The Great Fire


In 1926 the fifth archbishop of Oregon City was installed in the person of Archbishop Edward D. Howard, and shortly thereafter the second monastery was totally destroyed in another disastrous fire. The community was dispersed again into private homes and the nearby parish school and rectory. The school was closed briefly until temporary accommodations could be made. Younger monks now began the painful task of begging for funds for rebuilding. In 1928 the first section of the present abbey was dedicated, once more on top of the hill. This was soon followed by the erection of Aquinas Hall in 1930 and the gymnasium in 1936

In 1934 Abbot Bernard, now blind, retired from the office of abbot and the community elected as its fourth abbot, Father Thomas Meier. The age of specialization had also arrived. The community was now blessed with sufficient men to send some away to Europe for higher education and advanced degrees; greater emphasis was placed on the monastic life, the community Mass and private prayer than had been possible in the early days of great activity in the face of great need. In 1939 the community celebrated the centennial of the coming of the first Catholic missionaries to the Oregon Territory and, on its own part, sent off its first group of monks to found a new monastery in British Columbia, where they were needed to staff a seminary and bring the monastic witness to another church just emerging from its missionary period. In 1946 the community closed Mount Angel College and devoted itself full-time to the seminary - theology, college and high school - and to the local Prep school for boys.

In 1950 Abbot Thomas, partially blind and in poor health, in his turn laid down the office of the abbacy and the community chose as its fifth abbot Father Damian Jentges. An extension of the Abbey church was under construction and the explosion of vocations to the priesthood that was a common phenomenon after the Second World War had so crowded the seminary as to make a new residence hall mandatory. The Abbey church was completed and dedicated in 1952; and two years later Anselm Hall was dedicated, and the seminary was now divided into major and minor. The temporary buildings over the side of the hill were used to house the Mount Angel Preparatory School until this was transferred to the archdiocesan and then to the public school system. More >>