St. Bendedict's Abbey, Atchison, KS, USA elects their 9th Abbot

Published on Friday, 28 December 2012 20:51
Written by Vaughn Kohler

On December 28, the monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey elected Prior James Robert Albers, OSB, their ninth Abbot. He is a native of Ost, Kansas, grew up in St. Benedict’s Parish of Bendena, Kansas. He went on to graduate from Midway-Denton High School, Denton, Kansas, in 1990. Abbot James graduated from Benedictine College in 1994 with a degree in Mass-Communications and Theology. He entered the novitiate in December 1995 and made his First Profession on December 8, 1996, and his Solemn Profession on October 2, 1999.

After having studied at the Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo, Rome, Italy, from 1997-2000, he was ordained to the priesthood on July 1, 2000. Following his ordination he did a pastoral year at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca, Kansas, and served as Alumni Director at Benedictine College from 2000 until his appointment as Prior of the St. Benedict’s Abbey community in July 2002.

From 2005 to 2012, he also served as the Abbey’s vocation director.

During his monastic life, Abbot James has been an able and well-respected Prior and sought-after spiritual director. He is widely regarded as an even-keel man who shares helpful spiritual counsel and possesses a charitable disposition and a pastoral concern for others.

Please pray for Abbot James Albers as he begins his tenure as the ninth Abbot of St. Benedict’s Abbey.

Please join me in a quick prayer for the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey and their newly elected Abbot, that they may prefer nothing to Christ as they live out their monastic vocation, and serve the universal Church. Being Abbot is an awesome responsibility. St. Benedict makes has zero qualms about stating explicitly in the Holy Rule that Abbots will have to give an accounting before Christ for any faults that their monks might have as a result of him performing his duties poorly.

So, no pressure.

Peace of Christ,

He’s a youngster! :o

The previous abbot, Abbot Barnabas Senecal, served in that role for 19 years. I would guess that Abbot James will served at least as long. May his wisdom and dedication serve the abbey well! :slight_smile:

For those of you, such as myself, who are unfamiliar with the process of electing a Benedictine abbot, here is an explanation from the abbey’s December newsletter

*The election is a democratic process in which the monastic community gathers to cast ballots. In the case of St. Benedict’s Abbey, this also includes votes from the members of the priory in Brazil, who may cast their vote by proxy.

To prepare for the election, the monks have been praying for discernment, reading to become more acquainted with the process, and dedicating one Mass a month to God’s blessing on the election. In addition, a committee was appointed to oversee the process, which consists of Father Denis Meade, Brother Lawrence Bradford, and Brother Leven Harton. Finally, presenters from outside the Abbey were invited to address the community.

On August 7, Abbot Jerome Kodell, of Subiaco Monastery in Arkansas, delivered a presentation: “What Kind of Elector Should a Monk Be?” which urged the monks to model virtues that “qualified them to vote.” A second presentation on November 21, “What Kind of Electee Should the Future Abbot Be?” reminded the community that an abbot should be a personal center of unity, a spiritual father who promotes the spiritual progress of every member of the community, and yet still a brother to every man.

On October 27, Brother John Mark Falkenheim, of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, lead the community through a “SWOC” discussion—a state of the union-type discussion of the Abbey’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Brother John Mark serves as a professor of psychology at Saint Meinrad Seminary.

The actual election is a two-day process. Abbot Hugh Anderson, Abbot President of the American Cassinese Congregation, will preside over the election.

The election chapter will begin in the afternoon with prayer, the confirmation of the secretary, the chapter and the tellers; the naming of proxies, if any; roll call; oaths taken and the naming of candidates.

In order to vote, a monk is required to be in final vows in good standing. Monks are also expected to go through their own individualized preparation through prayer and reflection. This is not regulated through the election process, but is necessary to help guide the monks through this process.

On the evening of the first day there is a nominating ballot. Each monk may name two candidates by secret ballot. No candidate is allowed to campaign for votes. The community discusses each nominated candidate to see who, they believe, has the qualities necessary for the abbey.

On the second day, after the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the official voting process begins. There is a maximum of six ballots, or rounds of voting. On the first three ballots a two-thirds majority is required; on the next three ballots a fifty-percent plus one majority is needed to elect an Abbot.

Canonical norms list four requirements for those able to be considered for abbot. In order to be validly elected to the office of abbot it is required that a monk be:

  1. At least thirty years of age,
  2. Solemnly professed for at least seven years.
  3. An ordained priest, 4. A member of the American Cassinese Congregation of

Once the person is elected, the choice is left to him whether or not to take on the role. It is not forced upon anyone.

After he accepts the role, and after the election is confirmed by the Abbot President, he is immediately the new abbot. The community goes to the church for a thanksgiving service. At a later date the Abbot will receive the liturgical Abbatial Blessing.*

Congratulations to St. Benedict’s Abbey, and to their new abbot!

Best wishes and blessings to Abbot James.

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