St. Bede Abbey
May 1, 2014
At about 6 A.M. this morning, as the monks gathered to pray Morning Prayer, Fr. Claude suffered a heart attack and died almost immediately in his choir stall. His death reminded me of the death of St. Benedict who was surrounded by his brothers as he passed to eternal life. We were able to pray together for Fr. Claude through the anointing of the sick and at our Morning Prayer. While he was small in stature, in many ways he was a giant. His love for God, the Church and his monastic community animated him and was a blessing to all of us. Please join us in praying that he will now be with his Resurrected Lord chanting God’s praises with all the angels and saints.
March 9, 2014
It seems amazing to realize that Fr. Arthur working in the Academy for almost over 52 years as a teacher and administrator. For many years he worked with the Student Government and led almost 40 groups to Appalachia to serve the poor of that area. For many years he served as moderator of the Bedan Club and helped them to do many wonderful things for the Academy.
After his retirement he continued to serve the Bedan Club and to live and pray with the monks. He was besieged numerous times by his congestive heart condition and had numerous stays in the hospital to remove fluids. After an episode in December he came back to live in the Abbey Infirmary and was served by the St. Margaret’s hospice care-givers. Unfortunately he continued to have problems and so was moved to St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon on January 10th. He adjusted well to the program there but continued to slowly decline. On Ash Wednesday he took a significant turn for the worst. I spent a good part of the day on Friday with him and he grew less and less alert. By yesterday morning he was not responding and was so weak he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. At 10:45 he took his last breath and journeyed home to God. In his last couple days the medication was able to control his pain and keep him comfortable. He faced many health challenges in his life on this earth and now he can find everlasting peace and rest with God. Please pray for Fr. Arthur, for his family and his brother monks as we will all miss him.
If you have a favorite story or memory of Fr. Arthur, please send it to me and I will post it in the monastery and school.
March 2, 2014
In January, Donna Aleksy who is our development director, and I journeyed to Florida to spend 5 days visiting alumni. When we left Chicago our car was parked in the snow and it was 6 below zero. When we landed at the Fort Myers airport it was 80 degrees and I was soon sweating from the heat. During the course of our stay we had several visits with individuals and two larger gatherings. Jim Mini and his wife, Mary Ellen, hosted a group of about 25 alumni and friends. Being Italian there was plenty of good food and spirited conversation. Alumnus Fred Golden played several songs, including the St. Bede Fight Song, on his harmonica. Don Carlson and his wife organized a group for us at a wonderful country club in the Villages near Orlando where 7 or 8 alumni now live. In addition to those two groups we visited several other alumni and friends including Don Hayden, Jim Hamlin, John Perino and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Leydon. The trips to visit alumni are always fun as we share stories about the past. At the same time our alumni are eager to hear about what is happening now at St. Bede, and they were especially interested to hear about the St. Bede Legacy project. There was a clear consensus that people like the idea that the St. Bede Academy of the future will include both renovation and new facilities. You will be hearing more about the Legacy project as we continue to raise funds and begin the work of remodeling and building. In closing I should mention that God was kind to us because when we returned to Illinois it was about 25 degrees above zero and it wasn’t snowing!
March 1, 2014
Time has flown since I last wrote one of my brief blogs. I am trying to get back in the groove. In this section I wish to speak about Fr. Arthur and his health condition. Since his retirement from teaching French in our academy, Fr. Arthur has frequently had some congestive heart issues and so has spent about a week every two months in the hospital to remove fluids. In December of last year he became a hospice patient so that we could more closely monitor his condition while he lived in the infirmary at St. Bede. Unfortunately within about three weeks he developed significant congestion. I was hoping to keep him in the St. Bede Infirmary, but I finally agreed that he would move to St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon, Illinois. In addition to the wonderful care that the sisters and the staff offer him, hospice continues to check on him several times a week. He is still alert and maintains his sense of humor. While his body continues to slowly deteriorate, he remains in good spirits. He is always happy to receive visitors and has a cell phone. For some reason he is reluctant to use the cell phone. Nonetheless, you should feel free to phone him at 815-488-3158. If he doesn’t answer the phone, then please leave him a voice mail. One of the sisters at the nursing home tells me that he enjoys listening to voice mail messages and sometimes listens to them several times. Please keep Fr. Arthur in your prayers.
