Through the generosity of so many friends and benefactors here in the USA and of our European mission offices, the dream for a church for Holy Spirit Abbey in Mvimwa becomes reality. Abbot emeritus Anastasius, assisted by Abbot Pambo of Mvimwa and community members lays the foundation stone for the church and blesses the building site.
Reflections - Golden Jubilee Celebration for Br. Tobias Dammert, OSB - Oct. 21, 2018 - 5. Jeanne Ranek, 058
It is jubilee time! It's a time to rejoice in God's gracious call and fidelity. It is a day to gather with you, Brother Tobias, to celebrate two very special occasions in your life -70 years of life and 50 years as a professed monk of the Missionary Benedictine Congregation. We are so blessed to celebrate with you.
What we celebrate first and foremost on a jubilee of monastic profession is indeed God's faithful love. In 1 Thessalonians (5:16-24) we read, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this." God will and does bring us to jubilee days, but not without a generous measure of good zeal on our part. Getting to know you, Tobias, I came to know that you are full of it-good zeal, that is! Thank God! And, thank you, Tobias, for your initial response to this call and for your daily renewal of the covenant you entered 50 years ago.
I try to imagine Klaus (as he was known then) as a youngster in his hometown of Karlsruhe in Germany-not for from the Missionary Benedictine Abbey of Muensterschwarzach. One could imagine him with his six siblings engaged in a variety of games and pranks as well as hiking off to serve early morning Mass. I understand that you, Tobias, were not so fond of school as a youngster and found yourself attracted to the Abbey trade school where you learned the skills and art of tailoring.
I am amazed at all the ways you've served Community and the People of God over the past 50 years: tailor, cook, housekeeper, Director of Development with mountains of correspondence in that fund-raising/friend-raising work, Priory Treasurer, Liturgist, Vocation Director, Spiritual Director. Add to that list service on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and Liturgy Commission, and leadership on the Omaha Archdiocesan Association for Consecrated Life. The list goes on; is there anything you can't do?
There is always plenty of manual work and ministry to be done in our monasteries, but Saint Benedict is clear about the monastery as a "workshop" for interior work, perhaps the most demanding work of the monk. We are supplied with lots of tools-74 of them in chapter 4 of the Rule alone. Those tools serve us through all the difficulties and reversals life brings.
Anyone who has tried living in community, really living the cenobitic life, knows that community life is not easy. Often it is the "little" things that stretch us-the monk or nun singing loud and off-key; the one who forgets to sign out the car or to return the keys; those who are always "too busy" to volunteer their help in a crunch; the one who always insists that there is a better way to do this; or the one who can't see beyond "this is the way we've always done it!" We really do love these people. It's just that some days, it is a difficult to like them. Such a variety of attitudes and behaviors to deal with! And, through it all we forge strong bonds of affection.
Those "little stretches," it turns out , are the stuff of conversion and the means for growing in all those fundamental qualities Saint Benedict tries to foster in his followers mutual obedience , humility , a listening heart , respect shown by anticipating one anothers needs, and bearing with one anothers shortcomings whether of body or character. The covenant we enter at profession is a relational covenant requiring inner work. In this school of life-long formation we commit to conversatio morum. We make a solemn promise to seal our baptismal commitment to being transformed in Christ.
The challenge is always a change of heart, ever-deepening conversions of heart, met anoia. In his remarkable book, Blessed Simplicity, Raimundo Pannikar writes, "All monastic traditions stress [compunctio cordis, conversio morum, and metanoia] compunction of heart , conversion of lif e, a change of heart ." Monastic spirituality is all about transformation.
The monastic agenda of transformation in Christ resonates with a deep and natural psychological orientation. " There is in us," write John Sanford, "an urge toward self realization...[It is] a purging process....[in which] one...finds oneself plunged into the inner fire to be purged, purified and made fit for the kingdom...The emergence of the whole person is...the crucifixion of the individual ego...." It is the paschal mystery at work in our lives. In John's Gospel account (12: 24) this mystery of death and resurrection reads like this: "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." This is hard work, decade after decade-for 50 years and all the years still ahead!
I am reluctant to speak for you, Tobias, or for anyone else. I just know that for me, there are lots of rough edges yet to be honed in this rock-tumbler we call community life. We bring ourselves-with warts and foibles-to the "table" of life. God does the transforming. It is Eucharist in the daily. God's purpose will not be thwarted. God promised. God is faithful. And, God will do this! All we need bring is our trust, our desire, our good zeal, our "yes" to the ordinary efforts of each day.
