Alumni Reunion Weekend

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Mass for the Alumni Reunion was on Friday late afternoon and the principal celebrant was Abbot Gregory. This would be the last Mass he would celebrate in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception before he departed for Rome.

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The prayers and readings focused on the theme of mercy as Abbot Gregory (below) delivers his homily.img_6984img_7019img_7045
Below: Alumnus Keith Jiron, who has served in lay ministry in the Catholic Church since he completed his Pre-Theology degree from Conception Seminary College received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Keith was joined by his wife Kate and their four sons.img_7074img_7087img_7122

Below: After Mass, the alumni gathered for a group photo in the nave of the Basilica.img_7211img_7215

There was a social in St. Michael’s Plaza following Mass, a time for seminarians, monks, and alumni to visit.img_7241img_7247img_7282img_7299img_7307

Sunday morning Abbot Gregory departed Conception Abbey. Please keep him in your prayers as he begins his assignment as Abbot Primate.

Reception for Abbot Gregory

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On Wednesday evening the monks had a reception and banquet in honor of Abbot Gregory. It was a time to gather as a monastic community as say “thank you” to Abbot Gregory for almost 20 years of service as abbot, as he soon departs for Rome, Italy to begin serving as Abbot Primate.img_6683
Above: Fr. Roger and Abbot Gregory
Below: Archbishop Jerome and Fr. Quentinimg_6696 img_6703
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Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin
Below: Fr. Allan and Fr. Peterimg_6708 img_6727
Above:
Fr. Sebastian and Fr. Roger
Below: Fr. Joel and Fr. Xavierimg_6732 img_6743
Above:
Abbot Gregory and Br. Thomas
Below: Fr. Allan and Br. Justinimg_6745 img_6782
Above:
Fr. Norbert and Br. David
Below: Fr. John Rini and Fr. Xavierimg_6789 img_6798
Above:
Fr. Guerric
Below: Fr. Daniel and Br. Anselmimg_6832 img_6836

Above: Fr. Daniel offers a toast at the head table at the banquet in honor of Abbot Gregory in the monastic dining room.
Below: Archbishop Jerome presents Abbot Gregory with a pectoral cross that he had received from Pope Benedict during an ad limina visit in 2012.

Above: The pectoral cross is based on the crucifixion scene in the monastery church of S. Anselmo in Rome where Abbot Gregory will be serving as Abbot Primate.

Abbot Gregory Returns Home

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After being elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation on Saturday, September 10th, Abbot Gregory was set to return home to Conception Abbey last night. However, his flight out of Rome was delayed, so the original plan of welcoming him at 8:30 PM was pushed back to just before 11:00 PM Saturday evening. The Prior, Fr. Daniel, picked Abbot Gregory up from the airport.

Several of the monks and I stayed up well past our bed time because we wanted to greet and welcome the man who had served our community so faithfully for 20 years as abbot. We know that his few returning days among us are limited until he is set to return to Rome by October 1st to begin his 8 year term as Abbot Primate. While there is great joy in receiving the new Abbot Primate, there is also sadness in knowing that he is no longer Abbot of Conception Abbey.

A good and warm welcome calls for signs and decorations…

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Above: Br. Luke worked on a nice balloon display, Br. Placid made Abbot Gregory popcorn, and many monks left cards expressing their appreciation and gratitude.

Below: I designed a sign featuring the churches from Conception and San Anselmo in Rome, which was placed on the door to his office.
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Below: The parking spot upon their return was clearly marked for the Abbot Primate.
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Below: The car pulled in just before 11:00 PM.img_6643img_6655

Above: Abbot Gregory, still looking sharp after overseas travels, flanked by Br. Anselm (sporting the painter’s pants) and Fr. Albert (going old school with the Companion Camp T-shirt, circa 2003).
Below: Abbot Gregory embraces his classmate, Fr. Albert.

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Above and Below: Br. Maximilian greets Abbot Gregory in the monastery hallway.img_6669

Below: Abbot Gregory, worn out from traveling and what must have been two long and difficult weeks at the Abbot’s Congress is able to smile for the camera as he begins his transition and starts a new chapter in his life.img_6674

Monastic life forms strong bonds of fraternity founded in faith. While it is very joyful to have Abbot Gregory back for these 7-10 days, we realize that he will be departing to serve the Church miles away from Northwest Missouri. Our prayers are with him!

Evening Prayer with the Monks

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What is it like to pray with the monks?

I recently completed a video of Vespers, our evening Office of Thanksgiving. As a major hour of the Divine Office, the monks line up in order of seniority in the monastery glass hallway. The Abbot, Prior, and Subprior are at the head of the line, followed by those who professed vows earliest, with the newest members of the community taking the final place at the end of the line. This time in statio and in silence is intended to allow the monk to recollect before chanting the Psalms. The Psalms at Vespers communicate thanksgiving to God.