January 6, 2014
The weather on January 6 prevented people from attending the monk’s community Mass. Besides the monks, there were three laypersons: two males and one female. The text of the Abbot Philip’s homily is found below.
My brothers and sister, back in the good old days when I taught sophomore religion, I would teach a section on the sacraments that included a little bit about the people in today’s gospel. I would start with a quiz of eight questions, and they were simple questions like: “How many people came to see Jesus at the epiphany?” The class would say universally “Three”, and I would say: “Wrong, it doesn’t say that.” Then the next question would be: “Who were these people?” and they would say, “Kings”. And I would say, “Wrong, it doesn’t say they’re kings.” We call them ‘magi’, but we don’t really know what that means, and in fact it seems that the best guess these days is that they were Persian priests. They were definitely not Jews, and so this story has become a kind of warm and fuzzy that the three people that supposedly came and were kings had even been given names,
This feast, however, is an extremely profound and important feast. This is a feast that in a sense invites us to transformation and invites us to join Jesus as his disciples. To sort of understand what that transformation is all about, I would like to share just a brief history with a very few brief stories.
When I was a child, there are a lot of events that I recall, but I think of three in particular.
First, I was probably about seven or eight years old, when I was with some of my friends and we saw some people digging a ditch across the street. So we went and we started talking with them and were having a pleasant conversation and asked them, “Are you going to finish today?” and they said, “Well no, we’ll be back tomorrow.” We innocently said, “Well, where are you staying tonight?” and they said, “Well, we don’t know.” In reply, I said, “There’s a motel down the street there.” They answered, “Oh, we can’t stay there.” I then asked, “Why not?” and they replied, “Because we’re black, and there’s a rule in Oglesby that blacks can’t stay in town overnight, so we have to go find some other place”
Second, I remember two of my classmates and they were sort of bold and daring. One day we knew they had done something, because the pastor and the principal called them in, and afterwards they came out of the conversation looking very sheepish, and, of course, we couldn’t wait to find out what they did. We said, “What did you do?” and they said, “We opened the front door of The Oglesby Union Church and we looked inside.” I said, “Oh, really?” My friends then said, “We were told that if we did that again, or to any other protestant church, we’d be thrown out of school.” Surprised I said, “Oh.”
Finally, a little while later, I think I was a freshman, and I was talking to my parents about some friend of mine who had broken up with his girlfriend, and I asked to my parents, “Well, why did that happen?” They said, “Oh it couldn’t happen, that relationship was doomed”. I asked, “Well, why was that?” They answered, “Because she isn’t catholic and he is, and they could never get married. So, no chance.” That was a while ago, but it was what was sort of going on. And to think of where we were then and of how things have changed is pretty incredible.
In the1970’s, after Vatican II and the era of ecumenism, we had about 15% non-Catholics at the school, and so to be respectful of their religions, we offered them the opportunity to get credit for studying at their church or with their pastor, and the people seemed very appreciative. And within five years, they all decided they didn’t want to do that, they wanted to study here, because they wanted to learn.
A few years later, again when I was teaching sophomore religion, I gave a test that was in the back of the book, made up by the authors, and I just wanted to make sure I’d covered everything important for the test. And in the years I gave it, there were only two students who got an A. Those students were a Buddhist and a Hindu. The subject I taught was, “The Church and the Sacraments”. I asked them why they did so well. They said, “Oh, because it’s so exciting and fascinating, we’ve never heard stuff like this before.” Then I looked at the rest of the class.
And then as we moved along, we’ve introduced into the school a number of non-Christian students from foreign countries, with many interesting stories and adventures. One student, who went from asking me what God is, to some months later when being offered the chance to lead the prayer before meals responded, “I am greatly honored.”
Then, just last year, a Chinese man, who was sitting over to the right during graduation, cried through the entire graduation Mass. I went to his wife afterwards, and I said, “Why was he crying, did we do something wrong?” and she said, “No, not at all, it was wonderful.” I asked, “Why was he crying?” and she answered, “He has never experienced the Holy before, and he experienced it here.” The man didn’t understand a word of English or what was going on.
