More Fall Colors

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These past few days have proven to be one of the most beautiful fall seasons that I can remember. The leaves are especially vibrant, and this weekend we have enjoyed temperatures in the mid-60’s. We had our share or cloudy and rainy days, but the trees are in all their glory and beauty.

Nothing says fall like a long bike ride, which I enjoyed yesterday. I biked to Bolckow, a town about 15 miles from the Abbey. The two trees in their park were among the most beautiful ones I have seen and bright orange leaves were scattered all over the ground.

Below: Enjoy more sights around the Abbey, especially the gorgeous aerial photos!

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Monastic Recreation

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This past weekend we had two monastic vocation candidates visiting. On Friday evening we had a game night and social. After visiting for a little while, we ended up playing Bang! The Dice Game. It is a hidden identity, bluffing, dice game where you try to eliminate other players based on your hidden character card. It involves a Sheriff, Vice-Deputies, Outlaws, and Renegades. We had a fun time playing.

The novices really like playing walleyball. What is walleyball? It is basically volleyball played inside the racquetball court, where you can also hit the ball of the walls. It is a lot of fun and easy to learn. Saturday morning Br. Luke and Br. Matthew and the two novices were steeped in some intense competition.

Rock climbing

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On Saturday I went to an indoor rock climbing gym with three seminarians, all seniors at Conception Seminary College. I had been chaplain to these three seminarians during their freshman year in the seminary. It was a good time of team building and testing of physical and mental strength. Also, joining us was Dr. Zita Toth, a second year philosophy professor at Conception Seminary. Dr. Toth used to climb a few days a week while she was in graduate school in New York, but hadn’t climbed since she made the transition to the midwest. Since three of us knew how to belay and tie a figure eight knot, we were able to skip out of the training course and the other two in our group were ‘climbers only.’ I had been to this same gym about one year ago. Days later my hands and arms are still sore, but we were glad to enjoy the time together.

Thunder Cup Weekend

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This past weekend, October 13-14, six other seminaries traveled to Conception, Missouri to compete in our annual Thunder Cup Tournament. The weekend features a soccer tournament and a volleyball round robin tournament.

The soccer fields were pretty soggy from several days of rain that fell before the weekend. The main soccer field was torn up pretty quickly by seminarians competing and the other field still retain a lot of water. Additionally, temperatures in the morning were only in the 40’s. The afternoon, however, provided much nicer and sunnier weather, which was enjoyable particularly for the spectators.

The CSC soccer team lost both of their games in the tournament, but still enjoyed the competition. Our Lady of Guadalupe from Denton, NE ended up winning the soccer championship.

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At 6:30 in the evening on Saturday, the volleyball tournament began. Each team would play every other team in the tournament, a total of six games. I’ve lost track of how many years that I have coached CSC’s Sons of Thunder volleyball team. We practiced twice a week in preparation for the tournament.

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Above: We celebrate together a victory in our final game, winning 3 games and losing 3 games. While we didn’t make it to the championship game, we played well and I was pleased with our performance. St. Meinrad (St. Meinrad, IN) Seminary defeated St. John Vianney (St. Paul, MN) in the championship game.

Below: A team group photo after the tournament- all smiles!Thunder Cup 2018 - 318

There was one final competition that weekend. Bishop Michael Sis of the Diocese of San Angelo and I played five games of racquetball on Saturday afternoon. Bishop Sis is an avid racquetball player. I don’t play consistently, but I have always enjoyed playing racquet sports (I played tennis in high school). Pictured below: Fr. Paul and Bishop Sis before our five game series. I ended up defeated His Excellency four games to one.

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Promoting Vocations

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It was a busy and good work for monastery vocations. On Saturday, September 29th, Br. Placid and I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to attend the Christ Our Life Conference. The Christ Our Life Catholic Regional Conference is a non-profit conference held at the Wells Fargo Arena. Christ Our Life Catholic Regional Conference was conceived in 2008 and was inspired by the Holy Spirit pulling on the hearts of two women in central Iowa. They prayed, gathered a dedicated and spiritually motivated group of volunteers, and secured world-renowned speakers.

This year’s conference welcomed such presenters as Bishop Robert Barron, Thomas Cardinal Collins, and Matt Fradd. Br. Placid and I set up a monastery vocation display and visited with many people throughout the day. Some of the people who came to talk to us had visited the Abbey on retreat or some were friends or relatives on the monks. I also had the opportunity to hear confessions for more than 4 hours, which was a beautiful and powerful experience.

Below: New for our display was the banner of St. Benedict which is taken from a mural in the Abbey Basilica. The mural printed on canvas was a striking and beautiful addition to the display (n.b. the advertisement  for New Amsterdam Vodka didn’t have anything to do with our display- ha).

On Thursday morning I celebrated Mass at St. Michael the Archangel High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. It is a new Catholic High School only its second year. I also had the chance to speak to the sophomore theology class about monastic life.


