Benedictines: September 2008 Archives

Thumbnail image for Notker Wolf arms.jpgOn Thursday afternoon, 25 September 2008, the assembled delegates of the Congress of Abbots re-elected the Most Rev. Dr. Notker Wolf, OSB, to a term of four years as the ninth Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.


Abbot Notker was born 21 June 1940 and professed first vows on 17 September 1962 as a monk of the St. Ottilien Congregation. He was ordained a priest, 1 September 1968, and elected Archabbot of St. Ottilien, 1 October 1977.


The Benedictine Congress of Abbots elected him Abbot Primate and Abbot of Sant'Anselmo, 7 September 2000, for a term of eight years. His first official act after his re-election today was to re-appoint all officials both at Sant'Anselmo and elsewhere. 


Wolf is a musician who performs traditional Benedictine chant and Christian rock.  He Notker Wolf.jpgplays an electric guitar for Christian rock group Feedback.


The Primate is an author in his spare time. In 2008, Wolf published Out of the Blue (Munich: Rowohlt) and Rules for Life: The Ten Commandments - provocation and guidance for today (Freiburg: Herder). In 2009 his book, God bless you! New ideas for living here (Munich: Rowohlt) will be released.


May God grant him many blessings!

Partners in Prayer and Work

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Benedictine monks and sisters count on Knights of Columbus as collaborators

in building the kingdom of God


By Molly Mulqueen


At Benedictine monasteries throughout the United States, Knights of Columbus are KofC.jpgworking side by side with monks and sisters to build the kingdom of God. The ardent friendship between today's Knights and Benedictines parallels medieval times. Then, royal patrons such as kings, queens and knights welcomed the followers of St. Benedict as they established abbeys and other monastic centers throughout Europe.

St Benedict cave fresco.jpg           



The Benedictines are guided by St. Benedict's motto, "ora et labora" (Latin for "pray and work"), just as the Knights are guided by theirs, "In service to One. In service to all." Their similar charisms have allowed for fruitful collaborations on many landscapes: the deserts of Arizona, the banks of the Missouri River in Kansas, the Arkansas River valley, and sunny central Florida.

Helping with Harvest


In Tucson, Ariz., the friendship between Knights and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration began almost by accident. A little over a year ago, some observant Knights noticed one of the sisters struggling with a lawn mower.

            "So may times we would see Sister Sophia out cutting the grass, and it didn't seem right," said Grand Knight Donatus Kelch of Regina Cleri Council 5133.

            Now Kelch meets with the sisters every month to prioritize their maintenance needs. The 26 councils in the Tucson area have adopted the Benedictine monastery as a joint project. Many of the councils also sponsor an annual fundraiser to benefit the sisters.

            "[The Knights] have repaired and painted the hand railings to the stairs and ramps leading up to the entrance of the chapel," said John Garcia, public relations director for the Arizona State Council and a member of Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral Council 12708 in Phoenix. "They have repainted rooms within the facility, replaced furniture, and have done air-conditioner repairs, plumbing repairs and other maintenance projects."

            But helping to harvest the sisters' orange crop is perhaps the most enjoyable project for many of the Knights. Last January, more than 20 Knights and their wives -- known as the "Orange Crew" -- picked and washed hundreds of oranges. They then fed the oranges through juicers, producing nearly 100 gallons of juice to freeze for the sisters' use throughout the year.

            The sisters have shown their gratitude by inviting the Knights to a Mass of appreciation. According to District Deputy Douglas Cameron, "If you spend even ten minutes with them, you go away a better person. The prayers they offer for us more than thank us."


Fifty Years of Support


This fall, St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kan., will celebrate 50 years of support from the Knights at Benedictine College. Members of St. Benedict College Council 4708 have heartily embraced the "ora et labora" principle of Benedictine spirituality. This past year, the Knights split wood and shoveled snow at the abbey, and helped with vocations retreats and weekly holy hours.

            "As time has gone on, we have fewer monks to carry on the Catholic mission of the college. The Knights of Columbus on campus have cooperated wonderfully with the monks to help promote Catholic identity," said Benedictine Father Meinrad Miller, meinrad.jpgsubprior of St. Benedict's Abbey, the college chaplain and an active Knight.