My brothers and sister, I think we’ve begun to expand and to stretch and realize the call to a universal church, and to a universal call and concern for all people. This feast is about the invitation of God to all of his children. To all of his children who are seekers to come to him, to kneel before him, and to offer homage, not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the gift of themselves and who and what they have.
But I think that in these days, with Pope Francis, there is an greater expansion of that vision, he says things that, sometimes, sound pretty strange. Just a couple of days ago he met with heads of seminaries and he told the directors that they had to change and they had to stop producing “little monsters” who have only learned to judge and condemn, rather than to teach and to care. And he said, “We’ve done that, and we’re chasing people away from the church and the ministry, when they should be coming in droves to join and to serve because of the joy of gospel and of service. In his talk on the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2014, he stopped in the middle of his script and looked out at all the people standing outside St. Peter’s and said, “My brothers and sisters, how can we do it? How can we stand here when we know the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, when we know of the millions of refugees, when we know of the millions who face terror, when we know of all those who are suffering discrimination. How can we stand here and be silent? How can we not act?”
My brothers and sister, I believe he shares the vision of the gospel and the vision of Christ. And he calls all of us who are seekers. I think we need to recognize the significance of what we do here. When we gather at this place and come to this alter, we stretch out our hands to receive the Lord. In stretching out our hands we not only express our need, but I think deep within ourselves we are offering ourselves to God, offering who we are and what we have in service of God and the gospel in his church. When we do that humbly, knowing our weaknesses, knowing all that we suffer from, when we do that in confidence and joy, what is the reward? What does God give us in turn? God gives us his very self, to live in us and to continue to transform us. Not just as individuals, but as the church and the world. That is the vision of this feast. The God who has created all of his children saying, “Come to me all you who seek me, all you who seek peace and love and justice. All you who seek what is good, come here and you will be welcome.”
How blessed we are my brothers and sister, that we have heard that invitation, that we have come here like the magi seeking the Lord. That we have been welcomed and that we will be fed. But it only really works, it’s only really what God wants that having been nourished here, we are filled with zeal for the mission of the gospel and of compassion that moves our hearts for all who suffer and for all who are in need.
October 22, 2013
Last week, our Development Director, Mrs. Donna Aleksy and I went to New England to visit some alumni and talk about the Legacy Project for the Academy. We centered our travels in Manchester, New Hampshire where I had completed my college education at St. Anselm’s College in 1970. I delighted in showing Donna the campus. We were fortunate to meet some of the development staff at St. Anselm’s and to visit with a good friend, Fr. Matthew Levy.
We visited Gordan Moran (Class of 1956) and Dr. Tom Moskalewicz (Class of 1970) in Maine where the foliage was magnificent. We ate at a beautiful inn overlooking the ocean. On some previous visits Gordan had taken me for a ride on the ocean in his boat. We also went to Cape Cod to visit Jim Farley (Class of 1981) who treated us to a tour of Provincetown which was actually the original landing spot for the pilgrims. Dr. Lyle Micheli (Class of 1958) and his wife treated us to a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant called Lamora in Brookline, Massachusetts. We also had a wonderful visit with my classmate Andrew Bacevich (Class of 1965) who would be recognized by many Academy students because his football picture has been in the weight room for many years. After a long career in the military, Andy now teaches International Relations at Boston University. He recently published a new book entitled Breach of Trust.
The trip reminded me of the wonderful diversity of our alumni who use their gifts and talents in so many ways. When we spoke with them about the new Legacy project for St. Bede, they all expressed enthusiastic support and encouraging words. Whenever I visit alumni I am reminded of the importance of the work we do at St. Bede to prepare our students for life in the church and in the world. Continue to pray for St. Bede Abbey and Academy as we work to ensure our continued ministry in the future.