I've noticed, Tobias, that it is not out of the ordinary for you to cross the Atlantic Ocean often because of Congregational responsibilities. In fact, I think you would hold your own in some frequent-flier-of-the-year competition. Surely, the bi-annual meetings at your Abbey in Germany are made joyful by the opportunity to visit family and the monks there.
You have described yourself as an optimist. You do seem to have a penchant for putting a hopeful spin on every circumstance. When faced with a challenge, Tobias' practice and advice is: "Take it to prayer, and let God touch your heart - and don't hesitate to say 'yes."' That is good zeal.
In his wisdom, St. Benedict knew that his progeny would sometimes hesitate in the face of what we perceive to be "impossible tasks." Tobias recalls being tested only once to that extent, when in 1975, his dream of being a missionary to Africa was thwarted by an assignment to fill the need for a cook and housekeeper in the pastures of Nebraska, USA! Nevertheless, fortified by his father's recollections of kind treatment as a prisoner of war in the Carolinas and Georgia, and in the spirit of good zeal, Tobias embraced this new mission wholeheartedly-even becoming a US citizen in 1982, and he reports, "I would do it all over again; I am very grateful." And, Tobias, so are we!
A brush with death goes a long way in putting things in clearer perspective. As we know, Tobias, you encountered that frightening experience this past year, and came through those perilous days exclaiming, "I want to live!" Today, we are here to celebrate life with you-70 years of it, 50 of those years as a monk.
And so we rejoice with you, Tobias, celebrating God's gracious invitation and the good zeal that is your gift and guide through all that has been and through all that will yet be. A jubilee is a time to rejoice and renew our commitment to heed Benedict's wise advice for followers in every age, "Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may He bring us all together to everlasting life."
“Eternal rest grant unto them o Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace!”
Just a few days ago I waited at a rural cemetery located in the “Bohemian Alps” as the area around Schuyler is also known, for the funeral procession out of Omaha to arrive. From the cemetery you could almost see at a distance the monastery nestled into a hillside.
A good friend of the monastery and retreat house found his final resting place right next to the grave of his son who died in 1991. At that time, our monastery became the spiritual home for the family as they dealt with the sickness and eventual death of their loved one. I never knew the young man but his father and eventually the family became good friends.
During the month of November we will again remember at daily Holy Mass at the monastery all the faithful departed and trust that they have reached their eternal home with our Creator God, with Jesus and all the Saints.
We all are in need of a spiritual home and of family and friends who are there for us in time of need. I experienced this in early March 2018. I was told that I was close to heaven’s door but by the grace of God and the prayers of many I was given another chance. Now I truly appreciate the gift of life even more and I am grateful to God for this.
As I reflect on my life’s journey two milestones come to mind. In September I observed the 50th anniversary of monastic profession and then a few days ago my 70th birthday. God has been a faithful companion throughout these years – even though I was not always fully aware of this since life has its challenges and joys. I could celebrate these milestones with the monastic community in Germany and with my family and then again with the monks of Christ the King Priory and many friends.
Many disturbing events have shaken our country. Let us pray for peace, but also for the victims of violence and hatred, especially for our Jewish brothers and sisters as they deal with the Pittsburgh massacre.
God of Love and Peace,
Father of us all,
Help us to overcome division and unite us as Your children,
respecting the ethnic diversity of the human family.
Br. Tobias Dammert, O.S.B.
The monks of St. Benedict Priory in Digos, Philippines, joyfully announce the blessing of the new retreat house on the Solemnity of St. Benedict, July 11th.
Thanks to the generosity of many friends of the Benedictine Mission House and our European mission offices the dream for a new wing and upgrade of the existing retreat house was made possible.
We wish our brothers in Digos God’s choicest blessings for their ministry and to all Benedictine women and men around the world a joyous celebration of the Solemnity of St. Benedict.
It was a joy and a privilege for me to travel to Ndanda Abbey in Tanzania/East Africa this year. The occasion was an international conference of monastic formation directors. I had, at the same time, the opportunity to meet my brother monks with whom I had lived and worked for six years in the early 1990’s. I got to know many Tanzanian monks whom I had not seen yet because they had joined after I had left; they carry on our work now. I experienced joyful encounters with many parishioners in the parishes in which I was stationed. Also, I could visit various projects that our friends in the US have supported through the Benedictine Mission House and that are now very helpful and beneficial for the local population. Here is my dairy:
It felt like coming home. I had just arrived on Tanzanian soil, at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. It is named after the independent nation’s first famous president. The journey went well, in spite of many delays: two hours in Omaha, two hours in Newark, NJ. One and a half hours in Addis Ababa. The delays matched well and I did not miss any flights. Now I am waiting for the last leg of my itinerary, the flight to the southern coastal city of Mtwara.
