Ask the Abbot

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Since Abbot Benedict’s election in late-November, I have wanted to film a few videos on him. A couple of years ago I started a fun series of videos called: “Ask a Monk”. This video features Abbot Benedict. Listen to his responses to the questions and get to know some of his preferences.

Mid-February Update

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Somehow we have found ourselves halfway through February. The past few weekends I have been helping out with retreats for college students, which have proven to be very enjoyable work. This weekend I’ll travel to visit a monastery vocation candidate. There has been strong interest in the monastery lately and I’m always eager to share the joys of monastic life with men who are seeking God’s will in their lives.

Abbot Primate Gregory has been back visiting the monastery since this past Wednesday. He was at the Abbey giving a weekend retreat that focused on the Call Narratives in Scripture. He will attend the Abbot’s Workshop in California before returning to Rome, Italy. It is always good to have him back home and to visit with him.

From Thursday of this week onward, we have projected highs in the 60’s for the temperature. It certainly makes me wonder what March will bring, but for the meantime, we will gladly take this beautiful weather.

I made my way around campus taking a few pictures. Enjoy the beauty found this time of year!

March for Life

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I met up in Washington, D.C. with a group of eight Conception Seminary College seminarians who traveled the distance for the March for Life. I flew and they opted for the road trip experience. When I arrived Thursday morning, I headed to St. Anselm’s Abbey where we would be staying the evening. The English Benedictine monks were gracious enough to offer us hospitality for two nights.

Below: Pictures of St. Anselm’s Abbey and church.

I met up with our seminarians just before the Vigil Mass at the Basilica Shrine. This is one of my favorite churches and there were crowds of pilgrims there for the Mass Thursday evening, which Cardinal Dolan celebrated.

I was able to catch up with my confrere, Br. Etienne, who had traveled with a group from his theology school, St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The group of seminarians soon after we met up before the Vigil Mass. They had a couple long days of driving!

After spending the night at St. Anselm’s Abbey, we headed out early to get to the DC Armory for the Youth Rally and Mass. We navigated our way on the DC Metro.

We walked on foot from L’Enfant plaza on a nice January day, stopping to take a few pictures on the way.

Below: This was as close as we could get to the stage for the rally before the March. Fortunately we could hear the speakers well, including Vice-President Mike Pence address the crowd.

Shortly after taking the picture above, EWTN saw our signs and invited us for an interview. We were happy for the opportunity (see the portion of our interview below).

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Above: One blessing of so many people gathered in one place from all over the world is that you occasionally run across friends and people you know. Here I am pictured with a group of young people from Sts. John and Paul parish in Wexford, Pennsylvania. This the parish where I served during my final year of theology when I was a deacon. These people and this parish are very special to me.

Later in the evening after the March for Life, I met up with a vocation candidate and my confrere, Fr. Victor (who is studying in Washington, D.C.). We had a nice time going out for supper and then we went to see some of the monuments and memorials along the National Mall.img_0895img_0898

Alumni Union Renovation

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Last year I was assigned to head a team to look at renovating our “Alumni Union.” It is the space in St. Maur Hall where the seminarians congregate regularly when they are looking to relax, interact with one another, and just hang out. Additionally, the Union offers snacks and beverages to purchase. It is one of the more popular places for them to hang out on a Friday evening.

After getting three seminarians on the team to help brainstorm and access the needs of the students and the use of the space, we devised a questionnaire to ask the seminarians why they go to the Union and what they would like to see change.

After gather the information and results from the questionnaire, I called upon my talented sister-in-law to help with the design ideas. My sister-in-law, Paige, is the owner of an excellent Interior Design business in Oklahoma City, called A-Line Designs. I knew she would be very helpful in the planning process and assisting with a new design. She and her team were wonderful and got the project moving in the right direction.

Below you can see pictures of what the Alumni Union looked like before the most recent renovation.

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A-Line Designs worked up a few designs and sent them our way.

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The renovation began in November 2016 and was complete in early-January 2017. The seminarians now have a new look to their favorite space. Many minds and hands went into making this vision a reality, including A-Line Designs, many of our employees, and Wiederholt Construction. Hopefully this space will serve us well for years to come!