October 9, 2013
On Thursday, Sept. 28, a long-held dream at St. Bede Abbey came closer to realization when we held the ground-breaking ceremony for the Abbey Fields Assisted Living and Memory Care Community. In the 1980’s we leased some land for a similar center, but the necessary licenses could not be attained. Then just a few years ago we worked with another developer, but in the end we didn’t have the necessary resources to complete the project. About ten months ago, Dick Janko and Blair Minton approached me about trying a third time. Even though some details are not yet finalized, we held the ground breaking last week. There will be more information about the facility in our upcoming Annual Report. Without the resources and knowledge that our partners bring to this project it would never have happened. I am delighted that Blair Minton who manages about 40 similar facilities has agreed to manage our facility. He has a strong sense of mission and I have been truly impressed when I visited his facilities. Considerable work has been done and God has been blessing us with excellent weather so we may meet our goal of opening the facility in mid-summer. We will continue to post pictures of the site as it develops over the next few months. Please keep our efforts in your prayers.
Click the photo to enlarge it. People in the photo, from left to right, are as follows: Walt Marini, mayor of Spring Valley, Grace Nebel of RPM Management, Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, Blair Minton, Dick Janko, and Michael Dean Chorneyko.
October 7, 2013
Sometimes we wonder if our efforts have any positive impact on other people or institutions. Sometimes people forget to express true gratitude for what they have been given. In an effort to remedy these potential lapses we began the Abbot Philip Legacy Society for St. Bede, a society of good-willed persons who have been generous to St. Bede for a number of consecutive years. In keeping with St. Benedict’s admonition to begin every good work with prayer, we begin our time together with the new inductees by inviting them to join the monks for midday prayer. We then have a dinner in in the Abbey Church Lounge to honor our new inductees and show our thanks by giving them two gifts. The new members receive a painting of St. Bede Abbey and Academy which they can hang in their homes, and a medal of St. Benedict, the patron of Benedictine Communities. After a simple meal, Dr. Struck gives a brief presentation which shares good news and some concerns about the Academy. Then Abbot Philip offers similar comments about the Abbey. This year we were happy to welcome 7 new members into our Legacy Society, some of whom are shown in the photo at the right. From left to right the honorees are as follows: Jerry Rich, Michael Rossiter, Abbot Philip, Dr. Paul Peron, Jr., Dr. Louis Lukancic, Sr., Pat Langham, daughter of deceased honoree Joe Flaherty. Absent from the photo are Raymond Duncan and Kevin Garcia. Click on the photo to enlarge it. We look forward to welcoming new members next fall.
September 7, 2013
Several weeks ago some of our students learned that a student named Cora at Bureau Valley High School has cancer. They decided that because we would be facing Bureau Valley in a football game, we should start a fundraiser for Cora and her family by selling T-shirts. The project seemed to grow and the same shirts were also sold at Bureau Valley High School. The desire to help grew and so did the support. Our students made a fairly large pomp saying, “SBA loves Cora”, and put the pomp under the scoreboard for the game. Cora and her family were given a prime parking place, and she and her mother were driven around in a golf cart and given seats on the hillside so they could easily see the game. At halftime Cora and her mother were given a check for around $8,000 and the generosity that was being showed overflowed more when the winner of the 50-50 drawing gave his winnings to Cora. Before the ceremony Cora’s mother said that she didn’t plan to say anything, but for a couple of days had been asking herself, “Why are these people doing this for Cora, they don’t even know her or her family?” And so she decided to speak and spoke very briefly but profoundly when she said, “Thank you for showing us the face of Christ!” Part of the gift was the money, but perhaps the greater and more important gift was that Cora and her family could, through our students, see Christ smiling on them. They knew that God was with them. Her words were a blessing to all of us at St. Bede because it reminded us that each of us is called to show the face of Christ to one another all the time, in all that we do. Imagine what would happen if everyone remembered and accepted the call to show the face of Christ to everyone, in every situation. Let us continue to pray for Cora and her family, and for all those who struggle in any way. They are our brothers and sisters and as we show them the face of Christ, the face of Christ will smile upon us as well.
September 7, 2013
Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world. In our increasingly complex world there are not only a myriad of conflicts but millions of innocent victims. It is projected that there are two million refugees from Syria alone. President Obama has stated that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated and President Assad must be punished. Syria is one of only three countries that has not signed the agreement to not use chemical weapons. The issue should have been addressed years ago before they were used, but now who will be punished by bombing. Needless to say it will lead to more innocent victims and if Assad should fall what will happen then? Will that end the Shiite-Sunni conflict? This past month in Iraq the Sunni-Shiite conflict led to bombings that killed over a thousand people. The conflict is spilling over into Lebanon where the Hezbollah is now a target of bombings. The anger and hated is being intensified! How and where will it end? There are no longer battles where the sides are clear. A group now allied with the Syrian rebels has a picture on their web site showing the White House burning and the members of their group walking triumphantly through Washington.
