Meet Legacy Society Members
Doing the work of God, together
When she was ten years old, Linda (Atchley) Pickering decided to become a Catholic. She was moved to do so despite what she describes as a “totally dysfunctional childhood” because a friend insisted that she go to Mass with her.
What happened next was life changing.
“I was enthralled with incense and candles and all of that,” she recalled.
Then a woman sitting next to the girls came back from Communion, recalled Linda, and “put her face in her hands and was sobbing.”
“Oh, my gosh!” she thought. “What did they do to her?” It took Linda a moment, but she then realized she was witnessing tears of joy.
“Whatever transpired up at the Communion rail, it was marvelous,” she added.
After Mass was over, Linda went up and knelt at the Communion rail and told the priest that she wanted to be baptized — right now!
“Well I can’t do it quite that fast,” said the priest.
Linda’s early life was one of many transitions that saw her living in different parts of the country. Among her major life events, she was widowed in 1967 and lost her adopted daughter Lenitta to bone cancer in 1976.
By the early 1970s, Linda was living in Portland, Oregon, working in elder care facilities. She became a partner at H&L Care Center in 1980 and by 1983 was the sole owner of what was then called Har-Lyn Care Center. The name changed in 1988 to Gracelen Terrace, a combination of the names of Linda’s grandmother Grace and Lenitta.
A friend, who had been a student at Mount Angel Seminary, asked Linda if she had ever been to Mount Angel Abbey. They went to noon prayer together at the Abbey and Linda was hooked. “I got very interested in the Benedictine way,” she said.
In 2000, Linda married Ralph Clarke Pickering. After “nine good years together,” she lost Clarke to cancer.
Linda has since made retreats and attended the annual Bach festival at the Abbey. But, she feels, there is more to be done. Thankful for the many ways the good Lord has blessed her, Linda has made arrangements in her will for a legacy gift for the Abbey. After she is gone, said Linda, “I’ll be at peace knowing that I did something that’s going to carry on.”
At Mount Angel, Linda has found “a shining example.” For her, she said, “Mount Angel is a beacon, pointing toward the future.”
“Obviously, I can’t be a monk,” she added. “But I can be a benefactor. And I can do my good works while they do their good works. And it’s all the work of God.”
Best legacy gift ever!
You can see Mount Angel Abbey from the Hammelman family home, situated in the valley below “the hilltop.” And, six times a day, you can hear the bells of the Abbey church summoning monks, seminarians, retreatants, and the surrounding community to prayer.
Adelene (Bochsler) Hammelman knew as well as anyone how central Mount Angel Abbey has been to the farm community of Mt. Angel. As a child, her parents were friends with the monks, some of which occasionally joined the family for meals and celebrations. And following World War II, Adelene was among the many who helped Fr. Alcuin Heibel, O.S.B., with his efforts to collect food, clothing, and other items to send overseas through his aid organization, Mount Angel Relief.
Adelene’s connection with the Abbey, though, was set in stone when one of her three sons, now Fr. William Hammelman, O.S.B, decided 60 years ago to attend the Abbey’s seminary high school. His mother, father and siblings, recalled Fr. William, were very supportive of his vocation to the Benedictine community.
Adelene, who died January 7, 2018, was “very outgoing, very spiritual, and a hard worker,” Fr. William said.
In addition to raising five children with her husband, Francis, who died in 1988, Adelene was “always trying to educate herself in the Catholic faith,” said Fr. William. After the Second Vatican Council, the couple went to the talks presented by Fr. Martin Pollard, O.S.B., explaining the many changes to the liturgy implemented by the Council. “My parents,” said Fr. William, “took [their faith] very seriously. They loved the new liturgy.”
“My mom was so involved in a lot of things,” Fr. William continued, including the Seminary Mothers’ Club, the Catholic Daughters, and the Quilting Club. She also enjoyed her work with the Altar Society. “People loved her. She had a great attitude, a great spirit.”
Leaving a bequest to the Abbey seemed a natural continuation of Adelene’s love for the Abbey. But, of course, one could argue that her most important “legacy gift” to the community is her son, Fr. William.
Teaching and nurturing the next generation
Fr. Donald McHugh was a man of “phenomenal energy” who “cherished his teaching years,” said Msgr. Tim Murphy, President Emeritus of Central Catholic High School in Portland.
