News

Julie Notburga Simpson – The 7-Hour Oblate

Julie Simpson became an oblate novice in February of 2018. It was a big step toward fulfilling her longtime desire to become a Benedictine oblate of Mount Angel Abbey. That November, she had a tumor removed and in December, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer. The doctors told Julie she likely had about a year to live.

Julie Notburga SimpsonJulie was ready to make her full oblation in February of 2019, but renovations of the Abbey’s guesthouse postponed the retreat when oblate novices make their final commitments. In March, after more scans, Julie learned her tumors were growing in number and size. There was nothing more to be done; Julie had less than two months to live. The desire to make her oblation – her full act of commitment to live as a Benedictine oblate – became urgent.

When I learned of Julie’s situation, I decided to make the trip to her home in Washington state and receive her oblation on Monday of Holy Week, April 15.
By Friday, April 12, the family was told Julie had
just hours to live. By Saturday, she had only moments of coherence, and on Sunday, she was moved to the hospice unit of Providence Hospital in Everett, Washington.

On Monday morning, I arrived at the hospital as friends and family gathered for the Oblation
Mass. In the homily, I reminded Julie that as we celebrate Holy Week, we look toward the feast of the
Ascension. As Jesus rises into heaven, beyond this earth, we pray, “Where the head has gone before in Glory … the body is called to follow … in hope.”

After this, Julie’s oblate mentor, Darlene Goodwin, presented Julie for oblation. Since at this point she was unable to speak for herself, the entire group
of her relatives and friends voiced Julie’s desire to become an oblate and associate herself with the monks and works of Mount Angel Abbey. Darlene read the oblation promises and Julie took the name of an Austrian saint known for her charity, Notburga. I accepted Julie’s oblation and placed a medal of St. Benedict around her neck, which she was able to grasp in her hand.
At Communion, Julie received a drop of the Precious Blood as Viaticum for her journey. Before the Final Blessing, everyone assembled and anointed her with nard, as Mary had anointed Jesus in the Gospel reading for that day’s Mass.

Seven hours later, Julie Notburga Simpson, oblate of Mount Angel Abbey, passed from this world to follow where Christ, her Redeemer, has gone.

– Fr. Ralph Recker, O.S.B., Director of Oblates

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

Saint Benedict Festival 2019 on the Hilltop

Feast. Pray. Meet the Monks.That was the guiding theme for the fifth annual Saint Benedict Festival at Mount Angel Abbey on July 13.

Fasting and prayer gave way to feasting and prayer, as a thousand-plus of the Abbey’s friends – old and new – and generous supporters made their way to the Hilltop to meet and celebrate the feast of St. Benedict with the monks.
By all accounts, both guests and monks enjoyed the food, drink, music, tours, games and, especially, the camaraderie.
Mount Angel residents Kathy Wall and Mary Grant were eyeing the strawberry shortcake when they stopped to give their impressions of the festival.

“I love the way the monks mingle and are out here with everyone,” Wall said. “… they are so friendly, so welcoming, so warm. I love it.”

“Everybody needs to socialize,” Grant added. “We need to socialize with them. They’re not just strange guys dressed in black on top of the hill. They are normal, nice people that like to have fun.

“And what a selection of wine – wow!” Grant continued. “And Fr. Martin’s beer! You can’t beat it.”

Trent Sislow, who entered the monastic community as a postulant in March, was hosting the lawn game competitions during the festival. A self-described introvert, Sislow said after all the socializing ended he would probably need to spend some quiet time with a book in his room. But he was clearly having fun interacting with the folks who stopped by to try their skill, and said he was glad to be a part of the festivities.

“This festival is a real full-blown hospitality experience,” Sislow said. “It’s great to have all these people here to experience a little bit of our monastic life …. We are not here doing all this for our own sake. We’re here so we can share with all these people. We have such a great community here; it kind of makes it easy.”

One of the popular tours offered at the festival was of the newly-renovated Saint Benedict Guesthouse and Retreat Center. Guest master Fr. Pius X Harding, O.S.B., led large groups through the stunning new common spaces in the building. He apologized for not being able to provide a glimpse of the bedrooms, noting all the rooms were full for the weekend.

Bob and Char Wendling of Oregon City and Mike and Mamie Dec of Milwaukie lingered in front of the Last Supper sculpture in the guesthouse dining room. The impressive piece was done by Tomasz Misztal, a Polish artist who now resides in Oregon. Mamie Dec, who knows Misztal, pointed out details and shared insights about his work.

