Tag Archives: Abbot Primate

Gregory Polan elected 10th Abbot Primate of the Benedictines

abbot-gregory-polanFather Gregory Polan, 66, until now, Abbot of Conception Abbey, has been elected the 10th Abbot Primate, succeeding Abbot Notker Wolf who has served in the position of Abbot Primate since being elected by the Congress of Abbots on 7 September 2000.

Abbot Gregory has been the 9th Abbot of Conception since November 6, 1996. He was professed in 1971 and ordained in 1977. He is a native of Berwyn, Illinois.

Abbot Gregory is the second abbot of Conception Abbey to be elected Abbot Primate. Abbot Marcel Rooney was the 8th Primate having been elected on September 18, 1996 and resigned on 3 September 2000.

Abbot Gregory is the fourth American to be elected to the Office of Abbot Primate. The others were Dom Rembert Weakland (now retired archbishop of Milwaukee); the late Abbot Jerome Theisen, and Abbot Marcel Rooney.

According to the Proper Law which governs the Confederation of Congregations of Monasteries of the Order of Saint Benedict, the ministry of the Primas is described as “the office of the Abbot Primate whose function it is to represent the Confederation and to do all he can to foster co-operation between the confederated monasteries.”

Abbot Notker was born on 21 June 1940, professed a monk of the Archabbey of St. Ottlien in 1962, ordained in 1968, elected Archabbot of his community in 1977, elected Abbas primas and Abbot of Sant’Anselmo 7 September 2000. He served three terms.

In the decree Inæstimabilis unitatis (16 September 1894) of Pope Leo XIII, gave the office of abbot primate to the Benedictines. The Primate has no direct authority the vast number of Benedictine houses (but there are Benedictine monasteries he is responsible for). There are approximately 7000 Benedictine monks. Polan becomes the abbot of the monastery Sant’ Anselmo. As THE Benedictine leader, he is the point of communio for the worldwide Benedictine Confederation and he who works as the primary liaison with the Holy See. Abbot Gregory is recognized as being a pastoral abbot and spiritual leader and well regarded across various sectors. Professionally, he is a scholar of Sacred Scripture and has the skills of a musician. Under his leadership a new English translation of the Book of Psalms that has been adopted by the US Catholic Bishops and Rome as the translation that’s used in the Liturgy.

Abbot Primate celebrates 75 years

Notker imposes incense 2015The Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation celebrates his 75th birthday. Abbot Notker Wolf presides in charity over the worldwide communion of Benedictines from the Aventine Hill in Rome. He was the archabbot of the St Ottilien Abbey and Congregation before his election as Primas.


Congress of Abbots 2012 statistics

anselmo arms.jpglYou’re likely going to say big deal… there’s already been too much info on the 2012 Congress of Abbots on the Communio blog. Well, you’re correct. But a few statistics set a context.

Meeting at the Primatial Abbey of Saint Anselm in Rome for the September 2012 Congress of Abbots, there were:
  • 250 abbots
  • 380 monasteries represented: 205 abbeys, 45 independent priories, 130 dependent priories
  • 21 Benedictine Congregations of monks
  • 7,358 monks represented
  • 62 Benedictine Congregations of women
  • 13,650 Benedictine nuns and sisters represented.
Father Luke MacNamara OSB, a monk of Glenstal Abbey (Ireland) oversaw the simultaneous translation work of 5 languages.

Notker Wolf re-elected Abbot Primate for world-wide Benedictines

Ab Notker Wolf.jpgAbbot Notker Wolf, 72,  was elected for the third time by the world’s abbots and conventual priors who are at the quadrennial meeting currently in session at Sant’Anselmo, Rome.

Abbot Dr. Notker was the Archabbot of St Ottilien when he was elected the Abbot Primate in 2000. Abbot Notker professed vows in 1962, ordained in 1968, elected abbot in 1977, and elected the primate in 2000, 2008, and now in 2012. Abbot Notker will serve in the Office of the Primate for 4 years.

The election for the Primate’s Office happened today 9am Rome time following the singing of the Office of Terce. Typically the election for Primate is chaired by the Archabbot of Montecassino, but being sick, instead of Abbot Pietro, the Abbot of Subiaco, Mauro Meaci chaired the election. Each monastic superior was called forth to drop his vote. Dom Mauro announced the tally, and called on Abbot Notker seeking to know if he accepted election. He did accept. According to law, the re-elected Abbot Primate made a profession of faith and the oath of fidelity with his hand on the Bible. All assembled then sang the Te Deum followed by a solemn blessing imparted by the Abbot Notker. Noon Mass was celebrated at the nearby Santa Sabina Church and the normal work of the Congress continued.

As an aside, the Prince of Jordan was with the monks for lunch on the 20th.

May God grant him the graces needed to fulfill his person and work.