The same could be said of Fr. McHugh’s spirit in his many other areas of priestly ministry, which came to include serving as pastor of several parishes in the Archdiocese of Portland and as a military chaplain for 14 years. Born in Portland in 1930, he went to St. Agatha’s Grade School and then Central Catholic High School,
graduating in 1947. He entered the U.S. Army and there began to discern a vocation to the priesthood. He began his seminary studies at Mount Angel Seminary and finished at St. Edward’s Seminary in Lacy, Wash. In 1957 he was ordained and began to teach at Central Catholic High School in Portland.
In addition to his teaching career and parish work, Fr. McHugh felt called to be a military chaplain. “I believe I could do a good job for those young men [in the military],” he wrote to Archbishop Robert Dwyer in 1969.
A high point of his life was in 1988, when he had the opportunity to spend three months on a retreat at the Vatican. But for all of his many priestly activities and commitments, Fr. McHugh remained a good friend and a generous benefactor to those who had helped him along the journey to priesthood, including his alma mater, Mount Angel Seminary.
Above all, said his niece Suzanne Sommer, “he was our Uncle Don,
who happened to be a Catholic priest. Uncle Don was always busy with his priestly duties, but he was also quite involved with his family. His life truly was faith, service, and family.”
– Jan Bear
Giving is foundational for the Wolf family
Like so many good things in life, The Wolf Family Charitable Foundation started with a love story.
While Paul Wolf was in the Navy during the Korean War and stationed on Whidbey Island, a friend living near Seattle invited him on a double date. Paul's date was Elizabeth, who had recently graduated from nursing school at University of Portland and was working at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Many decades later, Elizabeth admits that it took awhile for Paul to gain her affection, but Paul says he knew right away that she was the girl for him. She was Catholic and very pretty!
The two young people furthered their relationship through a steady stream of letters while Paul finished his last 18 months of military service. Paul knew he had to do a “selling job” and his efforts paid off. Paul and Elizabeth married soon after he finished his tour with the Navy and settled in Seattle.
As their family grew, Paul got his business degree from Seattle University and found a job as a salesman. He enjoyed success in this position, but it didn’t satisfy his ambitions. When a friend asked him to start a trucking company in Portland, he jumped at the chance.
"That was 1959," recalls Paul. "We started with one Volkswagen van, and we both drove it. Some days we'd have only two shipments, and you could carry both on one arm." Over the years, Airport Drayage grew to become one of the largest airfreight cartage companies in the Portland area.
Two of their six children, daughter Teri and son Brian, and Teri’s husband, Dennis, opted to work for the family business while their siblings chose different paths. Paul retired in 1994 leaving the company under the management of Teri, Brian, and Dennis, who have continued Paul’s legacy by growing the business that now employs about 60 in Portland and Salem. Since retirement, Paul and Elizabeth have enjoyed traveling the world and spending time with their 8 grandchildren.
Feeling very blessed, Paul and Elizabeth were inspired to find a way to share their good fortune and help others. After a bit of research, Paul and Elizabeth formed The Wolf Family Charitable Foundation with an infusion of stock and cash. "One reason we started the foundation," Paul says, "was so our children would learn to be givers and to help others. And it’s had a big payoff. We can’t do everything, but we can help." All of their children and the older grandchildren have embraced the notion of giving back and have participated in the financial growth of the foundation.
Their granddaughter, Madelyn, agrees. "I can see working in our family foundation in the future. I've been raised with a philosophy of giving, and I want to instill that in my children. I want to promote an attitude of kindness and gratitude for others."
Teri, director of the Foundation, explains that they focus their giving in three main areas: pro-life organizations, the poor and afflicted throughout the world, and orthodox Catholic organizations. Among the latter, the family contributes generously to the formation of priests at Mount Angel Seminary.
"We may be doing things in a small way," reflects Paul. "But we are grateful for the opportunity and encourage other families to do the same."
Lifelong devotion, kindness and joy are her legacy
“We’ll miss her something fierce,” remarked Abbot Nathan Zodrow, O.S.B., pastor of St. Agatha Church in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, and former abbot of Mount Angel Abbey. “Nancy was a pillar of the church, in the middle of most things.”
Nancy J. Curcio, who died February 23, 2016, was a pillar of Mount Angel Abbey, too – as a Legacy Society member, a longtime friend of the monks and seminarians, and an especially close friend of Fr. Cosmas White, O.S.B. Mount Angel Abbey is a grateful beneficiary of her estate.
