The one constant, change

Change is not always easy, but it is often necessary. This is true here at the Abbey.

Recently, Fr. Paul, who has been running this blog, and acting as vocation director, was appointed to serve as the Director of Spiritual Formation for Conception Seminary College. This new role carries with it much responsibility and commitment. For that reason, more change was necessary, and I was appointed the new vocation director.

I am Fr. Etienne, and I have been a monk of Conception Abbey for nearly 10 years. I work now as Vocation Director and as a seminary professor of scripture and theology. I also have experience with human formation in the seminary and have been engaged in priestly ministry for three years this coming May.

I am encouraged by Fr. Paul’s work, by our commitment to vocations and holiness, and by our desire to help young men discover God in their lives.

This change will take some time for all of us to get used to and comfortable with, but in time it will be second nature.

I ask that you pray for me, the Abbey, and those who are earnestly seeking God’s will for them. There will be some new and unique initiatives coming down the line for this blog and for the office, so do not lose touch!

Many thanks!


father etienne, osb
Conception Abbey Vocation Director


Activities from the Past Month

The summer has been wonderful, but it is going by quickly. From June 10-July 3 I was in Omaha taking classes at Creighton. It required full days of being in class and studying. I was in class between 4-6 hours a day and had about 3-4 hours of homework each day. I am working on a Master’s degree in Christian Spirituality.



Above: View of downtown Omaha across the Missouri river from Iowa.
Below: View from the Lewis and Clark monument near Council Bluffs, Iowa, looking toward downtown Omaha.

One evening while in Omaha, I was able to visit Sam Mellender at his family’s house. Sam is studying for Conception Abbey in our seminary college. He is one of eleven children, and I’m pictured with Sam and the eight younger siblings. It was on my birthday, so we celebrated with cake!


I was asked to be Conception Seminary’s representative for the Diocese of Tulsa and Archdiocese of Oklahoma City ordinations. My friend Fr. Jerome Krug was ordained for Oklahoma City. He is pictured below right before he celebrated his First Mass at St. Monica’s in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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Below: Conception Alumni, from left to right: Fr. Bill Cremers, Deacon Travis Crotty, Fr. Jerome Krug, Dillon Cott, Thomas Maddock.IMG_5774 2

July 5-6 I traveled to St. Louis to visit with two monastery vocation candidates. We had great visits and I was able to tour St. Louis with one of our candidates, visiting the popular sights like the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse, and the Cathedral.


Above and Below: The Old Courthouse and dome.IMG_5790

Below: St. Louis Cathedral- a beautiful church!IMG_5798IMG_5799

Below: After all of the travels and busyness, it is wonderful to be at the monastery. We have had beautiful summer weather.IMG_5802


Monk Life: Photos from around the monastery

These beautiful days in June are some of the best to enjoy within the context of community life- life with others. I have appreciated the nice weather and the extended daylight. After supper each evening, the monks gather outside for recreation. I captured some pictures of scenes around the monastery, including real-life monks in their natural habitat. Enjoy the pictures!



Family Retreat

The Abbey Guest Center hosted its 10th annual Family Retreat. We had several families here with many children running around campus with excitement. “Pentecost” was the theme for this year’s retreat. I helped out by giving a couple of talks, focusing on the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I also helped organize the scavenger hunt which led families from St. Maur Hall to various locations on campus, looking for envelopes containing clues to their next location. The scavenger hunt eventually lead them to the back of the Basilica church. The kids really enjoyed solving the clues and running from one place to the next.

Several of the monks were “adopted” by each family for the weekend. They were able to participate in the scavenger hunt, crafts, games, and prayer with their families.


Below: Novice Cole and his family find the clue that was at the St. Joseph statue.IMG_5740

Below: Br. Placid takes charge in decoding a cipher which offered directions to the next clue.IMG_5741

Summer Break

The week after Seminary Graduation was our monastery retreat week. The monastic community was on retreat from Monday, May 13 until Friday, May 17. It was a transition period from our academic year into our non-academic year. It’s a time when the students are back in their respective dioceses and the monks focus on other work.

This May it has been very rainy and stormy. Most of the states in the midwest have experienced large amounts of rain and some flooding. We have also had some of the most beautiful days. Take a look at some of these spring photos from around campus.


Below: I officiated at the wedding of a couple from the local area: Alex Holtman and Danae (Schieber). The wedding was on Saturday, May 18, and it was a very joyful and fun occasion. Both Alex and Danae had been in my Bible Study the past two years.