Today, June 8th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
We recall with gratitude the love that Jesus has for all HIS children. What a tremendous mystery! It is my hope and prayer that we, as faithful followers of Jesus, can bring His love to all the people we encounter. In a world going through challenges of secularization we need the grace of turning to HIM, the source of our life and share HIS love, joy and peace with all around us.
As I meditate on the mystery of God’s love for us expressed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus the words of a hymn come to mind:
For the love of God is broader than the measures of our mind,
and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple we should take him at his word,
and our lives would be thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.
The Missionary Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien has a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Founded in 1884 by Fr. Andreas Amrhein, the young group of monks and missionaries were entrusted to the patronage of the Sacred Heart. United in prayer with all our confreres around the world we implore the Sacred Heart of Jesus to watch over all our families, friends, benefactors and communities and to obtain from God the grace of perseverance in our own vocation.
for your prayerful and financial assistance, whenever possible,
so that we can continue our work of bringing Christ’s message to people we encounter in our
ministries. We remember you and yours in our prayer and especially at Holy Mass.
Br. Tobias Dammert, OSB
New Foundation in Mozambique
Fr. Christian Temu, O.S.B. from Ndanda reports: “Construction of the mission station in Mozambique started at the beginning of Lent 2018. Shown in this picture are two monks from Hanga Abbey responsible for the project working hand in hand with local contractor and workers. The foundations for the permanent housing for the community are laid; the walls (not shown) are rising slowly. The experts estimate that by Christmas of this year the building will be ready for occupation.
We hope by the beginning of 2019 to have a fairly well established home base for our missionaries assigned to the Mozambique foundation from where they will be able to reach out to Christians in the surrounding villages. Asante sana – thank you for your help!”
The scripture passage comes to mind: “If the Lord does not build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” The monks of Ndanda could only start the project knowing that there is a support system standing behind their effort, one of them the prayers and financial sacrifices of the friends of the Benedictine Mission House.
The long winter months are giving way to spring and summer. It is my hope and prayer that the coming months will bring many graces and blessings as we journey through life with Jesus who has conquered death and has risen from the grave to new life with the Father.
Thanks you for your help!
Happy Easter Season – Happy Spring
Bro. Tobias, OSB
We have been blessed to have Fr. Anastasius as a guest here at Christ the King Priory for the past several months. One of his passions is cooking and baking. The monks and many of the employees have been the happy recipients of his handiwork. He prepared many authentic cookies and treats during the holiday season – most of which he learned from his mother. Enjoy the slide show!
Below is a little bit of history about Fr. Anastasius and what his plans are when he leaves later this month. He will truly be missed by all of us here.
Father Anastasius Reiser OSB
Abbot of Peramiho from 2006 – 2017
Missionary in Peramiho from 2002
Before going to Peramiho I have been
- the Headmaster of our Trade School with Boarding School in Münsterschwarzach,
- in charge of our public relations work in internet and publications for the mission
- vocation director
- Junior Master (education for Monks with temporary vows)
- working in youth pastoral of Münsterschwarzach Abbey
- Cantor of Münsterschwarzach Abbey
- Teacher for Gregorian Chant; every year I gave several courses in our guest houses
- giving retreats and spiritual direction
In Peramiho: One of my first tasks was to transition the community of Peramiho from a European dominated monastery to an African community.
When I came to Peramiho we still had 35 Missionaries from Europe. After 11 years there are only 10 Missionaries left; all now older than 80 years.
Education of the young Tanzanian confreres in Peramiho was very important. We trained them in various fields: Pastoral education in our Seminary (Priest education), Agriculture, Administration, workshops, carpentry, car mechanic, electrical workshop etc.
The young Tanzanian confreres have to take over the responsibilities from the former European monks. Up to now all workshops and institutions are under the supervision of Tanzanian Monks or employees.
As Abbot I had to supervise our Monastery with 70 Monks, the workshops with 400 employees, all together more the 35 institutions on the campus of the Abbey.
Very important is our Peramiho St. Joseph Mission Hospital. A hospital with 400 beds. We provide service to different sections: in general medicine, children, surgery, gynecology, dental, eyes, heart. The hospital is one of the best working hospitals in Tansania.
The priests of Peramiho Abbey are working in the parish with 15 outstations and more than 40.000 parishioners.