Nancy was born in 1932 into a Catholic family in Johnson City, New York, to an Italian father and a mother from Newfoundland. Her surviving sister, 94-year-old Sr. Mary Gratia, C.S.J., is celebrating her 76th year with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Nancy embarked on a similar vocation, joining the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, where she served for ten years before transitioning to a career in education. In 1960, Nancy moved to Portland and began to teach at Cathedral School. There, she met her husband, Ben Curcio, an expert stonemason and craftsman, who died in 1999.
Nancy left Cathedral School to become a third-grade teacher at Clinton Kelly Elementary in Portland. After 26 years there, she retired in 1990. Her former students remember Nancy for upholding high standards – meticulous in dress, highly professional, and outstanding in all respects. After her death, Nancy’s nephew Ralph Curcio found a large file of letters and cards from her appreciative students.
“She obviously was a very good teacher, well-respected,” he noted.
The depth of Nancy’s spiritual life was apparent to all who knew her. “She had a rosary on both arms of her chair,” recounts Fr. Nathan. “She was quiet, devout.”
She made frequent retreats at Mount Angel Abbey, and was generous in both time and finances to the Abbey, her parish, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. No description of Nancy is complete without recalling her collection of delightful hats; she rarely was seen without one, framing her radiant face.
“She would always lend a kind word,” remembers Fr. Nathan. “Her presence was like sunshine.”
– Jim Thompson
Helping those in formation is a joy
for Mount Angel alumnus
Fr. William Dillard, a 1998 graduate of Mount Angel Seminary, has returned to the Hilltop to provide leadership for spiritual formation at the seminary and serve as a spiritual director to seminarians. Spiritual formation is one of the “four pillars” in the Seminary’s curriculum, which also includes human, intellectual, and pastoral formation.
As a native of Oregon, Fr. Dillard began his studies for the priesthood with the Archdiocese of Portland and was sent to study at Mount Angel Seminary. After his graduation, he served 18 years as a parish priest, first in Oregon and later in California. He also directed the spiritual direction program of the Diocese of San Diego.
Now, upon his return to the Hilltop, he sees a mix of the familiar and the new. “I am very happy to be back. It feels like coming home again. I’m very happy,” Fr. Dillard repeats with delight.
He also sees changes. “The physical features are lovely – the lawn and gardens in the quadrangle between the buildings are a big improvement. (Previously, cars parked in this area.) Annunciation Hall, the seminary’s academic center [in addition to Anselm Hall], is an especially great addition.
The formation program has improved as well. I think the Abbey has been able to improve continuously, and is on the cutting edge of priestly formation.”
As a member of the Legacy Society, Fr. Dillard offers an example and challenge to all who care about the future of the priesthood. “It’s important for the whole Church that alumni and others are generous partners in the task of supplying priests for the world.
Doing something in a concrete way, providing financial support, points in that direction.”
– Jim Thompson
A volunteer with a vision
Joan Le Barron is a woman with a vision. The Legacy Society member and others envisioned a parish church where a horse barn once stood. A founding member of Resurrection Catholic Church, Joan helped the parish move from Marylhurst College, where it began, to a horse farm in West Linn, Ore.
“We had to lift off the roof to remove the stalls from the barn,” she said. “I’ll never forget how nervous I was watching that helicopter. It hovered with its load, and then gently set the roof back on.” The parish moved in, and stayed, until Joan and others eventually raised money for a new building.
In a sense, she is still helping build the parish. She serves as lead sacristan and trains altar servers.
Joan is also helping in the formation of seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary, cheerfully volunteering to recruit table sponsors at the annual Seminary Benefit Dinner − which netted nearly a million dollars last year.
Part of her enthusiasm comes from watching the seminarians who serve their Deacon Year in Resurrection Catholic Church. “I see their growth from fall to spring,” she said. “They become wonderful homilists.”
Joan, who was once the youngest juvenile counselor in the State of Oregon, comes from a Catholic family, and her late husband Dale, who supported her parish work, eventually converted to Catholicism. She wants to support the upcoming generation of priests through her volunteer work and financial support.
“I’m happy to see the number of seminarians at Mount Angel growing,” Joan said. “When I see all the men at the seminary dinners, I feel very hopeful.”
Abbey is longtime passion for family
One might jest that the Dieringer family’s longstanding support of Mount Angel Abbey comes from a sense of guilt. Gene Dieringer fingers his great-grandfather Henry Bellarts as the culprit who parked his pickup truck in the Abbey garage, tossed his cigarette out the window onto a load of burlap sacks, and sparked the 1926 Hilltop inferno.