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The Abbatial Blessing 

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Abbot Benedict was blessed as the 10th Abbot of Conception Abbey in a beautiful ceremony on Sunday, January 15th. While the weather prevented many guests from attending, we were able to live-stream the liturgy online.

You can still watch the video by clicking here

Below are some pictures from the ceremony at which Bishop Johnston presided.




Below: Conception Abbey’s 10th Abbot (Abbot Benedict Neenan) and the 9th Abbot (Abbot Primate Gregory Polan)
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SEEK2017 

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On Monday evening, January 2nd, Br. Etienne and I traveled with 45 students from Northwest Missouri State University to attend SEEK 2017, the Catholic college student conference put on by FOCUS.

Monday evening we departed Maryville, Missouri at 9:30 PM en route to San Antonio, Texas. I’m not one for long bus rides, but the 15-16 hours of total travel time was not as bad as I had expected. Nevertheless, we arrived in sunny San Antonio on Tuesday afternoon feeling like we had spent all night on a bus (oh wait, we actually did!). The tiredness and memories of attempting to sleep upright quickly faded and were replaced with excitement and warmer weather. While the warmer 70 degree weather disappeared and was replaced with 30 degree temperatures, the excitement remained.

The Downtown Riverwalk area is absolutely beautiful, with its lights, restaurants, and the numerous hotels were the 12,500 students who attended the conference were staying. Haven’t been to the Riverwalk? Just enjoy these pictures.

There were spectacular speakers at the conference: Matt Hart, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Lou Holtz, Matt Fradd, Dr. Edward Sri, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Sarah Swafford, and many more. Each morning began with the celebration of the Eucharist. It was powerful concelebrating Mass with more than 200 priests in the long procession. One of the speakers that I enjoyed in particular was Coach Lou Holtz (pictured below).


Thankfully the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is capable of hosting such a large crowd of people. One of the best things was walking around the convention center and running into countless priests and students that I have crossed paths with over the years.

We ran into many priest alumni of Conception Seminary College, including Fr. Sam Matthiesen and Fr. Adam Droll of San Angelo, Texas.

We were also able to do some sightseeing during walks between the convention center and the hotels. I was able to catch up with a few monastic vocation candidates as well during the trip.

Perhaps the most powerful experience was Thursday evening during the Adoration and Reconciliation service. There were more than 300 priest hearing confessions for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Apparently the line for Reconciliation became so long that it was a fire hazard. Many of the students on our bus shared their conversion experiences and encounters with Jesus Christ during the ride home. It was a graced time for everyone.

Celebrating Christmas

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One of the best things about Christmas in the monastery is that our life is so united with the Church’s liturgical year, that we truly experience the celebration of Christmas throughout the Octave. For most of society, once December 25th is passed, Christmas is officially over. These days within the Octave of Christmas have been very rich liturgically and enjoyable with brothers in community.

Below: The Basilica looks beautiful this time of the year, especially with the crib in the minor apse.




Additionally, we have had some pleasant and sunny days. I captured some of the scenes around the Abbey.


Below: Abbot Benedict out for a walk on a cool December day.

Monastic Life

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Please be sure to check out the blog on Conception Abbey’s main website to see my latest contribution: 5 Ways to Live Like a Monk in the World.

Yesterday evening we had two vocation candidates arrive. On Friday evening we will have six more arrive for the weekend, and we will add one more on Saturday evening. Yes- that is a total of nine men visiting the monastery this weekend and further exploring if God is calling them to monastic life at Conception Abbey. It is always a joyful time to share such with others the wonderful call to be a monk. Please keep these men in your prayers!

This past week we have had several special feast days (Immaculate Conception, Gaudete Sunday, and Our Lady of Guadalupe) which gave us the opportunity to use some of our more elegant vestments and decorations.

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Video: Encountering Christ

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Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! 

Today is our big feast day as we celebrate this wonderful Solemnity for the Church and our community which is under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception.

I completed a video and launched it this morning on Facebook and YouTube. It communicates the importance that monasteries have in the world, especially amid the many distractions and voices that we encounter on a daily basis. Conception Abbey is a place of peace and silence, and a community that fosters an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope that you enjoy this video and share it with others.

Please pray for vocations to our community- that many young men follow Christ in our monastic way of life.