For the people in the region of Peramiho the Monks provide development aid in water supply, electricity, building schools and kindergartens, orphans care, HIV-care, paying school fees to needy persons, helping elder and sick people who can't help themselves, via our Caritas system.
My future will be at our Motherhouse in St. Ottilien Archabbey in Germany. From March 2018 on, I will be the Mission Procurator of our Congregation (Missionary Benedictines of St. Ottilien). My duties will be spread all over the world. I will supervise our mission work in various countries in Africa, like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenia, Zambia, Mozambique, Togo, South Africa and Egypt.
Or in Asia, like India, Philippines, China, South Korea. Also in South America, like Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba.
The mission work is mostly Development Assistance and pastoral care for the local communities.
God Bless you, Fr. Anastasius, in all that you do!
The chronicler is not aware when the first printing press was installed at our former location on West 10th Street in Schuyler. However, he remembers vividly when the press was moved in August 1979 from the basement to the monastery on Mission Hill north of town.
In 1990 a Heidelberg One Color Offset Press was installed. Millions of fundraising letters and brochures, etc. in support of our work, including the unique birthday and Christmas cards were printed on this press until May 2014 when the last press operator entered eternal life.
For almost 80 years the art of printing at the Mission House was handles by Press Operators Br. Alphonse Kraklauer, OSB, Br. Paul Vogt, OSB, Mr. Ralph Pfeiffer, Br. Alexander Haemel, OSB, and Mr. Greg O’Connell.
On Friday, January 26th the press was removed from the Mission House premises after standing idle for almost four years to find a new home wherever this will be. Changing technology and the age of digital printing was a decisive factor to outsource all our printing needs.
With gratitude we acknowledge the dedicated service of all our press operators over the years.
Written by Bro. Tobias Dammert, OSB
Br. Felix Meckel, O.S.B. * May 19th, 1900 +January 27, 1980
It was on a snowy Saturday when Br. Felix suffered a stroke and was admitted to the local hospital. The following evening, Sunday, January 27th, he gave his life back to the Creator.
Br. Felix came to the Schuyler in 1935 as one of the founding members of the Benedictine Mission House. His trademark, as many friends confirmed, was his gentleness and great smile. He is remembered as one of “Christ’s beggars” on behalf of the Missionary Benedictines. Countless contacts developed into friendships and supporters of our worldwide mission. Br. Felix relied on public transportation and the service of countless volunteers who took him around the region in whichever State he traveled at the time to connect with donors. He certainly personified that “fund raising” results in “friend raising.”
Even 38 years later, friends still remember Br. Felix who visited their homes when they were children. He left a lasting legacy.
God grant his servant eternal rest and peace! We in turn have a great intercessor in heaven.
Published January 27, 2018
Br. Tobias, OSB
The talents of the monks of Christ the King Priory are as diverse as the monks themselves. One of those talented monks is Brother Sebastian Goldade. He became a monk in 1960 and was part of the Benedictine community of Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota. There he learned and perfected his skills of making vestments and alter cloths. He also learned the art of weaving. In the late 70’s he began weaving an alter cloth for the abbey church. He chose the colors blue and green – blue for the Advent season and green as a sign of growth and life. The weave pattern is a Maltese Cross that alternates from blue to green and repeats.
Brother Sebastian created a wall hanging that is now in the chapel of Christ the King Priory. This was made from a remnant of the original altar cloth that he wove so many years ago.
“I found it exciting to see strings turning into cloth and to see the pattern develop before your eyes. It took me about 2 years to weave the altar cloth.” Brother Sebastian completed the weaving in his spare time while continuing his ministry of making hand-sewn vestments and altar linens.
He continues his work here at the monastery in Schuyler. Hundreds of stoles, albs, chasubles, dalmatics and copes have been created at the artistic hand of Brother Sebastian.
It was on January 13th, 1889 that Bro. Benedict Kantwerg, O.S.B. and Bro. Petrus Michl, O.S.B. were killed at Pugu, near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In the course of the years, other missionaries gave their lives for the Gospel, especially during the Maji Maji Uprising in the early 1900.
Pugu was the first Benedictine monastery of our Congregation outside of Europe. The faithful of the region consider these missionaries as martyrs and every year they gather at Pugu to honor their memory. This year, His Eminence Polycarp Cardinal Pengo of Dar es Salaam was the celebrant of the Memorial Mass with Abbot Pambo Mkorwe of Mvimwa Abbey delivering the homily. Also in attendance were Abbot Placidus Mtunguja of Ndanda Abbey and Prior-Administrator Silvanus from Peramiho Abbey. Religious, priests and laity attended in large numbers.