Whether Bellarts’ cigarette started the blaze – or not – the indisputable reason for the Dieringer’s multi-generational support of the Abbey is a family culture of thrift and generosity.
“As children, we were taught to record the money we earned,” said Vicki Ford, Gene’s sister. “Mom and Dad taught us to tithe, and we even had a tithing jar. Half of our 10 percent tithe would go to the Church and half to a charity of our choice.”
Gene, his brother Pat, and his sister Vicki grew up among twelve children in the Bob and Evelyn Dieringer family. “All of us received a Catholic education,” said Vicki, who now serves as pastoral associate at Holy Family parish in Portland, Ore. “We were close friends with many priests and they became part of our family life.”
Their parents are memorialized in the Bob and Evelyn Dieringer Endowment Fund, which supports Mount Angel seminarians. “The Abbey was one of their passions,” Gene said, “and they recognized that the future of the Church depended upon a quality education for our priests.”
The Abbey Foundation of Oregon recently received notice that it will be a recipient of a generous Legacy gift from the estate of Timothy Dieringer, another sibling. “Tim was a great example of a silent servant,” Gene said.
“Faith was everything to him. He was a sacristan par excellence, first at St. Ignatius parish in Portland, and then at Holy Family, our family’s home parish.” Tim started in the candy and ice cream business before entering the family’s property investment company, where he served as office manager.
Gene is in his fourth year of service as a board member for the Abbey Foundation of Oregon, and has chaired the Abbey’s Arts and Wine Festival, now the Saint Benedict Festival. “And
Gene drags me along – forced labor!” Pat says.
Given the well-established pattern of stewardship and community involvement of the Dieringer family, it probably doesn’t take much force.
Legacy Society member finds joy in friendship, giving
When Jackie Miller retired from her 34-year career of elementary school teaching in 1987, life seemed to speed up rather than slow down. “I’m not one to sit around,” she says. “The Lord made me that way.”
Jackie does have her reflective moments, especially when attending daily Mass at Mount Angel Towers, her retirement community. But even during the service, her mind sometimes wanders to her responsibilities as head sacristan, cantor and choir director. Jackie also oversees the mini-market at the Towers, has served on the Residents’ Council, and is often called upon for her bookkeeping and organizational skills.
Jackie comes from the small town of Lewiston, Idaho, but her travel adventures have taken her to countries around the world. Closer to home, Jackie seldom misses the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in Ashland, which she first attended in 1951. She has sung with the Salem Community Chorus, and has a deep appreciation for the arts, especially opera, watercolor painting and Shakespeare.
Jackie’s knowledge of her Catholic faith deepened years ago as she led seniors’ groups from her parish, Saint Edward’s in Keizer, Ore., to retreats at the Guest House. “I had been raised Catholic,” she said, “but at the retreats I learned so much more about my faith. I wanted to help the seminary train priests who could take this knowledge out to the parishes – to spread the Word.”
As a Legacy Society member, Jackie’s gifts run from the traditional to the imaginative: When she is “done” with a car, it goes to the Abbey. “I’ve been able to save and invest well,” says Jackie, who enjoys a simple lifestyle. “I find my happiness in friendship, in activity – and in giving to the causes that are important to me.”
Chance encounter turns into conversion, faith and philanthropy
Don and Mary Joan (“MJ”) Gordon have offered financial support to the Abbey and seminary over the years, but somehow they have always come away feeling as if they are the beneficiaries. “The blessing received has always been more than what has been given,” Don says.
He had his first encounter with the Abbey in the 1980s when he attended a meeting for his evangelical church at the Guest House. “I remember the beautiful presence of the monks,” he says, “but at that time I didn’t realize how important the beauty of the Hilltop would become.”
He also didn’t realize how important the Catholic faith would become. He joined the Church in 1997 and met his wife, MJ, in the pews. Now they worship together at St. Thomas More parish in Eugene, Ore. For the past two years, Don has served as a trustee of the Abbey Foundation of Oregon, which provides financial support to the ministries of Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.
MJ has made her own contributions to the Abbey. She and a friend, iconographer Kathy Barron, created an exquisite fabric icon of Saint George; it now hangs in the monastery cloister. MJ has also participated in the Eugene-based Valley Calligraphy Guild, whose work has been exhibited in the Abbey library. (She has created numerous banners for her parish.) She sees her craft as an expression of faith. “My work is not just a personal statement,” MJ says. “Beauty expresses God’s love.”
