May He Rest in Eternal Peace

Forever in the Peace of ChristBROTHER FRANCIS WEIGAND, O.S.B., a monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, U.S.A., passed peacefully to the Lord on the 24th day of October, 2018, some days after suffering a stroke that marked the end of his earthly life. He was 86 years of age, and 38 years professed as a monk. Brother Francis was born in 1932 in the city of Aberdeen, Washington, where he was baptized with the name of Harold. His family later moved to the town of Tekoa in southeast Washington, and here he completed his primary and secondary education before the family’s further move to Spokane, Washington. Harold was one of four boys in the Weigand family, and one of the boys, William, was to become the Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah, and later the Bishop of Sacramento, California. From 1950 to 1955 Harold attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, and in the following two decades his work included over ten years as a construction inspector for the city of Spokane. Here he also married and raised a family of three children. In the late 1970’s the further discernment of his service of the Lord led him to Mount Angel Abbey where, in September of 1980, at the age of 48, he made his profession as a monk into the hands of Abbot Bonaventure Zerr, O.S.B., who gave him the name of Francis. Brother Francis always remained a strong witness of his Catholic faith, and not least among his personal gifts were his dry wit and wry smile! He served the monastic community in many ways over the years—in the development office, in the library, on the grounds, and in the delivery of the mail. In more recent years Brother Francis served as a driver, providing transport for elderly and infirm monks’ medical appointments, for the delivery and pickup of people to and from the Portland airport, and for whatever other needs that might arise. Even in his final years he remained a driver of sorts, his vehicle being the little walker that he kept parked outside his door! May he rest forever in the peace of Christ.

Funeral Homily preached by Abbot Jeremy

Eulogy delivered by the Most Rev. William K. Weigand, Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento

Categories: Monastery

God’s grace revealed

God's grace revealedGod’s grace comes through community

An important element of the spiritual formation program for the men in pre-theology and theology at Mount Angel Seminary is regular participation in Jesus Caritas prayer groups. Inspired by Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), Jesus Caritas is a worldwide fraternity made up of small groups of diocesan priests who share prayer and developments in their lives. A steady witness to the importance of these groups is Fr. Richard Keolker, director of the Jesus Caritas groups and a spiritual director at Mount Angel.

Fr. Keolker has been a part of the spiritual formation program at the seminary for 27 years. But his personal Jesus Caritas group of fellow priests has met regularly for 45 years for mutual prayer and support. He is, as one seminarian recently described him, “The manifestation of Caritas. He lives it out in his life.”

“There were Jesus Caritas groups already active at Mount Angel when I got here in 1991,” noted Fr. Keolker. “I worked with them, and in 2004 they became a part of the program for theology and pre-theology students.” The groups meet once a month to share dinner, Scripture reflection, a review of life, and evening prayer.

Luke Stager, currently in his second year of theology, studying for the Archdiocese of Portland, admitted that he initially thought the regular prayer meetings were “one more thing to add to the list of the million things we have to do.” This changed, however, during his first and second summer parish assignments when he learned that the pastors in both parishes participated regularly in Jesus Caritas groups. They do so, as Stager explained, “to fortify and encourage each other, and to pray together.” Seeing their commitment to Jesus Caritas changed his whole attitude, he admitted. “All of a sudden,” he said, “this wasn’t just one more thing we have to do in seminary. This [sense of spiritual fraternity] is something important that we build here.”

Third-year theology student studying for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Dominic Sternhagen attests that participation in Jesus Caritas is “essential to my vocational journey.” He had arrived at Mount Angel in the middle of a year and with some experience living in a religious community. He was humbled by the way the students in one group reached out and invited him to join them. “Even with someone they didn’t really know yet,” he said, it was a time of “authentic sharing.”

That sharing of joys, struggles and graces providing mutual support is a critical component of Jesus Caritas, said Peter Laughlin, also in his third year of theology, studying for the Archdiocese of Portland. He points to the importance of camaraderie and fellowship formed in the group. “While many people can have windows into our world as seminarians, no one quite fully understands another seminarian or another priest the same way as other seminarians and other priests can,” he said. “There’s a similar direction, and areas of growth we share as we aim for the priesthood in the service of God and discernment of his will together.” One realization Laughlin says he has had through the prayer group is that, “While God interacts with us individually, he is not isolated to my personal experiences. Rather,” he added, “God’s grace is revealed communally, to be shared amongst one another.”

Picking up on the theme of brotherhood, Deacon John Mosier, in his fourth year of theology, studying for the Diocese of Boise, said he sees a comparison between the strength he receives from his Jesus Caritas group to the “armament of God,” referenced in the Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6. The sacred text, said Deacon Mosier, “suggests that we put on the shield of faith.”