Benedictine prayer comprises both Mass and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours—the daily round of praise and thanks we offer to God for his countless gifts to us, especially our salvation in Jesus Christ. We strive to make our prayer both beautiful and accessible, modifying ancient forms of Gregorian chant for effective expression in English. Our prayer is augmented by holy reading and a spirit of contemplative silence. We offer witness to a frantic and fast-paced society: the peace we all hunger for is ours in Christ our Savior.

New Tower Topics

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The Summer 2016 Tower Topics should be hitting mailboxes this week. As the Editor of the magazine, it is always rewarding to see it finally in print. Some of you may be thinking that mid-September is a little late for the summer issue. Well, you would be correct. We finished the magazine and sent it to print around July 30th. It was also around the time our Printery House was getting a new printing press, so it took a little while to work on the learning curve. But, the final product looks great. The cover, an aerial photo, was taken with the drone.

You can view Tower Topics online by clicking here

Certainly the next issue will have plenty of important topics- a new school year, Abbot Gregory’s election as Abbot Primate, and recognizing the 125th Anniversary of the Basilica Dedication (celebrated earlier this year). Hopefully the Fall-Winter issue will hit mailboxes in late-November or early-December.

Abbot Gregory returns Saturday evening from Rome. We will be excited to welcome him back to the community, even though he is officially no longer abbot of Conception Abbey.

The fall weather has been spectacular. Enjoy a few pictures from around campus.

Abbot Gregory Elected Abbot Primate

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Earlier today our spiritual father and abbot of Conception Abbey, Abbot Gregory, was elected as Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation. He was elected by the abbots from around the world to serve as the official liaison of the Benedictine Order to the Holy See. Abbot Gregory will serve as the official head of the Benedictine Order. It is a great honor and privilege to have a monk of our community in Northwest Missouri serve in this capacity.

Abbot Gregory now ceases being abbot of our monastery. In the coming weeks we will have to elect a new abbot. So, this joyful news also comes with the realization that we lose a great monk, priest, abbot, and spiritual father from our immediate community, though he will serve the needs of the larger Church.

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Please keep Abbot Gregory and our monastic community in your prayers.

albwgregoryrgbAbove: Fr. Albert Bruecken (left) and Abbot Gregory (right) shortly after they professed vows.
Below: When I (Fr. Paul) presented Abbot Gregory with the crozier I made for him at Christmas, 2007.
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Basilica Steps

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The past few days have been beautiful. Yesterday I flew the drone around to catch some of the sights of campus.

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Fortunately I got those two pictures and many more taken before workers started demolition and construction on the front Basilica steps. This morning and afternoon a worker was tearing up the steps that had become damaged over the course of time and weather.

Monks and the Seminary

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Classes in the seminary began on Monday and we have 99 seminarians this year. The summer certainly went by quickly but the monastic community too is ready for another academic year. There are 25 monks involved in some aspect of seminary formation, which might include serving as a professor, chaplain, spiritual director, or other member of the faculty. Conception Seminary College is our primary work, so it takes a lot of energy and resources to ensure proper seminary formation.

This year I was appointed as a part-time spiritual director in the seminary. I have six freshmen for spiritual direction. For the past few years, some of the college students from Northwest Missouri State have also been seeing me for spiritual direction. I appreciate the opportunity to see God’s grace at work in other people’s lives.

The past few days have been cool and comfortable, with temperatures in the 70s. It is pleasant weather for the seminarians as they adjust to a new schedule, and for some, a new environment altogether. Monday evening the monastic community was outside for the recreation period which is from the conclusion of supper until Compline (Night Prayer) at 7:15 PM.

During monastic recreation, the monks enjoy one another’s company and usually sit on the benches or on the porch on the east side of the monastery building. At that time in the evening, the monastery shields us from direct sunlight and we can enjoy the outdoors without heating up under our black habit. While life gets busier for many of the monks involved in the seminary, it is still important for us to foster a healthy community life and relax in good company.

I took these pictures below on Monday evening at recreation.

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Mary: Our Hope and Our Comfort — Conception Seminary College

For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people. (Preface for the Assumption, Roman Missal, Third Edition) Mary is our hope and our comfort! As we celebrate the Solemnity of […]

via Mary: Our Hope and Our Comfort — Conception Seminary College

Solemnity of the Assumption

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Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the monks, it is a special feast day for another reason. Many of the monks professed vows on this day, including me. Today is actually my 10th anniversary of profession.

Here is a list of the monks who celebrate the anniversary of their profession on August 15.

Br. Thomas, 1969
Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin, 1970
Br. Justin, 1973
Br. Jude, 1986
Fr. Frowin and Br. Jeremiah, 1997
Br. Elias, 1998
Fr. Pachomius, 2002
Fr. Guerric, 2003
Fr. Macario, 2004
Br. David and Fr. Victor, 2005
Fr. Paul, 2006
Br. Placid, 2008
Br. Maximilian, 2009
Br. Etienne, 2010
Br. Luke, 2015

It is also an exciting day since all of the new students will arrive on campus by 5:00 PM. Some of the seminarians from the orientation team are already back and welcoming the new seminarians to campus. Please pray for a good school year!