Don’s work with the trustees has increased his appreciation for the Abbey. “It’s the people you meet, the random conversations, always with their reassuring substance of faith and purpose of life. Sometimes I wonder where these faithful and dedicated monks and seminarians come from – how they are called out of the world and into these wonderful vocations.”
He recalled a board retreat where he met four new monks. “They all had this brave conviction that there’s much more to life than material things. It’s an important reminder to us on the foundation board who are mostly business folks,” says Don, who retired as plant manager of the Weyerhaeuser mill near Cottage Grove, Ore. “As business people, we are looking to the future of the Abbey, and we want to encourage a new generation of lay Catholics – people who are committed to their faith and to Christ – to offer support through gifts and endowments.”
Don and MJ are particularly interested in the renovations and expansion planned for the Guest House. After all, it was the Guest House ministry that first introduced Don to the Hilltop. Since that time, it has served as a place of refuge for both of them.
Abbey is spiritual home to oblate, volunteer
Gerlinde Brown was apprehensive when she drove up Abbey Drive for her first visit to Mount Angel Abbey in 1989. “I didn’t know if a normal human being could go up there,” she recalled. “I didn’t know if I should get out of the car.”
She had been inspired to visit the Abbey by Mount Angel monks who sometimes celebrated Mass at St. Francis in Sherwood, Ore., her parish at the time. “Their preaching had a special spiritual depth,” she says. “It moved my heart.”
Gerlinde spent her childhood in the Sudetenland, the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia. When all German-speaking families were evacuated to Germany in 1946-47, her family relocated in East Germany. Ten years later, facing the restrictions of the Communist regime, she made an escape to West Berlin, which she considered miraculous. Three police officers had entered her tram car in East Berlin and checked everyone’s passports – except hers.
In 1962 she moved with her small family to Oregon. For Gerlinde, who speaks English fluently but with a slight German accent, the German titles on the Stations of the Cross along Abbey Drive were a pleasant surprise.
Other surprises greeted her on the Hilltop during that first visit. A gentleman came to her car, welcomed her, and urged her to look around. She learned he was an oblate, one who is affiliated with the Abbey monks and promises to practice Benedictine spirituality and values as a lay person. Soon she met Fr. Bernard Sander, OSB, the guestmaster, and quickly came to feel welcome. Eventually, Gerlinde herself became a Benedictine oblate. She recalls she made her oblation on the same day the oblate who first met her on the Hilltop was laid to rest.
In subsequent years, Gerlinde served the Abbey by working in the sacristy, cleaning the church, and creating flower arrangements for the altars. After retiring, she went to the Abbey every day, often to log many hours in the “old chicken house” where the Abbey once manufactured candles and soap. Today, at age 78, she remains active as a lector at St. Luke’s, in Woodburn. While she does not get to the Abbey as often as she used to, she considers it her spiritual home and has included the Abbey in her will. “Every time I go there, I feel like I’m going home,” she says. “It’s my spiritual family.”
Next to Gerlinde’s armchair is her prayer book. From her home, she joins the monks in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, including Vigils and Lauds early in the morning. While she has given much to the Abbey, she feels nothing but gratitude. “Being at that beautiful place changed my life,” she says. “I feel blessed that I was able to help the monks, and that I can pray with them and have them as friends.”
Connection to Benedictines helps couple grow in faith
Allen and Georgann Reel first experienced the Abbey while attending a retreat for lawyers and their spouses in 1979. They quickly developed an interest in other activities, including the Abbey’s Summer Conference (now held at the University of Portland). “That was the greatest Catholic experience our family has ever had,” Georgann recalls.
Since then, they have watched for ways to support Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary. Particularly memorable for Allen is the time he spent hours pulling weeds on the Hilltop grotto – unaware that he was handling poison oak with his bare hands!
The Reels have found less painful ways to help, too, from tending the Stations of the Cross “huts” and cleaning the Abbey Church, to joining the steering committee of the annual Seminary Benefit Dinner. “The seminary does the training so well, and produces such good homilists,” Georgann says. “The dinner gives us a great chance to meet the seminarians.”
The Reels have contributed to numerous Catholic ministries, including their parish church, St. Cecilia in Beaverton, Ore., and its parochial school. For several years, Allen, an attorney who once served as a municipal judge, wrote a legal advice column for the Catholic Sentinel newspaper.