Bob Wendling marveled at the complete transformation of the guesthouse.

“I have attended retreats and stayed in the retreat house many times in the past,” Wendling said. “It is such a serene place. My first retreat here was with my Catholic fraternity – Phi Kappa Theta – at Oregon State University back in 1962. It was a beautiful place then but is even more beautiful now.”

Mike Dec said, “We do retreats for married couples in our parish, and our next retreat will be here. But I have a feeling it will continue to be full a lot of the time.”

The one frustration for a festival guest is that there was not enough time to see and do everything. As the last guesthouse tour ended, it was nearly time to join the liturgical procession with the monks leading everyone into the church to bless the new St. Benedict statue, followed by Vespers.

As Abbot Jeremy Driscoll told the guests when the festival began earlier in the day: “Feast. Pray. Meet the Monks. All this is what we are here to celebrate and give thanks for.”

Many are no doubt already looking forward to next year’s festival, scheduled for Saturday, July 11, 2020.

– By Steve Ritchie for Mount Angel Abbey

Categories: Monastery

Commencement 2019 at Mount Angel Seminary

The students of Mount Angel Seminary’s graduating class of 2019 celebrated their Baccalaureate Mass on the afternoon of May 10 and Commencement Exercises the following morning. Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange, gave the Commencement Address, speaking to more than 300 family and friends assembled in the Abbey church.

In his address, Bishop Vann expressed his appreciation for the natural beauty of the landscape that surrounds Mount Angel Seminary. The beauty of this part of the country, close to the Cascade mountain range, he noted, helps to “form and define the landscape of the souls” who live and study at Mount Angel. In the same way, he said, “Your calling, your ministry, your vocation, strengthened by the degrees you will receive today … will truly form and define the culture and the lives around you.”

Commencement 2019 at Mount Angel Seminary 1Bishop Vann reminded the graduates that we don’t always see clearly or understand the purpose of the present moment in the broader picture of life. But, from his own experience, he has found that in the providence of God, what life presents today is the best preparation for tomorrow. Most importantly, the people we find ourselves with today form the community that will carry us through to whatever the next step is.

In presenting the Senior Farewell, Reverend Mister Dean Marshall, from the Diocese of Sacramento, echoed the importance of community as we are each called into unknown territory. “There are a lot of unknowns ahead of us,” he said, “and we leave now a place of comfort, a place where we know what to expect. But, the times ahead are wrought with excitement and grace.”

There were 44 in the 2019 graduating class of Mount Angel Seminary, with a total of 55 degrees and certificates awarded, including 13 Bachelor of Arts; two Pre-Theology certificates; two Master of Arts (Philosophy); 12 Master of Divinity; 13 Master of Arts (Theology); seven Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology, and six Doctor of Ministry.

This Commencement marked the first cohort to graduate in the seminary’s new Doctor of Ministry program. Following the core curriculum of the seminary, the Doctor of Ministry concentrates on Scripture, Liturgical/Systematic Theology, and Pastoral Theology. The program provides an opportunity to deepen and enrich the work of those engaged in pastoral ministry through the pursuit of a professional doctorate.

Mount Angel Seminary offers fully accredited degree programs at all levels, including a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy; Master of Arts (Philosophy); Master of Arts (Theology); Master of Divinity; Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology, offered in affiliation with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome; and Doctor of Ministry. The Master of Arts (Theology) and Doctor of Ministry programs are open to non-seminarians and lay students.

Mount Angel Seminary, established in 1889 by the pioneer monks of Mount Angel Abbey, is the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States. It is the only seminary in the West that offers a four-year college and graduate school of theology, and one of only a few in the nation that offer degrees at all levels, baccalaureate through doctorate. Since its foundation, Mount Angel Seminary has educated and formed thousands of priests and many religious and lay women and men for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

Ministries Mass: A step toward ordination

At a Mass celebrated March 8, two dozen seminarians from Mount Angel Seminary took a step forward in their journey to ordained priesthood.

The Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson, Bishop of Yakima, was the principal celebrant and instituted nine men in the ministry of lector and 16 in the ministry of acolyte. The seminarians are currently studying theology at Mount Angel and represent seven dioceses and one religious community.