Monks of Mvimwa Abbey provide pastoral ministry at the Shrine of the African Martyrs even though the Church has not yet declared these missionary monks and sisters as saints.
Let us pray that, through the intercession of the African Martyrs of the Missionary Benedictines of the Congregation of St. Ottilien, the Church in Tanzania will be blessed with deep faith and vocations, and also all our monasteries of the worldwide Congregation will continue to be beacons of hope and faith in today’s society.
January 13, 2018
Br. Tobias, OSB
Sunday, Dec. 24th - 4th Sunday of Advent
Eucharist @ Monastery 8:30 AM
Christmas Eve Vigil & Midnight Mass
at St. Benedict Center 11:30 PM
Monday, Dec. 25th Christmas Day
Eucharist @ Monastery 9:30 AM
Sunday, Dec. 31st Feast of Holy Family
Eucharist @ Monastery 8:30 AM
Monday, Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary
*** not a Holy Day of Obligation in 2018
Eucharist @ Monastery 8:30 AM
Sunday, Jan. 7th Epiphany
Eucharist @ Monastery 8:30 AM
Weekdays at Monastery ***
Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat. 11:15 AM
Tue & Thu. 5:30 PM
** Thursday, Jan. 4th Mass 11:15 AM
The demands of a busy life and daily responsibilities suggest preventive steps to counteract the possibility of burnout by making time for physical and spiritual renewal.
Even monks are not spared from the demands of daily life and our routine of “Ora et Labora” – of “Prayer and Work” needs an annual refresher course provided by days for spiritual renewal. From November 6th through 10th, we gathered in community for the retreat experience facilitated by Fr. Otto Betler, O.S.B. from the Archabbey of St. Ottilien, Germany, where he serves as novice master. Fr. Otto is a native of Cleveland, OH. His family made their home in the little village of Helvetia, West Virginia.
Our retreat experience was not a traditional preached retreat, but a time of sharing about our journey that brought us to the community of Christ the King Priory and what binds us together as a community of brothers under the Rule of St. Benedict.
It was on July 17, 1983 when Br. Vianney left his beloved Germany to embark on a new adventure with Schuyler, NE, as the destination.
With the centralization of the mission offices connected with the Abbey of Muensterschwarzach and computerization of data entry and correspondence, the position Br. Vianney held at the study house St. Benedict in Wuerzburg was eliminated and the leadership had to find a new assignment for him where he could put his talents to work. In conversations he often remarked about the years as “city monk” in Wuerzburg and the work with altar servers and visits with donors in the area.
Following a short orientation at his new home, Br. Vianney was given the opportunity to learn English – first at Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn, then at the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a few years later a refresher course at the Berlitz Language School in Chicago followed. In an interview with Dr. Richard Cupich (who is among us this evening) he admitted that the time at Mt. Michael was very frustrating for him since he knew very little English and that there was no one with whom he could converse in German. Vianney enrolled in the ILUNO Program at UNO, an intensive English immersion program for international students. During this time he enjoyed the hospitality of Msgr. Peter Dunne and the priests of St. Margaret Mary’s Rectory across from campus
His friendly and inquisitive nature helped to overcome any shyness and Vianney made many friends which was a hallmark throughout his life. In 1984 he joined the staff of the office, helping with many tasks. I recall his special love affair with the bundler. Thousands of letters had to be sorted, then bundled and placed in mail sacks labeled for destinations throughout the United States. Vianney called this work “bindling.”
Throughout our history of 82 years, monks from the Mission House ventured out all over the country, visiting donors and finding new ones. Br. Vianney was introduced to the art of visiting donors by Br. Norbert and Br. Henry-Libory. These personal contacts have been the foundation of our fund-raising efforts. For a short time Vianney accompanied Henry-Libory. It was reported that once Henry had a foot in an open door he did not budge until he had delivered his speech, and asking if another donation could be made. Vianney developed his own style. He struck many lasting friendships. It is said that within five minutes he could find out personal information and details about families and issues.
Vianney’s primary mission during the years as traveling brother was to thank people for their support and to inform of projects of missionaries. A traveling brother never knew where he will put down his head for rest at night. Over the years a network of friends providing hospitality made planning a trip easier.