Above: The gathering space in the entrance to the high school.
Below: Part of the gymnasium.

Below: The Sacred Heart chapel.

Below: Thursday evening’s sunset back at Conception Abbey.

Vocation Work

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This past weekend I traveled to Oklahoma to do promote monastic vocations at the Catholic Center on the campus of Oklahoma State University. My classmate, Fr. Kerry Wakulich, is pastor at St. John’s Catholic Student Center and he is always welcoming to the monks of Conception Abbey.

What do you do when you travel to a college campus for vocations?

Normally the pastor invites me to celebrate Mass and preach to the students. This past visit I took the Friday noon Mass, the Sunday morning Mass, Sunday evening Mass, and Monday noon Mass. I also setup a vocation display and have different information about monastic life, prayer cards, and Benedictine medals available for the students. I make myself available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for spiritual direction and schedule appointments with the students. I witness to the Benedictine way of life by being around campus and the student center in my monastic habit. Many students don’t know about monastic life and I need to be present to answer their questions. Since I’ve visited OSU about once a semester for a couple of years, I have gotten to know many of the students’ names. Building relationships is an important part of the ministry.

In this case, it is also a helpful connection that I attended Oklahoma State for two years before entering seminary. While at Oklahoma State I was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, which is always something students are surprised to hear.

Below: Fr. Kerry and I pose next to the monastery vocation display board and materials.

Below: Monday evening Fr. Kerry arranged for 15 men from the Newman Center to meet out at a ranch outside of town. The ranch belongs to one of the parishioners. We started with skeet shooting, then grilled some pork chops. It was a good chance for fellowship and brotherhood. One of the freshmen is pictured below aiming at one of the clay pigeons.

On the morning I was departing to return to Conception, I was able to visit my niece and nephew’s classrooms at their Catholic grade school. My nephew is in first grade and I am pictured below with his teacher and class. I gave them icon prayer cards of St. Benedict and medals.

Upon my return, Wednesday evening I did my usual ministry at the Newman Center at Northwest Missouri State University and afterwards we had another Bible Study. We continued our discussion about the Eucharist and Mass. To begin the Bible Study I had organized a quiz about the Mass. We used Kahoot, a website that allows you to make a quiz and have all of the participants use their mobile devices to answer the multiple choice questions. Since everyone in the group is really competitive, the quiz format went well.

Bible Study

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On Wednesday evenings after ministry at the Newman Center at Northwest Missouri State University, I lead a Bible Study for ten college age men and women. The group is comprised of kids all who have graduated from Jefferson High School (Conception Junction, MO) in the past few years. Jefferson High School is less than 2 miles away from the Abbey.

It’s our second year gathering together for Bible Study. We have covered a lot of different topics and passages during our time together. Typically we start with some sort of opening game, read a Scripture passage and I lead them in a reflection and encourage them to think interact with the Word of God through my asking questions. Since the group have been close friends for years, practically all of them growing up together, we share a lot of laughs too. They are young people who want to grow in their faith and are willing to sacrifice their time to talk about how God is working in their lives. It’s a very rewarding experience as a priest to be able to help them in their faith and enjoy their friendship.

Yesterday evening we talked about the Mass. I gave them notecards with different parts of the Mass printed on them and they had to arrange them in the proper order, beginning with the Sign of the Cross and Greeting, concluding with the Prayer after Communion, Blessing, and Dismissal. Each small group also had a Catholic Mass Quiz that they worked together to complete. We conclude by sharing a challenge and a blessing from the past week, and closing with prayer.

Below: Evening sunset on my way to Bible Study.

September in Photos

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The month of September is going by quickly. We have had some beautiful weather. Early on we had about a week of rain, which the farmers appreciated very much. Then, we have had plenty of sunshine, so everything is green in a way that we hadn’t seen all summer long.

The seminarians had their first off-campus weekend this past weekend. They were eager to get away for a couple of days. The monks said farewell to two of our confreres within a short period of time: Br. Jeremiah died on September 5 and Br. Stephen died on September 11. We had a couple of beautiful liturgies to assist them with our prayers.

Below: Novice Gregory and I play a deck-building card game called Hero Realms. He glares at me only as an attempt at intimidation. His attempt fails.

Below: Morning fog.

Below: More beautiful pictures from around the Abbey.

Below: Abbot Benedict offers the prayers at the cemetery for our confrere Br. Stephen. The funeral was held on Saturday, September 15.

Below: Br. Placid and Br. Luke enjoy a stroll on a sunny day.

End of August

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How did we get to the end of August?

I flew the drone yesterday to capture some wonderful aerial pictures. Even though we had such a dry summer, recent rains have really greened up the campus.

Below: The novices and juniors playing cards and being goofy one evening.

Above: Marian statue and grotto near the Infirmary garden.

Below: Br. Placid and students hold a work day for the grotto out on the walking trail.