Fr. Thomas Andrew Hillenbrand, O.S.B

Born:  1939
Professed:  August 15, 1960
Hometown:  Evansville, Indiana
Monastery Work:  Pastoral Ministries

After the closing of Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, SD, Fr. Tom transferred his stability as a Benedictine monk to the Abbey of Muensterschwarzach at Christ the King Priory in Schuyler. During his many years of monastic life and priesthood, he served the Blue Cloud community as Novice Master, missionary at Resurrection Priory in Coban, Guatemala – a dependent house of Blue Cloud Abbey, and as Abbot. Preceding the assignment to Guatemala, he ministered as chaplain at Sacred Heart Monastery & Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD. 

Reflecting on 50 years as a priest-monk

St. Pius X was proudly showing his mother the nice episcopal ring he received on being made a bishop.  Then she held up her simple gold ring on her finger and said: “Yes, that is a nice ring, but you would not have that ring if it wasn’t for this ring.” That’s how important my parents’ vocation was for my vocation.  If it were not for them and their strong and deep Catholic faith, their powerful example and undying love for one another, I don’t think I would have persevered in my vocation.

When I was a very young seminarian in the 1950s at St. Meinrad Seminary I knew early on that I could not be a diocesan priest.  It was just too lonely of a vocation as I saw it, even though I greatly admire the diocesan priesthood.  So the most obvious direction for me was to become a monk, to join a monastery.  There I would have the support of a community.  I did just that and have never regretted that decision.

I consider my vocation as a Benedictine monk just as important as my vocation to the priesthood. But both vocations are not my doing, they are God’s doing.  He called and I answered.  It was that simple.  Both the call and the answer are sheer grace.  This 50 year celebration of my priesthood is really a celebration of God’s 50 years of faithfulness to me, and my faithfulness to His call was pure grace, pure love of God for me. 

What is being a monk like for you?

Being a monk for me is like falling in love with Jesus is an absolute and final way. The love of Jesus simply has to be exclusive. As Jesus asked Peter: “Peter, do you love me more than these.” With Peter I have to say: “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” And I love you more than anyone else in this world. And that is why my favorite verse in the Rule of Benedict is: “Prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ.” That means “nothing whatever.” And that is what really connects me to St. Benedict. Actually I connect more to his Rule than I do to him as a person. My whole life as a Benedictine monk is guided first of all by the Gospels, by the Sacred Scriptures, and then by this amazing 5th century rule. The Rule of St. Benedict is a perfect guide not just for monks, but really for anyone who wants to live a life of love. Love for Jesus first of all, and then love of neighbor. Pretty simple really, but oh so hard to put into practice. And to put it into practice can only come from the grace of God, as without Him we can do nothing.
— Fr. Tom

Meet Fr. Thomas H. Video