Choosing a new abbot

I hope my Jesuit friends here at America forgive me, but I want to spill some digital ink talking about a group of Benedictines. The monks Leavyat my alma mater, Saint Anselm College, a Benedictine institution in New Hampshire, are gathering this week to elect a new abbot, a process I knew little about before this week.

Rev. Matthew Leavy, OSB, the abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey for the past 26 years, announced several months ago that he would retire in June, and so began the process of electing his successor. Because the abbot also serves as chancellor of the college, the school commenced a campaign informing the college community of how the process would unfold.


Attending Saint Anselm gave me insight to the monastic world that I never would have accessed otherwise. I befriended several monks, completed a retreat in the monastery during Holy Week, and gained an appreciation for Benedictine spirituality. Learning about the process for electing a new abbot has been equally captivating.

The process can be described as a sort of mini-conclave, with monks nominating candidates today, praying and reflecting tonight, and voting tomorrow. There can be up to six rounds of voting, and while there is no white smoke, bells will ring throughout campus when a new abbot is elected and accepts the position. The monks will then process to the Abbey Church to celebrate and welcome their new leader, a service that, in true modern fashion, will be broadcast live via webcast.

The college’s website offers a thorough explanation of the process, with a couple of videos exploring both the election and a presentation from Abbot Matthew about what it means to be a Benedictine college. Click here to learn more about the election process, and here to read a profile of Abbot Matthew.

Michael J. O’Loughlin

Image of Abbot Matthew courtesy Saint Anselm College.

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Bill Freeman
5 years 9 months ago
Finally, something about religious life  that is uplifting.
Carolyn Disco
5 years 9 months ago
Yes, Benedictine life at St. Anselm is uplifting and vibrant. It is not well known enough as a great college committed to its students. Those monks work their hearts and souls out to help young people find their way. They truly care.

Take a look at the Thanksgiving service today on the election of Abbot Mark Cooper.

It was a very moving occasion. Abbalatial elections are a democratic tradition of 1,500 years standing.

Abbot Matthew enters a well-earned sabbatical after 26 years of distinguished achievement. He will be sorely missed. I understand the retiring abbot usually leaves for the first year of new leadership to give the entering abbot a chance to take hold.

Thank you, Michael O, for this thread, and take a look at the college while on the website.

Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 9 months ago
I too love monks and abbys and make the effort to be around them as much as I can.

Last weekend I found myself in Kentucky and was able to join the monks at Gethsemani for Terce and Mass.  I watched the monks slowly file into the choir stalls for the chanting of Terce.  There were more young monks and monks-in-training than the last time I was here about 5 years ago.  After Terce, I was surprised when a monk came back to the place where the lay people were sitting and opened the gate.  We all (all 15 or 20 of us) then went up to the main alter to join the monks at Mass.

Being Pentecost, it seemed impressive to me.  The celebrants - all the monks who were priests, I guess - processed in with red stoles, followed by the main celebrant who was dressed all in red.  This celebrant priest didn't look a day over 25 years old.

And yet the liturgy was very slow, deliberate, simple and above all, humble.


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