Following the death of Br. Innocent in 1990, Br. Vianney was asked to take over the kitchen. Since I was the assistant to Br. Alphonse in the office, the leadership thought it is better to keep me in the office then to give me the original assignment which brought me to Schuyler, to be the cook for the community. Bro. Vianney, who had no background in cooking at all, accepted the challenge. He enrolled at Metro Community College for a course in Culinary Science. To learn more about baking bread he spent a week or so at Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota and also learned from Kurt Guenther, our former chef. In the early 1980ties Br. Innocent had taken over the kitchen at the time Kurt transitioned to be cook for the Jesuit community at Creighton Prep in Omaha. After Vianney’s retirement, Kurt returned to Schuyler in 2010. Thanks, Kurt, for your time and patience in teaching Vianney. He treasured your friendship and the many hours of visiting.
During the early months in the kitchen Vianney also learned from the Sisters of Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk, especially from Sr. Elizabeth, Sr. Jania and Sr. Gilberta. Many Saturdays, Sr. Jania came over from Columbus and cooked for the monks and teaching Vianney. He did not always listen to their recommendations, especially how to use the oven to keep food warm, a recommendation he had a hard time with to incorporate. Sr. Gilberta instructed him not to take murmuring too serious but to be firm in telling the community that the food on the table is all they get! No exceptions! Canning and freezing produce for later use, Vianney learned from our housekeepers Mary Ann and Becky even though many years he conveniently was on vacation during the canning season.
Each Christmas, Vianney baked Christstollen – a special holiday bread – but using Sr. Gilberta’s recipe dating back to the years after the war when butter was not so plentiful, turned out rather dry, yet it was delicious especially when buttered. In later years he sold the “stolen bread” as people called it during the Christmas on the Hill craft show. Vianney was known for his variety of breads, especially a sourdough bread, and coffee cakes and torts. On his shopping tours to Omaha, including Sam’s Club, he found out that cooking from scratch is not the only option, but that the frozen food department has also delicious creations ready to be placed into the oven or microwave.
As St. Benedict already knew, there are always guests at the monastery. Before we opened St. Benedict Center the cook also had to provide nourishment for our numerous guests. For a number of years we had every month a priest group for their day of reflection. They joined the monks for lunch, often uniting 20 people around the table. One Saturday, Vianney served leftover lasagna in the evening. A visitor praised the food and wanted to know if Vianney had made it and asked for the recipe. Without hesitation he informed that the dish was cooked by him – even so the monks knew that it came from Sam’s Club on 132nd Street in Omaha because the packaging was discovered in the dumpster. It became a slogan in the community: “Today we had a dish according to a 132nd Street recipe.”
Vianney had an eye for beauty. He loved a festive table setting. When the monk helping did not do it to his expectation he was told. For Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and other community celebrations he prepared wonderful dishes, arranging serving plates artistically.
Throughout his time as cook, Vianney was granted each year a few weeks for visiting donors. He also dedicated time every afternoon to keep up his extensive correspondence with donors, family and friends from near and far. During his absence Mark and Patty from St. Benedict Center’s kitchen made sure that the monks will not starve. Meals were picked up at the center and then served in the monastic dining room.
Vianney always had a keen interest in German politics and the life of the Church in his homeland. I have my doubts if he ever considered becoming a citizen of the United States. One thing is for sure, we are all citizens of the kingdom of God and the heavenly Jerusalem.
There are many other stories that come to mind. However, I better shut up and invite you to share memories of Br. Vianney. Following Mass, we will continue sharing over a simple supper in our dining room to which the community invites you – crowded as it may be, but under Vianney’s time we had at least once each year a gathering of over 100 people for a Christmas party and dinner. Once St. Benedict Center opened these events were moved to the retreat house.
Vianney, the Lord may grant you now eternal reward for your faithful service. Rest from your labors, unless the Lord has assigned you to the heavenly bakery or kitchen.
Written by Br. Tobias Dammert
Loving greetings from the Monks of St. Benedict’s Priory in Digos, Philippines!
Since the foundation of our monastery in the early 80's, it was the dream of the late Bishop Generoso Camina, P.M.E.; D.D. to have a Spiritual Well-Spring in his diocese. Shortly after its foundation of the Benedictine Monks, in 1986, the Retreat House was built to respond to that dream! Since then, our Retreat House has made a stamp in helping the young Filipinos build and strengthen their faith and prepare them for their future lives after schooling.
Since we are serving 3 to 4 Dioceses, a new wing of the present retreat house has to be added in order to respond to the coming groups of retreats in all walks of life. We are so grateful that Bro. Tobias and the whole Community of Monks in Schuyler has been supporting us in our different programs/projects. This was made possible because of YOUR (Dear Friends) constant support and trust YOU have for us monks.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for all that has been, our DEAR FRIENDS! Rest assured of our continued prayers for all of you and your loved ones.
