Director's Letter

August 11, 2014

Feast of St. Clare


At the risk of alienating some people with an account of a “my summer activities,” I would like to mention a number of occasions I have had in the last two months to experience the riches of oblates and Benedictines throughout this country and in the process try and whet the interest of you to explore some of these riches.


In June I was privileged to give the community retreat for the monks of Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, NY.  This was a community started by Father Damasus Winzen in the 1950s with the express intent of living a full liturgical life in a contemplative setting.  It was one of the first monasteries to attract large numbers of oblates and they remain very much a supportive part of the monastic community today.  July 11-12 I was at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, to talk to oblates of that abbey for one of their two yearly Days of Recollection.  I was mightily impressed to see well over one hundred oblates come into the church to listen to my comments and to see that over thirty new oblates were professed.  Obviously the oblate program at St. Joseph’s is alive and well.  From July 24-27 I took part in the Convention of the American Benedictine Academy.  There was a pre-convention workshop devoted especially to oblates that I was able to attend in part.  Four different oblates, including Kathleen Norris, gave presentations on aspects of their oblate life.  During the convention proper, there was a superb presentation by Sr. Julia Upton on a Profile and Analysis of Benedictine Oblates in the United States.  I think many of the oblates would find these presentations of interest.  If you would like to have access to these presentations in either a CD or by print I can provide you with an appropriate link.  Finally, I gave a retreat to the Benedictine Sisters of the community of St. Walburg in Covington, KY, from Aug. 3-8.  Here too I was impressed at the active interest shown by the oblates of the community in the liturgy and life of that community.


There is one other upcoming opportunity I want to make known to you.  On Sept. 5-6, Fr. Michael Casey will be giving a two-day workshop on the Tools of the Spiritual Craft at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.  Those of you who know my affection for Fr. Casey will realize that this is a rare opportunity to encounter the Australian Trappist spiritual scholar on things Benedictine.  If you are interested in pursuing this, go to


There have been a lot of comings and goings at the abbey this summer.  I will start on a note of sadness over two departures.  On July 11 Br. Jairo, a monk in temporary vows, left our community of San Jose in Guatemala.  On July 31, Br. Bruno Perez, also in temporary vows, left the Abbey community. Both of these young men left on their own accord and were extremely grateful for their experience of monastic life.  We wish them well and pledge our prayers for them in their future. 


It has been good to have Fr. Thomas home with us for the summer.  He continued to practice his woodworking skills during his stay.  He returned to Conception Abbey this week.  Fr. Paul also had a week with us with us in late July and August.  He will soon have a tour of duty that will take him to Germany.  On July 17 Fr. Marcos passed his oral exams at Mundelein, in preparation for his License in Sacred Theology.  He needs only to complete his thesis now.  Br. Antony Maria and Br. Theodore will return to St. Meinrad in the coming week to resume their theological studies. Br. Oscar has been appointed as Sacristan to the community and will work at the Academy in the coming year. 


In addition to the prayers requested for the sick of our abbey and oblate communities, I think it particularly appropriate to pray for the many Christians of the Middle East, as well as those in other parts of the world, who are being subjected to such abject persecution and violence.  Recognizing our Benedictine motto of peace, let us pray that peace will come to these suffering communities of faith and they will have the freedom to worship and live without threats and injustice.


Pray too for the successful start of another school year at our Academy.  The first day of classes will be on August 19 and prior to that we will have our usual busy days of meetings and registration. 


We have had renewed interest in the oblate program shown by a number of people over the summer and I hope we will see some new faces at our first meeting on Sunday, Sept. 21.  I will have more information on that meeting in our next Oblate Letter. 


I want to remind you as well that if you have any changes in your phone numbers, e-mail, or mailing address, please pass them my way.


May you all enjoy the rest of our summer and foster the rhythm of prayer, leisure and work that St. Benedict would endorse.


In Christ,


Fr. Joel, OSB

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