Longtime Abbey donors and members of the Legacy Society, Allen and Georgann became Benedictine oblates – lay affiliates of the monastery – in 1989. “Having a connection to the Benedictines has been a big part of our lives and helped us grow in our faith,” they agree. While making pilgrimages, such as walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, they have sought out Benedictine houses. “The hospitality was magnified,” Allen says. “We have felt part of the Benedictine family wherever we went.”
Asked about his vision for the future of Mount Angel, Allen responded, “I see it 125 years from now – vibrant, still doing the work of God.”
A chance visit to the Hilltop blossomed into a longtime relationship with the Abbey for Don and Georgette Mareina. The couple, from Newport Beach, Calif., decided to stop and see Mount Angel while visiting their children and grandchildren in Oregon, and they were drawn to the peaceful atmosphere and beauty of the place. “We were also impressed by the graciousness of the people,” Don said.
Since that visit, more than a decade ago, they have supported the Abbey, not only with their prayers, but also with their financial gifts, and a commitment to include the Abbey in their estate plans.
“After retirement, we were fortunate to have the means, through our United Parcel Service stock, to help the organizations of our choice,” said Don, who retired from UPS in 1979.
As members of the Legacy Society, Don and Georgette approach philanthropy with both pleasure and purpose. “At Mount Angel, we saw people doing their job,” Don said. “We like to see people helped, and we like the way the money is managed. We feel confident about their stewardship of our donations.
“I have been going to Mass since I was five years old, when I could first walk to church,” Don said. “My wife became Catholic in her teens. We’re strong in our faith, but we know we can’t do everything, so it’s important for us that our gifts be effectively used.”
Through the influence of the late Msgr. Robert Pierce, the Mareinas were inspired to direct their support to Mount Angel Seminary, to provide funding for the training of future priests.
Care for others is a Mareina family tradition. Son George, who lives in Gearhart, Ore., serves as president of St. Vincent de Paul of Seaside and directs a local food bank.
My Legacy: Love of God translates into love of people
"I have enjoyed every day of serving,” says Fr. Rock Sassano ’63, who was a monk at Mount Angel for more than two decades before becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Portland in 1987. Along the way, he says, “I learned to love God, love people and love the spiritual life.”
Now 82, people are still Fr. Rock’s passion. His refrigerator is covered with the pictures of hundreds of people, representing his work in numerous parishes and with the Young Life organization. He often hosts visitors, including small groups seeking the beauty and quiet of his cabin, on Fishhawk Lake in the northern Coast Range of Oregon.
“This is the house that love built,” Fr. Rock said. “Everything here was done in love.” His peaceful retreat was designed by a former student, and countless volunteers helped with construction. “Everything in here is a gift from someone – former students, parishioners, friends at the Abbey,” said Fr. Rock.
Fr. Rock entered Mount Angel Seminary as monk in 1958, after studying medical science, and continued his studies in science after graduate work in theology and his ordination to the priesthood in 1963. He taught in Mount Angel’s High School, College and Graduate School of Theology. “I think it’s important for seminarians to learn science,” he said. “It gives them the ability to relate to the natural world.”
Fr. Rock is a Legacy Society member and makes generous gifts each year to support the Seminary Benefit Dinner and the Festival of Arts & Wine.
“I still love the Abbey,” he said. “I have dear friends there, although so many are now departed. I always walk through the cemetery and say ‘Hi John’ or ‘Hi Blaise.’ I think there are 125 of them there.”
My Legacy: Bequest establishes new endowed chair in seminary
A devoted friend of Archbishop Robert Joseph Dwyer, who served the Archdiocese of Portland from 1966 to 1974, has left an anonymous bequest of nearly $1.8 million and a significant art collection to Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.
The endowment provides $1,180,939 to establish the Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer Chair for Humanities and $500,000 for a lecture series, also honoring the archbishop. Another $100,000 was given for the curating of the art collection.
Archbishop Dwyer visited Mount Angel Abbey often, finding it a place of retreat during the tumultuous years that saw the Vietnam War, the explosion of racial tensions, and controversies in the Church following the Second Vatican Council. He took an active role in supporting the construction of the Abbey’s library, designed by Alvar Aälto, and contributed thousands of volumes from his personal library.
Dwyer was the first diocesan Catholic priest born in Utah. He received his early education in Salt Lake City schools before attending the Marist Seminary in Langhorne, Pa., and later, St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif.