Fr. Patrick, O.S.B.
NOTE from Brother Tobias: This is still an on-going project. Your prayers and support are still needed and appreciated. Click to read more about this Current Appeal.
A long-awaited project has been completed at the Benedictine Mission House. Nick Brichacek of Brichacek Construction installed a new hydraulic lift. This lift will provide a much easier and safe method for the Mission House employees to load and unload mail carts and pallets from the various trucks and semis. Today was its “maiden voyage” as it was used to unload empty mail carts that will be soon be filled for our next appeal.
Beauty surrounds you every direction you look at the Benedictine Mission House. Adding to that beauty are the wonderful potted Cannas plants that our own Brother Sebastian tends to each year. The warm temperatures and humidity that people may find uncomfortable make these plants produce brilliant foliage and flowers. Each year he carefully plants the tubers and waits for them to sprout and grow. In the Fall after the first frost the foliage gets cut off and he removes the tubers from the pots. These are stored in a dark cool place over the winter and then planted again in the Spring.
Growing beautiful Cannas is only one of Brother Sebastian’s many talents. He also runs the Vesture Shop. There are several sewing machines and other “tools of the trade” within his shop walls and he creates stunning vestments and altar cloths that are sold and shipped to religious organizations all over the world.
Today we are honored to have with us Abbot Notker Wolf, OSB, abbot primate emeritus of the Benedictine Confederation. For 16 years Abbot Notker was in Rome at Sant’Anselmo as the primate of our Confederation of Benedictine monks. Before he was elected abbot primate in 2000, he was the abbot president of our own Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien of which Christ the King Priory/Benedictine Mission House is also a part. So he does not come to us as a stranger. He and Fr. Volker were actually together many years ago as students at St. Ottilien Archabbey, Germany. In 1977 Abbot Notker himself was elected the abbot of the archabbey.
Upon finishing his term of office as primate in October 2016, the other 20 abbots president treated him to a round the world ticket. He decided to go West and so from Europe headed to the USA. He tells us that the purpose of this gift of a round the world tour is to visit monasteries he was unable to while abbot primate but also to say ‘thank you’ to communities that supported him and his efforts as primate and abbot president over the years. He comes to us in the mode of gratitude. The Benedictine Mission House came to his aid a number of times when funds were needed urgently for projects in some of our monasteries in developing communities and then later for help in keeping the abbey of Sant’Anselmo with its schools up and running. When asked where he is headed from here, he says it is Asia. Besides visiting the Ottilien monasteries in the Philippines (Digos, his first foundation as abbot president) and Waegwan Abbey in South Korea, he is especially looking forward to his visit to the Benedictine communities in Vietnam. In all his years as abbot primate, he never had the opportunity to visit them. He is well aware of the strain and tension these houses feel from the government and wants to let them know that there is solidarity between them and the larger Benedictine world. Often presence and time are the best gifts we can offer.
To show our gratitude for Abbot Notker’s leadership of our Benedictine Congregation and then that of the Benedictine Confederation we asked him to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist today. He reminded us that the true rest we will find in Jesus is the rest that comes when we love God and then see his Son in our neighbor. When that circle of love is in action, then we know real rest.
On Monday he continues his westward journey and we wish him bon voyage.
Article by Fr. Prior Joel Macul, OSB
A Special Event at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, June 28, 2017
On Tuesday June 22, 2017, I received a phone call from the South Korean Embassy in Washington, DC, informing me that President Moon Jae-in of South Korea would be visiting the USA next week. As part of his visit, he would lay a wreath at the Jangjin Reservoir Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Would I do the honor of accepting an invitation to attend this event? I was very much honored and accepted.
Why would I be invited to what would hardly seem to be the most important event of President Moon’s visit to the USA? What connection could there be between myself and this small event. The answer goes back to an event that affected President Moon’s life and also that of Br. Marinus LaRue (known then as Captain LaRue) of St. Paul’s Abbey, Newton, NJ, in December 1950. At that time, the Marines and the army were retreating from the forces of the Chinese communists in northeast Korea. The troops were being evacuated at the port of Heungnam. Along with the retreating Marines, were thousands of refugees fleeing for their life. At the same time, Captain LaRue was commanding the Meredith Victory, a merchant ship chartered to the Military Sea Transportation Service. He was ordered to Heungnam to help though he still had a partial cargo of jet fuel. Upon arrival, he discovered that the enemy forces were encroaching upon the harbor and were only held off by naval fire. The north Koreans fleeing the communist forces were crowded on the beach. Army representatives boarded the Meridith Victory and said they did not need his services but as one of the last ships in the harbor would he volunteer to evacuate remaining refugees huddled on the shore. Without hesitation, Captain LaRue agreed and ordered his crew to prepare the ship to take on as many as possible. Protected by naval gun fire, 14,000 people were loaded into three holds and the deck. The temperature was close to 0 degrees F. On December 23rd they set sail for Busan heading through minefields. On Christmas Eve they arrived at Busan. On Christmas Day they were told they could not disembark the refugees, “There was no room in the inn,” as Br. Marinus later reflected. The ship sailed on to Geoje Island south of Busan and on December 26th, the refugees safely set foot on land again; five babies were born during that sea voyage. A total of 98,000 people were evacuated from Heungam at that time but the Meredith Victory was remembered as the last ship and the one carrying the most significant number.