            Father Miller often recognizes alumni at neighboring parishes and at the annual Knights of Columbus state convention. "I am always impressed with the high level of participation of graduates from our college" he said.

            "When I was in school [at Benedictine College], we were the top college council in the nation three of the four years I was here," said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis, a member of Council 4708. "One of the things I am very proud of is that we have several Fourth Degree Knights who participate in special Masses. They led the procession when I was inaugurated as the president of my alma mater, and I'll never forget how proud I was of our Knights on that day."

            The friendship between the Knights and the monks at St. Benedict's Abbey is mutual. "I really think that the monks have had a great influence on the Knights here to become holier men," said Dan Misener of Council 4708. "They have taught many of us the power and importance of prayer...and how to be true Catholic men in the society that we live in today."


Abbey 'Work Weeks'


The monks at Subiaco Abbey and Academy in Arkansas count on the Knights to help maintain their working farm and a boys' boarding and day prep school that serves about 175 students. Benedictine Brother Ephrem O'Bryan, public information coordinator for Subiaco Abbey and Academy, keeps a running list of the ways the Knights have helped.

            "The Paris Knights [Logan County Council 3787] provide scholarships for the sons of Knights, contribute funds for the monks' education, help fund other scholarships for day students, help run a Squires circle [St. Benedict Circle 5073], contribute to the Abbey Health Center and prepare the noon meal for the annual 5th Grade Vocation Day," recalled Brother Ephrem.

            Clarksville Council 5725 has likewise provided funds for the academy's scholarship program, as well as for the renovation of abbey living quarters, for health center equipment and for the Abbey Guest House.

            Additionally, Arkansas Knights have organized a five-day work week every summer for the last six years. Knights from throughout the state tackle big projects, such as resurfacing tennis courts, building an irrigation system and adding sidewalks with wheelchair access. Work week volunteers are guests of the abbey and join the monks for Mass, meals, vespers and socializing. It has become an event that many Knights look forward to all year.

            "We go up there three months in advance and talk with the abbot and the maintenance people about what needs to be done," explained A. J. Hambuchen of Father Dellert Council 4143 in Conway. "They never have come up with a project that we have not been able to do."

            Most of the Knights who attend are retired professionals with contracting experience. Many bring their own materials and tools in an effort to cut costs further.

            "It is wonderful for us to have Subiaco, and we show our appreciation by helping them out," Hambuchen said. "The monks thank us by praying for us and our families."


Rebuilding a Church


On Dec. 1, 2007, when the monks of St. Leo Abbey celebrated the blessing of a new abbot, Father Isaac Comacho, it was fitting that an honor guard of Fourth Degree Knights 4th degree KofC.jpgwas part of the ceremony. Their presence was a testament to the enduring friendship between the Knights and the monks that spans several generations. The Benedictines have been in Saint Leo, Fla., since 1889, and Knights were first established in nearby San Antonio in 1914.

            "We have seen the Knights develop in just about every parish in the area," said Benedictine Father James Hoge, a former K of C chaplain and faithful friar. "One of their principal works has always been to support and assist our schools. They have also always assisted with the charities in the area."

            "The Knights in this part of Florida are a real community organization. They raise money to feed the poor and create recreational activities for kids," said Brother Stephen Freeman. "They have also helped us a great deal by defraying some of the costs of our Benedictine seminarians."

            In addition, Knights host an annual golf tournament, the proceeds from which go to the restoration of the Church of the Holy Cross. The 60-year-old church is one of three buildings on the abbey campus named to the National Register of Historic Places. It is known for its 86-foot tower, Lombardic-Romanesque design and the crucifix that hangs above the altar, which was meticulously modeled after the figure of Christ on the Shroud of Turin.

            "Twice a year, we invite [the Knights] to come for Mass and we have a day just for them. It is our way to thank them for being so supportive of the abbey," Brother Stephen said. It is simply one more part of the history that the Knights and Benedictines share.


Molly Mulqueen is a wife, mother and freelance writer for the Catholic press from Houston, Texas.


This article was published in Columbia magazine, August 2008. I am grateful to Alton Pelowski, managing editor of Columbia magazine, the monthly periodical of the Knights of Columbus, for allowing this republication.