During his priesthood, Dwyer served as editor of the diocesan newspaper and wrote articles for Utah Historical Society journals. In 1941 he received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Catholic University of America with his dissertation, “The Gentile Comes to Utah,” later published in book form. He served as bishop of Reno from 1952 until 1966, when he was appointed archbishop of Portland, Ore. During his episcopate he continued his interest in history and the arts, and wrote editorials for both diocesan and national newspapers.
Fr. Philip Waibel, OSB, pastor of St. Mary’s in Mount Angel, remembers being in awe of the archbishop’s scholarship. “His columns were required reading,” Father Waibel said. “I think he saw that a remedy for social upheaval was to return to those things that give substance and meaning to family, social and church life.”
“It is an honor to have this Endowed Chair for Humanities,” said Monsignor Joseph Betschart. “The new chair will help us attract excellent professors, and it will help us further enhance our emphasis on the humanities, which are at the center of our college curriculum. It will prepare our students to better understand the culture in which they will serve.” The bequest, Betschart said, will also provide funds for research and writing, enhancing the entire seminary.”
In honoring Archbishop Dwyer with an endowment for the seminary and a large art collection, the donor knew what would bring pleasure to this remarkable man. Those who enjoyed his friendship remember a man of exquisite taste, with a love of literature, history and art. He insisted that things be done well.
Fr. Philip Waibel was a seminarian during the years Dwyer served the Oregon Archdiocese. He remembers how the archbishop loved the Abbey, and how the Benedictine ethos pleased him. “He wanted to associate himself with communities and institutions that would endure, and a monastery was a perfect place to serve as a repository for his fine books and art.”
Dwyer was a patron of the arts and commissioned numerous works from such artists as Jean Lambert-Rucki, Effie Charlton Fortune and Isabel Piczek. “I sometimes had the feeling that his great love of God was that of a connoisseur,” said Piczek. “He seemed to savor him and enjoy him with indescribable pleasure, discovering in him a new vision and a new taste every moment in an endless contemplation of the divine delight.”
The Dwyer collection has not yet been catalogued, nor have decisions been made about its future in the Abbey. These things, as the archbishop would have understood, take time. Earlier gifts, including chalices, an altar cross and candlesticks, are currently in use in numerous churches of the dioceses he led and in the convent of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Mount Angel Abbey possesses an exquisite Lambert-Rucki crozier donated by Archbishop Dwyer (pictured).
“Go see the crozier,” said Fr. Philip. “It will tell you all about the man. He loved the centuries of Benedictine tradition, and knew he had a place where his treasures could go.”
My Legacy: Elizabeth "Betty" Wheeler
A life as grand and generous as that of Betty Wheeler, longtime supporter of Mount Angel Abbey and many Catholic charities, is difficult to summarize. Fr. Edmund Smith, OSB, who preached at her funeral mass in St. Thomas More Church, Portland, attempted to capture some of Betty’s vibrant personality with a story.
He relates how their mutual friend, Monsignor James Ribble, onetime president-rector of Mount Angel Seminary, was driving Betty to her parish in Portland’s West Hills. On the long, twisting road, she announced that he was driving too slowly, asked him to stop, and switched places so she could “put the pedal to the metal” up the hill to the church. Fr. Edmund comments that she was not a woman to live life in first gear.
For many years, the Abbey has been a recipient of major gifts from Betty Wheeler. Through her final years, Betty remained a member of St. Joseph’s Circle, those with a high level of commitment to the Abbey Foundation of Oregon, and she was a member of the Legacy Society.
Betty, whose long life included graduate-level study of art, and support of symphonic music, hospital work and outreach to the poor, could delight in many things. Something as simple as pure, white flowers would bring her delight. Did she glimpse in them the church’s celebration of the Resurrection? Or simply marvel at their brightness?
Her friends, including those of us associated with the Abbey, will cherish the image of Betty, returned to her home church, her casket covered with white roses, and commend to God a life fully-lived and unselfishly given to others.
My Legacy: Through Thick and Thin
In 1958, Timothy Rolfe enrolled as a junior at Mount Angel Seminary High School. Three years later, he knew he wanted to join the monastic community. He made his simple profession and earned his bachelor’s of philosophy in 1963. With the guidance of Abbot Damian, he discerned his place was not as a monk, and he departed to join the Air Force.