Soon after his recent election, it quickly became known that President Moon’s mother (still alive), his father and his oldest sister were refugees on board the Meredith Victory. The president was born in 1953 on Geoje-Do. In 1954 Captain LaRue gave up life at sea and became a Benedictine monk of St. Paul’s Abbey. He quietly lived with us in the monastery. Though he and ship’s crew received honors in gratitude for their humanitarian act from the governments of both South Korea and the USA, he himself really never spoke about this deed. In 2000, when the 50th anniversary of the Jangjin Reservoir Battle and the Heungnam Evacuation were remembered again, some Koreans who had been affected by that rescue came to say thanks to Brother, though he was bedridden by this time. They called him the Good Samaritan and bowed deeply in gratitude. Brother died peacefully on October 14, 2001. He was carried to the abbey cemetery by members of the Korean Catholic community in New Jersey, one of whom had been boy of 11, rescued on the Meredith Victory.
It was in February of this year that a special Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir Battle Monument was erected in a forest area of the National Museum of the Marini Corps. President Moon wanted in some way to honor those who had valiantly fought in what was one of the most savage battles in modern warfare and at the same time those who had served to evacuate thousands of refugees from northern Korea and whose descendants today owe their lives to that humanitarian and Christian act, his own life among them. When he arrived on Wednesday, the 28th, his first official act was a deeply personal one. He wanted to honor those who had fought and rescued. There are only 50 survivors alive today of the Jangjin Reservoir Battle. Three were invited to come to meet President Moon. And from the Meredith Victory, now called “The Ship of Miracles,’ Mr. F. Robert Lunney, was able to receive the words of gratitude from the President of South Korea. Photos of the evacuation at the time were shared and presented. As for myself, as the abbot of St. Paul’s Abbey for the last years of Brother Marinus’ 45 years of monastic life and the one who laid him to rest in the monastery cemetery, I was the living link for the end of his life. Of all the people there, I happened to be the one who lived with him the longest.
Each of us expressed our gratitude and felt highly honored to be there to greet and welcome the President of South Korea. But the fact is, he was the one honoring each of us in some way for the role played at that moment in history and a moment affecting the present. He came to bow before us. President Moon’s speech at the wreath laying ceremony in front of the monument was deeply personal. He is conscious that he owes his life to what was fought for and who was rescued in December 1950. He told us clearly that he was standing there that day because of what had happened then. He spoke of the battle and the evacuation as a victory, a victory for humanity in the face of the greatest odds. He sees the rescue of thousands of fleeing refugees as the symbol of the ongoing relationship between the USA and Korea, a humanity at is best.
But, I was not the only Benedictine monk to stand in the receiving line of the 15 invitees for this event. Next to me was Abbot Blasio Park of Waegwan Abbey, South Korea. The story of the refugees on the Meredith Victory has touched the community of Waegwan Abbey in a personal way. One of the monks of the abbey was a nine-month old baby held by his mother on that voyage. The community of Waegwan knew the story of our Br. Marinus. In 2001, when the community was asked if they would consider coming to St. Paul’s Abbey to continue monastic life there as the original community had dwindled to a handful of members, there was a significant thread that linked both communities together already. By this time Br. Marinus was in his last days. Though he did not know it, he died two days after the community of Waegwan gave its initial yes to send monks to live at St. Paul’s. It was as if his last work had been completed. There were times when I was pushing Brother around in his wheel chair when he would say to me, “I don’t know why I am living so long.” I could only say, God has reasons we don’t know about. Sometime after his death and the first Korean monks of Waegwan had come to Newton, I came to see why he lived so long. The ways of God are inscrutable. We can only stand in awe, or in East Asia, bow profoundly in gratitude.
Fr. Prior Joel Macul, O.S.B