As instituted lectors, the seminarians are called to serve the Church as “bearers of God’s word,” proclaiming the word in the Liturgy and preparing people for the sacraments. Accordingly, they are to be especially attentive themselves to the Scriptures and meditate on it constantly so as to better witness to others our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Instituted in the ministry of lector on Friday were: Anthony Hoangphan and Efrain Razo, Jr., from the Archdiocese of Portland; Sylvester Musonda Chanda and Andrew Charles Hollands, from the Archdiocese of Seattle; Michael Thomas Evert, from the Diocese of San Diego; Ian Michael Gaston and Hun Chae (Mark) Jung, from the Diocese of Orange; Oscar Saúl Medina Zermeño and James Joseph Tasy, from the Diocese of Fresno.

As instituted acolytes, the seminarians are entrusted with the responsibility of assisting priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, especially as ministers of Holy Communion at the Liturgy and to the sick. Accordingly, they “should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s Sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness.”

Instituted in the ministry of acolyte were: Peter Atwood Laughlin and Luke Aaron Stager, from the Archdiocese of Portland; Sergio Armando Chávez Cabral and Tristan Peter Alec Dillon, from the Diocese of Salt Lake City; Arturo Cisneros, Oscar Saúl Medina Zermeño, Juan Carlos Reynoso Lozano, and Dalton Scott Rogers, from the Diocese of Fresno; Agustin Rajan Henderson, Darrell James Segura, Jr., and Adrian Julian Sisneros, from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe; Chad Kirwan Hill, Alexander Thomas Nelson, and Brody Robert Stewart, from the Archdiocese of Seattle; Michael John Hoolihan from the Diocese of Orange; and Br. Joseph Mary Tran, O.C.D.

Since 1889, Mount Angel Seminary has educated and formed thousands of priests to serve more than 11 million Catholics in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities around the world. As the oldest seminary in the western United States, Mount Angel is the only seminary in the West that offers a College of Liberal Arts, a Graduate School of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry Program.

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

One in the Heart of Christ: Celebrating Vocation to Priesthood

Ten years ago, a small group of about 40 friends gathered in Eugene for a dinner and fundraiser to help support Mount Angel Seminary. Though their numbers were small, they lit a bright fire of enthusiasm and dedication and the dinner has continued to grow. On March 4, the gathering included close to 400 people in the Hotel Eugene, celebrating and pledging support for the seminarians at Mount Angel.

The tone was set for an evening of unity in the Heart of Christ as the seminarians processed into the full ballroom. As Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., later described it, the room was “full of people in good moods. And God is the reason – God revealed in the heart of Christ, that huge burning furnace of love for the whole of humanity.”

Throughout the evening, the seminarians sang in full choir and in small groups, with classic pieces such as, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and Durufle’s “Ubi Caritas.” The program also included a panel discussion with seminarians reflecting on their journey to priesthood. Deacon Dean Marshall, studying for the Diocese of Sacramento, spoke of the impact of his pastoral experiences while in seminary. “Truly, I quickly realized that I receive so much more from the people to whom I am sent to minister than I could ever hope to bring to them.”

Monsignor Joseph Betschart, president-rector of the seminary, spoke of his admiration and respect for the men who have chosen to follow the call to priesthood in an age when their vocation may be openly questioned and discounted by society at large. These men, like the rest of the priests in the room, said Msgr. Betschart, “aren’t perfect. But we strive for the perfection that Christ calls us to. And we couldn’t live this life and continue this journey without your help.”

Presenting the keynote address as chancellor of the seminary, Abbot Jeremy told those gathered: “I tell the seminarians that I admire them for their courage to remain in the seminary at this time with their desire to serve God’s people still strong in them. They tell me that they stay precisely because they love the Church and want to offer their lives to strengthen the Church in troubled times. These are courageous and generous men. They are in love with Christ and with people. They deserve our prayers and our support.”

Since 1889, Mount Angel Seminary has sent thousands of priests to serve more than 11 million Catholics in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities around the world. As the oldest seminary in the western United States, Mount Angel is the only seminary in the West that offers a College of Liberal Arts, a Graduate School of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry Program.

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

What to read for Lent

Awesome Glory, by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSBResurrection means going deep.

Just in time for Lenten reading and in preparation for the Easter Triduum, Liturgical Press has published Abbot Jeremy Driscoll’s new book, Awesome Glory: Resurrection in Scripture, Liturgy, and Theology.

With the clarity of an experienced teacher, Abbot 
Jeremy offers readers a deep dive into the mystery of 
the resurrection of Jesus. Starting from the conviction that the liturgy is meant to offer an immediate and effective contact with the resurrection, this profound and beautifully accessible book draws out the liturgical riches of the period from the Paschal Triduum through Pentecost. Abbot Jeremy focuses particularly on the Scripture texts of Mass, but also on important rituals like the washing of feet, and the Lucernarium (Service of Light).