He was encouraged to enroll in Officer’s Training School, although he “wasn’t sure about going from humble junior monk to leader of men.”After serving for four and a half years, he deployed his GI education benefits, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry, mathematics and computer science from the University of Oregon. This was followed by graduate degrees in theoretical physical chemistry and computer science at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota respectively. The studies, he said, “kept the cobwebs out.”
His career included teaching and computer lab positions at MIT, Gonzaga University, Dakota State University and, finally, Eastern Washington University, where he retired as a full professor. His studies in the sciences make him disagree with those who insist they can fully understand God. If even the specialists cannot fully understand creation, how can anyone pretend to understand the Creator?
Tim has remained loyal to Mount Angel Abbey through thick and thin. His will states that his financial estate, including what remains of his supplemental retirement account (his “mad” money), will go to the Abbey. At the Hilltop this July for the Abbey Bach Festival, he visited the workmen’s cemetery where he will be buried one day, near the monks he has known since he first arrived as a 15-year-old eager to learn, work and pray.
My Legacy: Leola Bowerman
When seminarian Daniel Steele, studying pre-theology, called Leola Bowerman during the spring phonathon, he didn't expect the call to result in a visit to an attorney. “He ought to give lessons in fundraising,” she said later. “He was so precious and pastoral.”
Dan, who hails from the Yakima Diocese, learned that Leola is retired and living on a fixed income. What’s more, she had just had her identity stolen and her computer had crashed. After listening carefully, he said he wouldn't expect her to give anything, but even a gift of $10 would help the seminary.
His sympathy made a difference. Although Leola pledged a generous monthly gift, she said she “felt guilty” after the call. It had been the most pleasant conversation of her day and she had received 10 fundraising calls! The next day she arranged to meet her attorney so she could change her will to include Mount Angel Seminary.
Leola was pleased to report her decision to Dan and Lynn Jones, her good friends and fellow parishioners at St. Pius. (Lynn then served as president of the Abbey Foundation of Oregon.) And when Leola received a fundraising call from another organization, she told the caller they should take lessons from the future priests at Mount Angel Seminary.
My Legacy: Rosmarie Furrer
"The monks of Mount Angel helped my ancestors when they first came to the Northwest in the 1920s. They made it possible for my family members to receive food and shelter when no one else would. While I have always appreciated the work of the Benedictines and the priests who received training at Mount Angel Seminary, I felt a debt of gratitude to Mount Angel Abbey. For these reasons, I have decided to leave my home to the Abbey Foundation to provide a future source of funding for the education of monks and seminarians. Thank you, Mount Angel, for being there for my family.”
My Legacy: Arlene Harris Smit
"It seems I have always known of Mount Angel Abbey. St. Benedict's simple phrase, "Ora et Labora" (work and prayer) capture the essence of Benedictine life. Their work and prayer life, and their hospitality, motivated me to become a Benedictine oblate in 1959, to unite myself more closely with them.
After 50 years of association with the Benedictines, I decided to leave a legacy for the education of future priests. By naming the Abbey Foundation of Oregon as a beneficiary of my estate in appreciation for the outstanding work the monks do, I can be a part of the future of the Catholic Church in many parts of the world.
Until six years ago I knew very little about Mount Angel Abbey, even though I grew up as a practicing Catholic in the Portland Archdiocese. I knew they had a seminary, but I had no idea how significant it was, or the impact Mount Angel Abbey has on our Catholic community. Over the years I participated in prayers for religious vocations, but took no other actions to help build vocations.
I was introduced to Mount Angel Abbey at the Seminary Benefit Dinner. I was very impressed and shortly thereafter accepted an offer to join the foundation board. This has been a very gratifying experience for me. I have learned that the Abbey is a resource for our Catholic community, from its unparalleled library, spiritually rewarding retreats, spiritual guidance, and the top-notch seminary. Currently, there are 180 seminarians enrolled, including 24 from the Archdiocese of Portland.
Supporting the seminary is especially appealing for my wife Nancy and me, and we do this in various ways, including sponsorships of the Seminary Dinner, the Festival of Arts & Wine, and other special appeals.
We wanted to leave a legacy gift for the seminary, so we made the seminary a secondary beneficiary on some of our IRA funds. This allows us to endow a seminary scholarship fund that meets a significant need at the Abbey. This is an easy estate planning technique to execute. It allows us financial security during our lives and eventually will benefit seminarians, while avoiding income and estate taxes.
Contact us to learn more about leaving your Legacy.