanding and the new library was to be built toward the western and northern edges of the property north of St. Benedict Hall. A parking lot was needed for the east side. 

The former grave site was surrounded by pine trees, and was located near the river bluff. Visually, it was located where the west entrance to Ferrell Academic Center. The graves were systematically dug up, boxed, and moved to the present site. Those moved were two abbots, 68 other priests, 30 brothers, three seminarians and six laymen; among these laymen were some students of the college. 

A religious group of men, known as the Brothers of St. Joseph from Bethany, OK, were hired to supervise this move. It was their special apostolate at the time. 

In eight and a half days these remains were transferred. When needed, concrete boxes made by the Abbey brothers were used. Brothers Walter and Raymond made the boxes. Brother Anthony dug the new graves. 

St. Paul called the body “an earthly dwelling, a tent that is destroyed.” And yet, we are courageous because we walk by faith and we look forward to going home to the Lord. We know the body decays and yet we show it reverence because it is in the body that we do good and are judged by that behavior. 

In imitation of the Gospel, the monks could have lined the traffic way between the two cemetery plots, praying and waiting for the Lord to touch one of the boxes and caskets to bring him back to life.  No such grand event was thought of. What was the concern was to provide fitting burial in a larger plot, with durable head stones identifying each one, where monks and friends and college students could gather in quiet prayer. Isaiah wrote, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples. The Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” 

Our burial ground is the highest point of our property, our mountain top. Each of us is buried alongside others with whom we shared a lifetime of search. Together with them we rejoice and are glad. 

There are 237 deaths registered on the necrology board, with each name and date. This board is hung on the north wall of the Abbey Church interior near the entrance to the sacristy. As one processes from the altar at the conclusion of mass, and into the sacristy, an inscription on the board, from Chapter 72 of the Holy Rule, reminds us of our desire that “he lead us all together to eternal life.”

Nine of those are buried in other cemeteries. Transferred from the old cemetery were 109, and since 1965, 105 have been buried here in gratitude for all the monks who have built our community through faith and works, singing songs of expectation.

Who did What, When, Where, Why, and with Whom

 June 9 - July 12: BCYC

Benedictine College has been hosting several week long sessions of BCYC (BC Youth Conference), drawing high school students from across the country to immerse themselves in the prayer and life of BC. We extended our Benedictine hospitality to the many who joined the monks for mass and prayers. Fr. Simon also led them on hikes through our north pastureland. 

June 10 – 20: Junior Institute

Would that vocations were as easy to come by as graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. Br. Florian and Br. Jerome received both s’mores and a  chance to connect with other junior monks across the country at the Junior Institute, hosted by St. Joseph’s Abbey near Covington, Louisiana.

June 16 – 21: 53rd General Chapter

Abbot James and Brother Leven traveled to St. Anselm’s in Manchester, NH for the American Casinese General Chapter, held every four years. Items discussed included “A Benedictine Response” to the Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocation Discernment for adaptation in the schools, colleges and universities sponsored by the member monasteries. St. Benedict’s Abbey will be hosting the next one.

June 29: Fr. Luke’s Ordination

Our Fr. Luke Turner, O.S.B. was ordained to the priesthood here by the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, on the solemnity of the Apsotles Sts. Peter & Paul.

July 5: Piching for Priests

Many monks attended the annual softball game between the priests of the Archdioceses of Kansas City in Kansas and and those of Kansas City, Missouri. The Atchison Serra Club hosted a delightful tailgate cook out. Fr. Simon was dubbed “Savior of Left Field” by the announcers for his stellar performance in the outfield.

July 6: Fr. Thiago’s Ordination

Fr. Thiago Ferreira Silva, O.S.B. was ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph Priory in Mineiros, Brazil by the Most Rev. Nélio Domingos Zortea, Bishop of Jatai.  Abbot James and Brother Leven attended the ordination liturgy. Ad multos annos!