Referencing first century Roman soldiers, Deacon Mosier explained, “It wasn’t the individual soldier himself; it was the man to the left and the man to the right, with shields interlocked, that provided the true defense.”

“As others have mentioned,” he continued, “it is this interlocking dependence that is important not only for our life of faith as seminarians, but for the lives of those we want to one day serve. It’s that interlocking faith, not of the shield, but of our faith lived out here at Mount Angel that makes the Caritas groups work.”

– William Gerard

Categories: Monastery, Seminary

Let us draw near to Christ

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.A message from Abbot Jeremy

The Church has been much in the news in recent weeks, in ways that simply break our hearts. It is important to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a terrible crisis. Innocent victims have suffered the abuse of clergy, and some have suffered again when bishops failed to act. Such evil must be named, investigated, and brought to light. As our Lord promised, the truth will set us free.

My friends, a huge struggle begins whenever someone seriously undertakes to follow Christ, “to walk by the Spirit,” as the Apostle Paul writes (Galatians 5:16-25). This is what all of us are doing together, those of us here at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, and all those who have shown in so many ways that they love and support our mission.

We in the Church in this country are under a cloud. This is a season for penitent reflection as we seek to understand the nature of the problem as profoundly as possible. St. Paul helps us see that we all are at risk, all are engaged in the same struggle. The guilt and sin of any one of us affects the whole body.

By the same token, the holiness and virtue of any one of us also belongs to the whole body. If we want to contribute to the healing of the Church, in this time of crisis, we must reject the temptation to turn away from our Lord, and take up instead by the mercy of God the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These marvelous gifts can seem beyond our reach if we think they must be rooted in our own efforts. Instead, they are freely given by God through the Holy Spirit because we “belong to Christ Jesus.”

It takes courage to persist in our faith at this time. It takes courage for monks and seminarians to risk a life of devotion to our Lord’s Church. It takes courage for our friends to stand with us, to pray with us. But more than courage is needed. All these gifts of the Spirit are needed, and we are begging God for these gifts in all our prayers and at the Eucharistic table.

This is how I spoke to our seminarians in my homily at the Mass of the Holy Spirit on August 27, which inaugurated our school year at Mount Angel. I invite you to listen to my message to them.

At times, when we do something courageous, we can become afraid. Jesus offers a solution to that. He comes to those who are afraid. In the Gospel of John, we learn that the disciples were gathered in fear on the very day of Christ’s resurrection. Their doors were locked. This is us right now, in this Church. We are the disciples, afraid, seeking courage.

And “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” To us right now, He shows His wounds and then He says again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19-23).

Christ’s peace is not a peace of passivity. It is a peace that calls us to serve Him, His Church, and our brothers and sisters. This is a time when Satan – named in Scripture “Father of Lies” – can wreak havoc on our souls and feast on our doubts. Again in the Gospel of John, Christ promises if we continue in His word, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

Let us remember Christ’s promise to us in the coming weeks, months, and years, as we seek the truth. In 2004 the Bishops of the United States commissioned an independent study by the John Jay Institute for Criminal Justice so that we might understand the nature and scope of child abuse in the Church. Now there are calls within the Church for further investigations, as we seek to understand our situation together, in honesty and humility.

Here at Mount Angel, we deeply value your trust and work sincerely to deserve it. I invite you to review online a statement that outlines the steps we at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary have taken since 2002 to ensure a safe environment for children and young people. All monks and seminarians in formation participate in rigorous human, spiritual, academic and pastoral formation as they mature and embrace a life and lifestyle of celibacy and chastity, leadership and responsibility, service and accountability. Their readiness is thoroughly evaluated before they are ordained or make their profession of vows.

What more is to be done? Every member of Christ’s body has a vital role to play as we seek to heal and strengthen His Church.

We monks of Mount Angel will continue the way of life that Benedictines have followed for 1,500 years. We continue to pray six times a day for the life of the world. We continue to greet guests as Christ. We continue to nurture the healthy formation of our future priests. We offer this peaceful hilltop as a place of spiritual growth and refuge for all seekers. We pray that the simple order and beauty of the Abbey will serve as a beacon of light, hope and healing for you and our extended community.

We will continue to ask our friends to support us, in all the ways they have supported us in the past. With even greater urgency, we ask our broad community to pray for vocations and to support the formation of monks and priests who will serve our Lord’s Church. The people of God need and deserve to be guided by mature and holy shepherds.

I urge you in this time to draw nearer to Christ and His Church. Come to the Abbey. Pray with us. Celebrate Mass with us. Let our seminarians know that the vocation they are undertaking is holy and necessary. Let us encourage one another! Please, send us your prayer requests. We pray for you daily.

Christ’s peace be with you,

Let us draw near to Christ
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.
Chancellor of Mount Angel Seminary

Categories: Monastery

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