On a Mission 


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I have been substituting at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa for the past couple of weeks and will be here through the end of the week.  When the pastor, Fr. Aquinas Nichols, takes his summer vacation, usually one of our monks is asked to staff the parish.  In recent years Fr. Albert has come to help, but since he was already traveling a lot this summer with our new seminary rector, I was asked to fill in.

The Basilica is a beautiful and very historic church in Des Moines.  Fr. Aquinas has put a lot of time and energy into ensuring a reverent celebration of the liturgy.  There is also an excellent parish staff and several deacons who assist in various capacities.  It makes coming here and assisting with Mass and the other sacraments a very smooth process.

The experiences I have had are too innumerable to recount, but I assure you they have been filled with many blessings.  I have celebrated the daily Mass for the parish and 3 weekend Masses.  In addition, I have celebrated one wedding and two funerals and visited the hospital to anoint a man.  This is very valuable and important experience that I might not otherwise have at the monastery.

Below:  The Basilica of St. John is a very large and ornate church.

The non-liturgical highlight of Des Moines has been being able to ride their amazing bike trails, which extend throughout the city and beyond.  Last week, I rode the trail north toward Madrid and Woodward, Iowa, where I was able to cross the famous High Trestle Bridge.

Whatever your calling in life, it is important to have healthy and creative outlets!

Nature, Up-close and Personal


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I had a good response from the blog posting of our Br. Etienne’s macro photography, so I decided it was worth posting more.  He takes some amazing detailed shots of flowers and insects, and it reveals a certain beauty in ways that the human eye isn’t normally able to see.  Enjoy!IMG_5067

10604694_510395427254_519072163647508576_o IMG_7915 IMG_7925 IMG_7939 10455863_507626057094_3033840518810405087_n 11146657_510395796514_8539201112364756928_n 11264842_510395442224_7165780381737413960_n 11402986_510248846004_774517504730963332_n 11752499_510395467174_5624204246534241495_n 11752537_510395387334_334238531853963764_n IMG_7760 IMG_7822

Out in the Summer Heat


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It is been a busy week and I have not been able to get these pictures up sooner. As these warm summer days continue, the work outside the monastery goes on. The sidewalks are looking very nice  and will serve the monks and our guests well for many years to come. On the south side of the monastery there is the addition of the patio area for the monastic community which we will be able to use during recreation and at other times.


Pave the Way


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Workers were focusing their efforts on the south side of the monastery Monday morning and afternoon, where they are putting in a concrete patio area and continuing to finish the sidewalks around campus.  Their work, however, was abruptly suspended due to an impressive rainfall that lasted most of the afternoon and into the evening. 

Below:  Monks enjoy a nice evening and check out the area before the concrete is poured.

Outside the Monastery


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Plenty of work has been going on inside the monastery, but there is still a lot of work that needs to take place outside and around the building. The old concrete stairs on the west side of the monastery were demolished in order to put in new ones.

Br. Etienne recently took some amazing macro pictures.  Macro photography focuses on small details.  He enjoys taking pictures of flowers and other things in nature.

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Monastery Blessing 


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June 25– We hosted our Benedictine friends from Missouri and Kansas for the blessing of the monastery.  Abbot Gregory presided over the brief ceremony which took place in the monastery chapter room.  It included a greeting, singing of a Psalm, reading, hymn, and blessing of the newly renovated monastery with holy water.  Afterwards the Benedictine brothers and sisters from different communities, were invited to tour the first floors of the monastery and enjoy refreshments and conversation.

This was a historic day for our monastic community.  God be praised!         

Below:  Guests pay a visit to the monastery dining room.  

Below:  Fr. Macario, playing the role of “Mr. Hospitality.”  

Below:  Fr. Xavier (right) explains to Prior Jeremy (St. Benedict’s, Atchison) about how monasteries were built in the good ol’ days (or they were talking sports).        
Below:  Br. Maximilian shows one of the sisters (Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles) a picture of a monk’s room.              

Behind the Cloister Door


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We’re back in the Monastery!

The monastic community made the move on Monday, June 15th.  While much of the work occurred on that day, there is still plenty of moving and cleaning going on.  Everyone is adjusting well to a familiar environment with a completely new look.

Workers still roam the hallways giving necessary attention to touch-up work here and there, and probably many technical issues that I admit are beyond my competency.  The basement and the 4th floor still need a fair amount of work, but the residence floors (2nd and 3rd) and the common rooms (1st floor) are finished.  It will take some time to work out a few of the minor issues, but the monastery is comfortable, and most importantly, safe.  We are especially grateful to all of our friends and benefactors who have supported us throughout this renovation.  We look forward to welcoming you into our home in the months ahead.

Below:  Br. Cyprian does a little bit of cleaning on the stairwell.  The monks decided to do the cleaning themselves to save money.IMG_5019

Below:  The coffee and mail room in working order.IMG_5024 IMG_5025

Below:  The refectory (monks’ dining room) has nice new oak tables and chairs.  It is artistically very pleasant.IMG_5029

Below:  The community recreation rooms are already finding plenty of use.IMG_5055

Above:  Temporary nameplates adore the top of the doors.  A more permanent fixture will be in place soon.