I don’t have an answer and there is no easy solution. And so we must continue to fast and pray, and encourage people and nations to put aside self-interest and truly create a just world where true peace will be possible. That dream may sound impossible, but if we give up the dream of a just world the present horrors in our world will continue, and hatred will increase. Jesus once said to his disciples, “this demon can only be cast out by prayer”, so let us pray that all nations may find the road to peace and justice.
September 4, 2013
On Thursday, August 29, a group of business leaders and bankers came to the lecture hall in the St. Bede Abbey Church to attend a program about fostering economic growth. A small group of businessmen had been working together and had managed in the last year to bring 30 new jobs to the Illinois Valley area. I welcomed the attendees, offered a prayer and talked about the importance of a strong educational system to attract businesses to our area. St. Bede Academy is a fine school and the quality of our students and our program continues to improve. However, we are also a catalyst which requires our local public schools to work to better their programs. A business once located in Sterling rather than in our area because when they looked at sites no one told them about St. Bede Academy.
When asked why he located his plant in Sterling the man responded that he was a very strong Catholic and wanted his students to attend a Catholic High School. He further said he would have chosen the LaSalle-Peru site if someone had told him about St. Bede. There were several important points to come out of the presentations and subsequent discussion: there are fewer and fewer white knights who come in to employ hundreds of people and when the white knights leave the impact on the community is devastating; there is a need to encourage young people to return to the Illinois Valley to raise their families and begin businesses; finally the group is starting a fund with a goal of raising a million dollars that can be used to help people start a new business or perhaps even improve what they are presently doing. St. Bede Abbey and Academy have been part of the local community for almost 125 years and we will work with local business people to enhance the quality of life in the Illinois Valley.
August 28, 2013
About 14 years ago a young man from Arkansas named David Freeman began to visit St. Bede to try to determine whether God was calling him to some form of religious life. Before making any decision he decided to pursue training to become a licensed electrician. He accomplished that goal and then worked to eliminate his personal debt. About 5 years ago he was finally able to come to St. Bede and spent some time as a vocation guest, postulant and then a Novice before professing vows in 2011. One of my first acts as Abbot was to receive his profession of temporary vows as a monk of St. Bede for three years. He has spent time developing a variety of skills including bee keeping. While he never had much formal education he loved to learn and so began to take some classes at IVCC. He has worked hard and has proved himself to be a very capable student. Because of his great love for writing and literature he has asked to continue studies to become an English teacher. Thus a few days ago he began his third year of college at Benedictine University with a goal of becoming an English teacher in the Academy. He is a very determined young man who will be working hard to achieve his goal. At the monastery we pray for him regularly and I ask you to keep him in your prayers as well.
August 16, 2013
I am excited to welcome you to our new website at stbedeabbey.org. For almost a year Fr. Michael, our prior, has been learning about Web Design and with the help of J.P. Aley from 815 Media he has developed our web site. He will continue to work towards the launch of our web store so that a variety of items from St. Bede will be available to you on the web. I hope to write a sort of blog several times a week to keep you abreast of what is happening at St. Bede. Feel free to send me your comments or questions at email@example.com. I hope you will find out web site informative and easy to use. Let us continue to pray for one another.
August 19, 2013
The first day of school is full of excitement and a good deal of hope. Since 1891 we have been welcoming young people to St. Bede to offer them a quality Catholic Education. While the number of monks on the staff has decreased, we work very hard to imbue our students with Benedictine values that will guide them throughout their life journey. The picture you see shows our students walking through a welcome line and being greeted by students and staff. Benedict tells us that “All guests should be received as Christ.” I am happy to report that we have welcomed 99 Freshmen, 25 boarders, and a total student body of about 305. Please pray for us in our ministry to educate God’s children. Your support is crucial to ourefforts, and the good you do for us, is a blessing to our students, staff and monks. Thank you for helping make our ministry at St. Bede possible.