Awesome Glory is a beautiful, reflective read for anyone who wants to better understand, teach, and live the startlingly good news of Christ’s Resurrection.

For more information about Awesome Glory, email the Abbey’s bookstore or call 503.845.3345.

Awesome Glory is also available on Kindle from major online booksellers.


What else do monks read in Lent?

Br. Charles Gonalez
“The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times”
by Dom Jean-Charles Nault

Br. Israel Sanchez
“The Imitation of Christ”
by Thomas a Kempis

“Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition”
by Gabriel Bunge

“The Heart of the World”
by Hans Urs von Balthasar

Prior Vincent Trujillo
“Story of a Soul”
by St. Therese

Fr. John Paul Le
“Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody”
by Allen R. Hunt

Fr. Aelred Yockey
The Passion Narratives, from the Gospels

“The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
by Anne Catherine Emerich

“Mystical City of God”
by Mary of Agreda (17c)

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

Seeking God in the Wilderness

Mount Angel seminarians have always been attracted to hiking and other outdoor pursuits. So it was natural for current seminarians, inspired by the life and spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, to form a fellowship group devoted to seeking God in the wilderness.

The group has organized a number of weekend outings, including one camping trip last fall. On the trip, priests who accompanied the seminarians celebrated the Eucharist at the campsite. “Two Masses were celebrated on beautiful Merrill Lake up by Mount St. Helens,” said seminarian Adrian Sisneros, second year theology student for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and group co-founder.

Sisneros grew up as an avid hiker and outdoorsman in the mountainous desert of New Mexico. He enjoys seeking out places of beauty in the Northwest and encountering God on mountaintops, rivers, lakes, and beaches. Each Frassati Group trip, he notes, has a strong spiritual component, and helps bond the seminarians.

“Our aim is holiness and fraternity. It’s about the opportunity for us to venture out together, as brothers sharing in this journey to the priesthood, allowing the fruits of formation to naturally grow in us.”

The group members also recognize that these experiences are great preparation for their future ministries in parishes and other settings. They work together to carefully plan the trips and utilize each person’s skills and abilities.

“A lot of it is about [building] character, learning how to be inter-dependent and work well with each other, balancing time and being responsible, and praying for each other,” Sisneros said. “Those are great things that we are learning together as a group. We’re mentoring each other.”

Sisneros said even the challenges they’ve encountered on trips are welcome opportunities for growth.

“The wilderness is beautiful but it can also be rugged. Sometimes you have to dig deep. You might have to help someone else who is feeling a little uneasy. It breaks down barriers between us … it provides a great opportunity for letting your guard down and entering into authentic fraternity.”

The group is grateful for the inspiration of Frassati and Pope St. John Paul II, who beatified Frassati and was an outdoorsman himself as a young priest. As
Frassati once wrote, “The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.”

– Steve Ritchie

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

Forever in the Peace of Christ

Forever in the Peace of Christ 1FATHER BENEDICT SUING, O.S.B., a monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, U.S.A., passed peacefully to the Lord on the 7th day of December 2018, in the 93rd year of his life, the 70th year of his monastic profession, and the 65th year since his ordination to the priesthood.

The funeral Mass for Fr. Benedict will be at 10 am Friday, December 14, in the Mount Angel Abbey church, with burial to follow in the Abbey cemetery.

Fr. Benedict was born in Salem, Oregon, in 1926, and in his early 20s he entered Mount Angel Abbey, making his profession of vows in September of 1949. After his theological studies at Mount Angel Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood at the Abbey in 1954 by Archbishop Edward D. Howard of Portland. The following decade involved Fr. Benedict in the work of teaching English in the Abbey’s prep school, and in the mid-1960s he also taught for two years at a high school in Anchorage.

Significantly, Fr. Benedict spent many of his years as priest and monk outside the monastery, carrying out the various pastoral assignments in which he generously served the Church. The first of these assignments came in 1968 when he was appointed assistant pastor at St. Mary’s in Mt. Angel, after which he served as principal of a Catholic high school in the coastal town of Tillamook, Oregon, for several years before returning to the town of Mt. Angel as pastor of St. Mary’s from 1975 to 1985. There followed a several-year pastorship in Moab, Utah, and then a final decade in parish ministry as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Portland, from 1990 to 1998. But Fr. Benedict’s pastoral spirit remained alive, and he served for some further years as chaplain of a small religious community in the east before retiring into the prayerful quiet of his final years. May he rest forever in the peace of Christ.

