How do the monks prepare and celebrate Christmas?
Check out the new video capturing some of the sights and sounds of the past few days.
Christmas Greetings and Best Wishes for a New Year of Happiness!
The monks are grateful for so many blessings, especially our family, friends, and benefactors. We celebrated Midnight Mass with a Basilica filled with people from the area. The nice and dry weather was conducive to travel, so we had a good number of guests.
I had Mass at Conception Junction Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It was a blessing to celebrate with the local community.
Soon, I will post a video entitled, “Christmas at Conception Abbey.” It will show sights and sounds from the days preceding Christmas to our Christmas celebrations. Stay connected!
Above: The Nativity scene decorates the monastery dining room.
Below: Dessert for our banquet on Christmas Eve, after First Vespers of Christmas.
Above: The sanctuary decorated with wreathes, poinsettias, and banners.
Below: The crib in the northeast minor apse of the Basilica.
Above: Abbot Gregory is celebrant at Midnight Mass.
Below: The decorated Basilica after Midnight Mass.
It’s that time of year when grown men dressed in black robes channel their inner child and gather with great excitement to decorate the Christmas tree. Okay, maybe I’m only referring to Br. Cyprian.
The monks had their annual tree trimming party in the monastery recreation room. Several monks contributed ornaments to the trees and relaxed to enjoy one another’s company. These days before and after Christmas are especially fun and blessed days for life in community.Above: Br. Cyprian takes a step back to survey the progress.
Below: Br. Placid hangs an ornament on the tree. Above: Br. Michael picks out a nice ornament
Below: Br. Maximilian’s ornament shows his enthusiasm for Star Wars.
Each year in the days leading up to Christmas, we have our Employee Christmas Luncheon. It is a time for the close-knit Conception community- monks and employees- to gather and give thanks for many blessings. Specifically, we recognize and honor employees who are celebrating anniversaries of employment with us: 20, 25, 30 and even 40 years!
It is a great witness of the strength of our community and the relationships that have been built over many years. Our employees are our co-workers in carrying forth our mission, whether that be in the seminary college, the Printery House, Abbey Guest Center, or in the many other areas on campus where they work.
There have been many activities going on these past few days. I’d like to think that the seminarians have spent most of the time preparing for their final examinations. Please keep their academic pursuits in your prayers! The last final exam is this Thursday. The seminarians will have Mass Friday morning and be free to depart for Christmas Vacation.
Below: While some of the days lately have been dreary and foggy, we have also had some beautiful sunsets and skies.
Above: On Saturday, Fr. Enrique offered Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a beautiful celebration with seminarians providing the music for the liturgy. A festive meal and small production of St. Juan Diego followed Mass.
Above and Below: Tower Topics should have hit mailboxes this week. The Fall-Winter issue features our new rector (Fr. Brendan Moss, O.S.B.) and vice-rector (Fr. Pat York) on the cover. Articles inside include Br. Luke’s profession of first vows and Br. Cyprian’s work with the Drama Department.
Below: Conception Abbey’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is a recognized pilgrimage site for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The opening of the Holy Doors was on Gaudete Sunday (the 3rd Sunday of Advent). Pilgrims will make their way to the Abbey throughout this Year of Mercy.
This year’s freshmen class took a different spin on the annual Freshmen Talent Night. As the name suggests, the freshmen class is to put on a talent show for all of the seminarians, chaplains, and those of the monastic community who wish to attend.
In an early planning meeting the Freshmen decided to put on an award show called “The SEMYS.” It was supposed to be likened to the Oscars, the EMMYS, or most of all, ESPN’s “ESPY Awards,” except that we would be honoring ‘greatness’ among the seminarians and faculty. Therefore, the format and structure of Freshmen Talent Night had the familiar look and feel of an award show: presenters, nominee videos, award recipients, acceptance speeches, musical interludes, several musical performances and plenty of entertainment.
The Freshmen class met numerous times in preparation for the event, brainstorming and assigning roles. We ended up creating 7 categories:
The intention was to make the show humorous and honor students and faculty of the seminary. Other seminarians (non-Freshmen) were willing to participate and be a part of the nominee videos which were played before the SEMY was given for each category.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening thoroughly. Yes- it was a required event for the seminarians, but we wanted to make it entertaining enough that they really would enjoy being present and find it as a pleasant way to spend their Friday evening, especially with final examinations right around the corner.
After two rehearsals the night before the show and the day of the show, the final live performance went as smoothly as one could have hoped. The seminarian Emcees looked comfortable and confident during their opening dialogue, delivering jokes well and getting the audience engaged. The Freshmen band, aka “Forgive Us We’re Freshmen” put a significant amount of time practicing in order to make the music sound excellent. And, of course, there was plenty of video filming and editing in the two weeks before the performance, but it was all complete with plenty of time to spare.
The most important aspect of the show, and the reason why the Freshmen class is asked to put on a talent night, is to build community and fraternity among the seminarians. It was powerful to witness this dynamic unfold firsthand. The class got excited about their ideas, show them materialize, worked together, and were very pleased with the result.
There are twenty-five Freshmen, many talented men who give hope for the future of the Church. They are musically gifted, witty, but most importantly, they are able to convey the sense of joy that comes from a profound relationship with Christ and zeal to share the Gospel message.
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It is with great joy that we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception each year. It reminds us of what good things God has worked in Mary’s life and in her role as Mother of God. Similarly, it is a particuarly special day for the monks of Conception Abbey, since it is our patronal feast day. This year we celebrate 142 years as a monastic community. What a great gift!
To add to the joy of the day, our new bishop, Bishop James V. Johnston was able to celebrate with us. He was present at First Vespers of the Solemnity and he presided and preached at Mass on Tuesday. We are very blessed to have Bishop Johnston as the shepherd of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Below: Evening Prayer with the monastic community.
Below: Bishop Johnston presides at the Eucharist for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.Above: Bishop Johnston and Abbot Gregory- Bishop Johnston presents Abbot Gregory with the degree marking the Basilica as a designated shine for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for Extraordinary Year of Mercy.
Above: Br. Maximilian watches over our confreres Fr. Reginald and Fr. Joel.
Above: The mural of the Immaculate Conception in the apse of the Basilica.
Below: Bishop Johnston dines with the seminarians and offers some remarks before the meal.
Conception Abbey and Seminary College and the local Tri-C area (Conception, Conception Junction, and Clyde) have teamed up to participate in the Giving Tuesday initiative. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the designated day to give to families in need during this Holiday Season.
Seminarians were encouraged to bring canned goods and purchase clothing for families with children of different ages. Gifts were brought to St. Raphael Hall, which was transformed into several “stations,” including the “Gift Wrapping” station, “Card Writing,” “Tree Decorating,” “Ornament” and “Blanket” stations.
It was a joyful atmosphere as people came together so that this year’s Christmas might be a little brighter for those in need.