Below: On Tuesday evening I talked Abbot Benedict and some others into playing The Catholic Card Game. It is like the game Apples to Apples except all the cards have various Catholic references. One player reads one of the yellow prompt cards and the others play a card that best completes the prompt. It’s a pretty entertaining game.IMG_5691IMG_5693

Below: An example of one my winning hands.


Below: In the evenings and on weekends I have been taken with the game Spikeball. It can be best described as a combination between volleyball and four-square. I am playing with three kids from the local area.



Below: I biked to Guilford and took a look at the Platte River flooding into the local farm lands. It is not a very big river normally, sometimes it looks more like a stream or a creek, but as of Wednesday, May 29, it looks more like a lake!IMG_5707IMG_5706IMG_5704

Seminary Graduation 2019

Saturday we celebrated graduation and today we said our farewell to those graduating seniors and students receiving the pre-theology certificate. It is always a bitter-sweet time at Conception Seminary. These men have spent much time among us praying, studying, and maturing. Now they prepare for their next step in life.

Conception Seminary College Commencement & Honors Assembly took place at 3:00pm on Saturday in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Students were awarded various academic scholarships.

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Above: Chas Canfield (Diocese of Grand Island) received the Alan Brown Distinguished Service Award, presented to him by Fr. Peter Ullrich, Dean of Students.

Below: Seminarian Matthew Dolechek (Diocese of Wichita), member of the graduating class, gave a speech representing the graduating class.IMG_5839 copy

Below: John Paul Hartnedy (Diocese of Little Rock) receives his diploma. He also received the award for high academic achievement in the Senior class.IMG_5877 copyIMG_5888 copy

Above: Dominic Nguyen receives his diploma. Many of Dominic’s family members traveled from Vietnam for his graduation.

Below: Daniel Chinn (Office of Communications) works behind the scenes to livestream the event. You can view the livestream hereIMG_5942 copy

Below: Abbot Benedict welcomes our guests.IMG_5809 copy

Below: Jacob Mezzacapa (Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau) poses for a photo with his diploma.

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Congratulations to the Class of 2019!IMG_5958 copy

Seminary May Day

Friday, May 10th was Conception Seminary’s annual “May Day” events. It is like one big day-long sports game. This year’s competition of the blue team vs. the white team involved soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball, volleyball, softball, flag football, tug of war, and more. Among the numerous individual events, there was a dunk competition (on a lower basketball hoop), pool, ping-pong, racquetball, and a game increasing in popularity on our campus: Spikeball. Spikeball is played 2 vs 2, with a taut hula hoop sized Spikeball net placed between the teams. A player starts a point by serving the ball down on the net so it ricochets up at his opponents. They have up to three hits between them (just like Volleyball) to control the ball and bounce it back off the net.

It turned out to be a beautiful day for sporting events. The sun was shining most of the day, even though the high temperature was around 60. The seminarians seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly as did the spectators.

Below: The morning Spikeball competition was fun to watch.


Below: The soccer game took place about the same time.


Abbey Trails 2019

We had our annual 5K Run/2-mile walk on Saturday morning, May 4th. This year we had beautiful weather and a wonderful turnout. There were 81 runners in the 5K race and 120 walkers. Participants enjoyed brunch and the health fair after the race in St. Michael’s Gymnasium.

Seminarian John Paul Hartnedy (Diocese of Little Rock) was the 5K race overall winner with a time of 18:27. I placed 4th overall with a time of 20:16. You can see the full results here.

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Above: I gave the pre-race instructions to all the participants.AbbeyTrails2019 - 27IMG_1570IMG_1617

Above: Seminarian John Paul Hartnedy began the race in 1st place and held on to that the entire time!IMG_1626

Below: The final hill was grueling, but I was able to finish strong.IMG_1703

Below: A group of the seminarians who ran the 5K race.


Easter Sunday

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Easter blessings to you from the Monks of Conception Abbey. We celebrated our Easter Vigil this morning beginning at 4:30 AM. Monks, seminarians, and guests gathered for the powerful celebration of Christ’s victory. Please be assured of our prayers.

Tomorrow evening we will welcome our sisters from Clyde for our annual Emmaus gathering.  They will join us first for Vespers, then a festive supper.  It is a beautiful way to extend the Easter celebration.





March Scenery

We had some warmer weather this week. This inspired me to get out on the bicycle a couple of times with Fr. Etienne. It also encouraged me to pick up my camera and go for a walk. There are signs of spring- not so much in flowers and leaves, but in a sense of new life emerging from a particularly snowy winter. I hope you enjoy these pictures that I captured on my brief venture around campus, focusing mostly on the Basilica towers.