A Sabbatical at Saint Meinrad
A way to personalize your time for a spiritual tune-up
Father David Misbrener Comments Off on A Sabbatical at Saint Meinrad
This issue of The Priest emphasizes priestly renewal. I would like to briefly share the experience I had on a sabbatical leave at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, a Benedictine monastery in southern Indiana. (The archabbey does advertises its sabbatical program in The Priest magazine. )
I came upon Saint Meinrad’s program while doing online research for a sabbatical leave. Having recently celebrated my 25th priestly anniversary, getting reassigned to two new parishes during the COVID pandemic and completing a doctorate of ministry program at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland, I needed a break.
I asked my bishop if I could take a sabbatical at Saint Meinrad’s. I was overjoyed when my bishop told me he had gone to Saint Meinrad’s as a priest — at a similar time in his career (27 years) as compared to mine (25). The bishop gave me a month for the sabbatical, and I spent time at Saint Meinrad’s from Aug. 8 through Sept. 8, 2022. If you are concerned about the summer heat in southern Indiana — it does get hot and humid — but the entire complex is air-conditioned.
For your sabbatical, you will most likely be given a room in St. Bede Hall. This is a separate building on the monastery grounds. There is a large chapel in the building if you want to celebrate a private Mass. While on sabbatical, however, I recommend spending your prayer time with the monks and the seminarians if the seminary is in session.
The sabbatical program can be from one to ten months, and you can design your own sabbatical. Priests can attend classes at the attached seminary if they choose. The seminary was not in session when I attended last August, but since I had just completed classwork, I did not want to follow that path. During my time, I opted to pray the liturgical cycle with the monks and spend time in private reading.
Since I enjoy history, I toured historical parishes in the area. Saint Meinrad Archabbey dates to 1854. I also visited the historical city of Vincennes, the see city of Indiana’s first diocese, which later became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Several convents in the area include the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana.
In Vincennes, not far from Saint Meinrad’s and certainly worth the visit, there is the historical Old Cathedral — that is, the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier. The parish was established around 1734 by Jesuit missionaries. It contains the remains of the early French missionary bishops who served in the region in the early 1800s. That includes the grave of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté, who served from 1834 until his death in 1839. The first missionary bishop of Indiana, Bishop Bruté found peace of soul and accomplished extraordinary results in ministry over five short years. The conditions that Bishop Bruté lived under were challenging. He died of tuberculosis in 1839 and was buried in borrowed clothes. The basilica church, which is the oldest Catholic church in Indiana, contains Bishop Bruté’s remains in the crypt.
The late Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, OSB, of Indianapolis inaugurated the cause of Bishop Bruté in 2005. Archbishop Buechlein was a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad.
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods’ motherhouse in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, has an alpaca farm and gardens emphasizing eco-justice and growing produce. It is also the location of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and the Shrine of St. Theodore (Mother Theodore) Guerin, Indiana’s only canonized saint. This community, about two hours from the monastery, because of its rich Catholic history, should also be visited.
The convent houses a beautiful chapel and shrine to St. Theodora and informative museums as well. St. Theodora was a valiant woman of faith. A day spent with the sisters of this community is one that would be appreciated, especially learning about the hardships of the brave woman who began this community in the Indiana wilderness.
The rolling hills of southern Indiana are a treasure trove of historical parishes and churches. One Sunday, I attended a parish festival and sampled the special soup of the community. I discovered that this special soup is turtle soup!
A Spiritual Tune-up
The seminary school year began while I was visiting, so I participated in the opening of the school year and watched the interaction between seminarians, monks and other faculty. There is a great spirit in this seminary. There are seminaries going into decline, but happily this is not the case at Saint Meinrad’s. I am happy to say that the seminary enrollment was full. The bishops who send their seminarians to Saint Meinrad are wise to do so.
The retreat house is continually active. During my stay, over 60 Carmelite sisters came from all over the country for a conference.
A strength of the sabbatical program is the archabbey’s collaboration with you to tailor your stay with whatever you need. I received pastoral counseling from one of the monks and a religious sister who has been on the seminary faculty for over 35 years.
The Saint Meinrad sabbatical program gave me a spiritual tune-up. If you are burned-out or just “tired” in your ministry, this is a place to recharge yourself. As my time was ending, I met two brother priests who were going to stay for the fall semester at the seminary — one priest from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the other from the Archdiocese of Toronto.
The people who run the sabbatical program, Father Julian Peters and his wonderful staff, will aid you in what you may be searching for. They will answer any questions you may have. Sabbatical time is available if a priest is going through an assignment change, becoming a first-time pastor, getting ready to retire or whatever other life change a priest may be undergoing.
During my time at Saint Meinrad’s, I was able to renew and strengthen my prayer life. I enjoyed praying with the monks during their community Mass and liturgical cycle. I love beautiful liturgies and music, and Saint Meinrad’s offers this. The liturgical celebrations reach the heavens and leave you inspired.
One problem a diocesan priest sometimes faces is being available for prayer. Praying with the monks made me appreciate once again what was lacking. Sometimes, we just need a gentle reminder in our prayer life.
I remarked to one of the senior monks, “Please don’t change what you are doing, for whatever you are doing, you are doing it well.”
FATHER DAVID M. MISBRENER, D.Min., is pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church in Columbiana, Ohio, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in East Palestine, Ohio.
INSTITUTE FOR PRIESTS AND PRESBYTERATES
The Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at Saint Meinrad offers a series of workshops and programs for continuing education. They include the following:
• Effective Pastoring Workshop engages the ongoing formation needs of priests in their first years of ministry.
• Encore Priests helps priests transition into retirement. International Priests helps international priests with the distinct challenges they face in
the United States.
• Personalized Sabbaticals offers a place of peace and refreshment.
• Mini-Sabbatical is a four-week program providing time to rest, reflect and reinvigorate your spiritual life.
• Mentor Training prepares seasoned pastors to help new priests and pastors.
• Presbyterate Assemblies are based on five models, collectively titled intentional presbyterates.
For additional information, visit saintmeinrad.edu/priests-ongoing-formation/.