Abbot Notker is a very generous monk with great humanity. He’s travelled the world seeking to build and encourage the communion among the Benedictines, the local churches and society. I have nothing but praise for what Abbot Notker has done for the Confederation as the Chancellor of Pontifical Athenaem of Sant’Anselmo. Under his leadership very much needed repairs of the Sant’Anselmo building have been done as well as other needed bricks and mortar repairs and upgrades and are being made, the expansion of women religious receiving an education there, building of development offices in Europe and the USA to raise funds to endow the various schools of philosophy and theology at Sant’Anselmo and asking the monks who live and work at Sant’Anselmo to have a great fidelity to the life of the project. He’s been instrumental in the founding of a Benedictine priory in Cuba and has worked with the Chinese in securing the various freedoms needed for the Church.

Abbot Notker arms.jpg

But with all this very good work done by the Primate and his staff, there’s much work to do. Not all is complete and Abbot Notker can’t rest on his laurels. Several things, in my considered opinion need attention: getting name recognition of Sant’Anselmo better known, especially in the USA, the greater cultivation of benefactors, the attraction of new monks, nuns and laity to teach at the Anselmo, to develop more dynamic programing in the constituent academic areas, to attract talented people –not necessarily monks, perhaps the utilization of the Oblates– to work there. Plus, it is reasonable to say that he and his staff ought to use technology much better to communicate with the world’s monks and nuns but also with the laity. There are a great amount of Oblates who love the love the Benedictine way of life and would appreciate being included more for the effective advancement of what is proposed by the Rule and the Church. It is disappointing that the Confederation doesn’t use technology viz. the Primate’s office and the school. The Curial offices on the Aventine Hill don’t need to feed the media monster but they do need to communicate more effectively using the internet, especially in the renewed emphasis the Church has placed on the proclamation of the Word of God. For example, the OSB website, Wikipedia and Confederation websites need a serious overhaul. Perhaps doing more work with the interface of monasticism and evangelization would be good as well as forming an international group of Oblates to live, work and pray as a community for the good of the Confederation.

Abbot Wolf can’t do this work all alone and in a short amount of time. He is 72 with realistically a term to work as Primate (4 years is not a long time). Abbot Notker needs our sincere prayer, fraternal and financial support.

On the Confederation, etc.

“The Benedictine Confederation was formed those monastic Congregations which, while preserving their autonomy, entered the union sanctioned by Pope Leo XIII in a the Papal Brief “Summum semper” and regularly approved by all of his successors. By order of Pope Pius XII precise legal prescision was made for this union in a Lex propria which was reviewed after the Second Vatican Council (1),”

The Benedictine Confederation was constituted and continues to exist in order that led by the Gospels, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and directed by the Church, monastic life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the wise traditions of each Congregation and monastery adapted to the conditions of time and place may be fostered and fraternal assistance between Congregations in the areas of personnel, goods and works be encouraged in every way” (16).

“The Congress is not intended to be a Chapter General nor does it possess any power at variance with the autonomy of the Congregations or of monasteries; rather it serves the good of the Confederation with the limits described above (nos. 16-17)” (20).

All Benedictine saints and blesseds, pray for Abbot Notker, the Benedictine curia, and for us.

Benedictine abbots to meet in Rome

Badia Primaziale arms.jpgThe Office of the Abbot Primate announces…

Almost 300 monastics will gather in Rome, 17-25 September 2012, for the international Congress of Benedictine Abbots and Conventual Priors at the Primatial Abbey of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill. Preceding the Congress, new monastic superiors will participate, 15-16 September 2012, in an orientation program. 25 representatives from Communio Internationalis Benedictinarum (CIB), an association of Benedictine sisters and nuns, will also attend the Congress. The Abbot Primate has invited ecumenical guests from the Orthodox and Reformed traditions.

The two keynote speakers are Prof. Michael Hochschild presenting his research on the viability of
Benedictine monasteries, and Fr. Michael Casey OCSO offering a paper on autonomy in Benedictine life. In addition, a wide range of workshops will address current topics in monastic life; such as, Benedictine identity, stress and burnout, associate membership programs, management of monasteries, individualism in the monastery, relationship with Benedictine women, new forms of Benedictine presence in society, ecumenism, the paschal mystery in the sacred liturgy, new directions for inter-monastic dialogue, new structures for AIM, the changing role of the Athenæum S. Anselmo,the sexual abuse crisis, the role of the abbot, communio in the confederation,and the formation of “traditionalist” candidates.

The assembled abbots and conventual priors will have the opportunity to visit in pilgrimage the monasteries of SubiacoMontecassino, Norcia, and Camaldoli, which is celebrating its 1000th anniversary this year. Nearly half of the 250 abbots and conventual priors will reside in the Collegio S. Anselmo, with the others, including CIB representatives and ecumenical guests, housed in area religious houses and hotels.

An important item on the agenda is the election of the abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation. According to the Lex Propria of the BenedictineConfederation, the abbot primate is elected for an eight-year term, and renewable thereafter every four years. There is no term limit to the office of abbot primate. The current abbot primate, Dr. Notker Wolf OSB, a monk of St. Ottilien Archabbey in Bavaria, is completing 12 years of service, having beenre-elected in 2008.
Your prayers for the success of the Congress are greatly appreciated.

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]yahoo.com.
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