On 20 September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI met with the Benedictine abbots and abbesses at Castel Benedetto.jpgGandolfo, his summer residence.


The Pope's address in Italian is found here while we wait for the English translation. The Zenit summary is here.


The Catholic News Agency makes this report.


Vatican Radio posted this story.


In part the Pope Benedict said: the witness of the Benedictine monks, nuns and sisters is particularly important  "in a de-sacralized world and an age marked by the worrying culture of the void and the absurd. This is the reason why your monasteries are places where men and women, also in our age, run to seek God and to learn to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ, of his charity and of his mercy."

St Benedict in a Psalm.jpg 

The Pope asked the Benedictines to "allow themselves to be led by the profound desire to serve all men with charity, without distinctions of race or religion," and to found new monasteries "where Providence calls you to establish them."


The Pope focused the attention of the Benedictine superiors to the work of evangelization and to formative and cultural work that can be done particularly in Europe, "especially in favor of the new generations. Dedicate yourselves to young people with renewed apostolic ardor, as they are the future of the Church and of humanity. To build a 'new' Europe, it is necessary to begin with the new generations, offering them the possibility to profoundly approach the spiritual riches of the liturgy, of meditation and of lectio divina." [While the pope has Europe on his mind he would also support this building up of Catholic culture in the new world, too.]


The abbots are in Rome at an international congress held every 4 years.

The 2008 Congress of Abbots also occurs every four years which gathers the nearly 260

St Benedict6.jpgBenedictine abbots from around the world to discuss topics of interest. The Abbot Primate Notker Wolf said the purpose of the Congress  "Promotes the union of the Confederation, by extending its contacts with its many souls." The meeting will take place at the Abbey of Saint Anselm from the 18th to 27th September.  


Among the presenters will be the esteemed Preacher to the Papal Household Father Raniero Cantalmessa, OFM Cap, who will make a presentation entitled, "What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches." Plus, the recently retired Abbot General of the Trappists, Abbot Bernardo Olivera will deliver a talk called "Experiences as a Monk and as a Monastic Superior."

Abbot Notker said there will be workshops and committee work on some major subjects, such as the monasteries with diminishing numbers of monks and nuns, ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, matters pertaining to the African monasteries, the relation between monasticism

Thumbnail image for Notker Wolf2.jpgand the Church, and the relationship between between abbots and priests. The congress will also be attended by the Benedictine sisters and nuns who will be involved in a discussion about the relations between men's and women's monasteries. Discussions will also happen on the work and funding of the various institutes and academic departments, including the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, at Sant'Anselmo.


St Benedict dares.jpg

Eamon Fitzgerald OCSO.jpg

Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, Abbot of Mount Melleray (County Waterford, Ireland) has been canonically and regularly elected as abbot general of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. In 2007, Dom Eamon was re-elected for his 4th 6-year term abbot of his abbey; the new abbot general was born in 1945. Dom Eamon succeeds Dom Bernardo who has served for the last 18 years as abbot general.

According to the statistics of January 1, 2008, there are 2,185 monks and 1,782 nuns, for a total of 3,967 persons living in 47 different countries. In context the Trappists are canonically speaking, a monastic Congregation which at present unites 97 monasteries of monks and 72 of nuns.


May God grant many fruitful years to Abbot Eamon!

Today, September 2nd, will mark the opening of the General Chapter of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (the Trappists) in Assisi and will remain in session until September 23rd. The Abbots and Abbesses in General Chapter is important for the Order and the Church but this one will be particularly important since the current Abbot Dom Bernardo Olivera.jpgGeneral, Dom Bernardo Olivera, after 18 years in office, will submit his resignation. It is presumed that the Chapter will accept Dom Bernardo's request to resign; an election of his successor will follow.


You can follow the progress of the Mixed General Meeting (MGM) by visiting the blog or visit the Order's website.


Let's pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance in the deliberations of the Trappist abbots and trappists.jpgabbesses. And after the election of Dom Bernardo's successor we'll raise a pint of beer to honor both.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Benedictines category from September 2008.

Benedictines: August 2008 is the previous archive.

Benedictines: October 2008 is the next archive.

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