Thank you for your prayers for him.

Categories: Monastery

Mount Angel monks celebrate vocations

What’s in a name?

When a novice – along with the monastic community – discerns readiness for his first profession, he takes a significant step by accepting a new name in the presence of all his brothers. In this way, he puts on “the new man” as he makes the three Benedictine vows to a way of life marked by: obedience, stability, and conversion of life in the community. At Mount Angel, as a novice prepares for his first profession, he selects three possible names for the Abbot to consider. After praying and talking it over, the Abbot selects his new name.

“Choosing a new name at first profession of vows is a radical thing to do,” said Abbot Jeremy. “All our names are important to us and bring blessings upon us. A former teacher of mine one time said, ‘What is a name? It’s a little song that we sing whenever we see that person.'”

 


Br. Charles Borromeo

Choosing a new name was not an easy task. I felt deeply inspired to take the name of a saint whom I both admired and with whom I have similar interests and desires. After much thinking and praying, the name Charles Borromeo came to me. I see in the life of St. Charles a beautiful example of a young man with a heart that deeply loved the Catholic Church. He was of the belief that true renewal begins from within. I could see and hear him asking the question, “Where do I need conversion in my own life in order to see the change that I desire?” It is in this spirit of my holy patron that I wish to live my life here in the monastery.

 


Br. Jesse

The new name signifies a new life that we take up as we vow stability, obedience, and conversion of life. Conversion of life sticks out, as it is a life totally dedicated to God. The name Jesse was particularly significant to me because it is what my family has always called me. My birth name is Victor Jesus. In some places in Mexico, a nickname for Jesus is Jesse. The monastery is supposed to be a family. Now all of my family calls me by the same name. The Old Testament patriarch Jesse is himself the patriarch of the family line of David. He is the forefather from which come our Lady, St. Joseph, and our Lord himself.

 

 


Br. Thomas the Apostle

I proposed the name “Thomas” to Abbot Jeremy in spiritual kinship with the infamous apostle. Like Thomas, I typically come to faith later than others, gathering evidence, mulling it over, making careful inferences. Others may roll their eyes, but I think that Thomas’ objection was reasonable and relatable for our fractured world, in which the very existence of objective truth is sometimes waved away. I am glad to belong to a thinking Church. But as with Thomas, God has gone out of his way to bring me to faith. Whenever the Lord grants me a gratuitous sign of his providence, I feel he is my special friend. I know that God will always give me what I need in order to believe. I pray St. Thomas will help move my stubborn will to respond and sing his praise wisely: “My Lord

 


Br. Ignatius of Antioch

When I was thinking about my name for profession, I remembered having liked the name “Ignatius of Antioch,” from the Litany of Saints. I began to read about him and learned that he was one of the earliest martyrs and also an early teacher in the church. One day a group of priests from the Diocese of Baker was at the Abbey for a retreat. One of them stopped and asked my name. I told him, “Br. Miguel.” He asked if that was my profession name. When I told him I was still a novice and needed yet to decide on a new name, he said, “I think you should be called Ignatius.”

I was really surprised! He explained that one of his favorite teachers here in the seminary was a monk named Fr. Ignatius Vroeger (d. 1991). That encounter really impressed me. It turns out that Fr. Ignatius’ baptismal name was the same as mine: Rudolph! I asked some of the older monks about Fr. Ignatius and they remembered him well as a kind and joyful monk. So I have two patrons: Ignatius of Antioch, and our own Fr. Ignatius, of Mount Angel Abbey.


 

Categories: Monastery

Legacy gifts come in many forms

Legacy gifts come in many formsIn our monastic community of Mount Angel, we are blessed with so many friends and benefactors. Through their constant spiritual and financial support, we are able to live as we do, stopping to pray in the Abbey church five times a day, taking time to welcome and visit all who come to enjoy the peace of our hilltop home, and devoting ourselves to preparing the next generation of priests at Mount Angel Seminary. Twice a year we publish a simple newsletter, Legacy,in which we remember those who have left (or plan to leave) a legacy gift to the Abbey and Seminary. In the fall newsletter, we highlight two of these people—one is still quite active and doing wonderful work with the elderly. The other was the mother of one of our monks, Fr. William Hammelman. We invite you to read their stories, and offer with us a prayer of gratitude for all who have helped us along the way.

Categories: Monastery

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