Below:  Br. Michael and Fr. Pachomius began hanging the artwork in the monastery this week.IMG_5061

Below:  The new Mass and reservation chapel.  Abbot Gregory celebrated the first Mass in the chapel on the Feast of John the Baptist and now the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for adoration.IMG_5074 IMG_5083 IMG_5086 IMG_5089

Below: The chapter room with recently installed crucifix and murals.IMG_5093

Below:  The cloister doors in the west hallway
IMG_5203IMG_5162 IMG_5174  IMG_5205

Companion Camp 2015

We are in the midst of our annual Companion Camp. I camp for 6th, 7th and 8th grade boys. We also invite high school boys to come and be a part of the camp staff. There are many activities throughout the weekend to keep the campers occupied. We also want them to have a positive experience of faith, prayer and getting a chance to meet seminarians, monks and priests. This year we welcome 30 campers and 15 high school students.                                                     

Batter-up! Annual Priests Softball Game is a Winner


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Archbishop Naumann taking a swing.

The roaring of the crowd filled Community America Ballpark (T-Bones Stadium in Kansas City, KS) on Monday night for the 2nd Annual Pitching for Priests Softball Game sponsored by Catholic Radio.  The priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph sought to defend their title from last year’s slugfest against the priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

It is a game that I look forward to and anticipate months in advance.  Why?  Because I love sports, especially playing them.  My ordination classmate and fellow Benedictine confrere, Fr. Victor Schinstock and I took the field representing the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the monks of Conception Abbey.  We figured that the KCK priests would come to the game seeking to avenge last year’s loss, so Fr. Victor and I were certain to be prepared for this year’s contest.  We held a couple practices in the weeks leading up to the game, including enlisting several of the local youth to sharpen our skills.

Monday afternoon, as we drove to Kansas City, scattered showers threatened to put a damper on the evening game.  However, with prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary for good weather, our Holy Mother turned what could have been a game cancellation into a night were fans only briefly had to fend off a light rain with their umbrellas.  No game delays, no postponing, no cancellation.   Play ball!

The atmosphere was great- well over 2,500 fans in the stadium, more than 30 priests playing for both teams, and one nice field to play on.  One could see men and women religious, wearing their habits, cheering loudly alongside many parishioners of the parishes where the priests serve.  After the singing of the National Anthem and a prayer, Archbishop Naumann throw out the first pitch of the game.

The game did not start all that well for our team.  After a lackluster 1st inning, our team (the Missouri side), was unable to score any runs (or really get on base).  The Kansas side hit well and drove in 4 runs.  A total of 10 priests bat each inning for each team (regardless of out), so, with a roster of 18 players, not every priests bats in each of the 6 innings of the game.  I hit a lead-off double my first at bat in the top of the 2nd inning.  Apparently that sparked something for the men in blue, for we scored 7 runs that inning.  Fr. Victor added a single and showed some great speed around the bases.
Fr. Paul, double to right field
Below:  Fr. Victor keeping the rally going
Above:  Fr. Paul and Fr. Victor, monks formulating a strategy (always dangerous)
 Joan and Chase Farnan, showing off their signs.  I didn’t know whether to be flattered or embarrassed.

From that point forward, our defense was solid.  I played shortstop the entire game, scooping up ground balls and catching pop flies and Fr. Victor caught everything hit his way in left field.  Consistent.  Dependable.  We were playing good ball.  The Kansas side scored only 2 runs each of the following innings.  With Missouri up 5 runs in the top of 6th and final inning, we simply had to play defense and prevent Kansas from scoring.  We did just that.  The KCK priests failed to get on base during their last at bat, and we secured the victory 17-12 !!

If you cannot tell by now, I’m passionate about sports (and competitive) and really enjoy a good game of softball.  This is a unique game, where the proceeds benefit the Vocation Office for both Dioceses.  Last year they raised in excess of $25,000 and I expect they did the same this year.  Also, this game supports vocations not only financially, but also in the witness the priests give by getting out, enjoying themselves, and showing that we are men simply called to a different way of life.
I am grateful for all of the people who showed up for the game and supported us.  I am also thankful to my Dad for teaching me how to play baseball when I was growing up, so that I could contribute to the team in a positive way.IMG_3936

Moving Day Approaches


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Moving Day, also known as “Monday”, is quickly approaching.  The monks are eager to settle into the newly renovated monastery. There are four “moving teams” assigned and each team will have ½ hour to move the effects of each monk from St. Joseph Hall to the monastery.  Monks are asked to have their belongings boxed and ready to move at their assigned time.

Here are some of my most recent pictures of the monastery, taken Thursday afternoon.  The monks were permitted to move some of their things over already.

Above and Below:  Mass chapel with border detail shot.IMG_3748 IMG_3749
Above and Below:  Monastery dining room.IMG_3750
 Monastery coffee and mail roomIMG_3751 IMG_3752
Above and Below:  Center stairwell and landing
Below:  Monks’ roomsIMG_3754 IMG_3755 IMG_3759 IMG_3760IMG_3763 IMG_3764 IMG_3766
Above and Below:  First floor common roomsIMG_3767IMG_3768 IMG_3769
Above and Below:  New entrance/exit from northwest stairwellIMG_3771

Lastly, enjoy this time lapse I shot Wednesday afternoon.






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