Campus Ministry celebrates college’s Benedictine identity

Fr. Augustine plays Pictionary with students at monastic recreation on March 22

Courtesy/Jason Kolnos

Fr. Augustine plays Pictionary with students at monastic recreation on March 22

Tom Canuel, Crier Staff

The Office of Campus Ministry hosted their annual Benedictine Heritage Week celebrations with a series of programs and special events held for the college. The week, beginning on Monday March 21, kicked off with the feast of St. Benedict and ended with a Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

According to Dean Sue Gabert, the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Campus Ministry, Benedictine Heritage Week is “a week to celebrate our Benedictine heritage and history, educate our community on our unique identity, and reflect on the charisma of our founding order.” Benedictine Heritage Week always occurs during the week of St. Benedict’s transitus, a fancy word for St. Benedict’s passage through death to eternal life. 

The week of celebration kicked off with the feast of St. Benedict’s transitus on March 21. Throughout the day, students could stop by the Office of Campus Ministry and grab cupcakes to celebrate. C Shop featured a special monastic soup– St. Patrick’s Irish Cheddar Soup– throughout the day and the monastery held a special Mass and Vespers with adoration in the evening. 

Tuesday March 22 featured two special events. First, Fr. Mathias Durette, O.S.B., led a tour of the Abbey Church and spoke on the history of monastic artifacts in the Lower Church with college archivist, Keith Chevalier. Later in the evening, most of the monastic community joined students in the Jean Student Center Game Room for some intense competitive games such as Pictionary or table tennis.

The Monastic Recreation program was developed and executed by RA Renee Suhocki, class of 2022. Suhocki ran the program to do her required “Anselmian collab” program for the Office of Residential Life. According to Suhocki, the idea from the program stemmed out of women around campus being unable to visit the monastery for recreation. “I wanted to invite a few of the monks out for a night of games and fellowship with other members of the student body. Especially because I have heard some of them talk quite a big game- I was certainly up to the challenge.” 

On Wednesday, March 23, the Office of Campus Ministry created the UNPLUG Challenge. The idea was to have students put their phones away for at least one hour during the day to have time to contemplate, reflect, and do leisurely activities. 

On Thursday March 24, students had an opportunity to experience a program called “Beer and Benedictines.” Fr. Anselm Smedile, O.S.B., Fr. Bernard Disco, O.S.B., and Professor Kevin Staley sat down with students in the pub to discuss the role Benedictine monks have played in the art and history of beer-making. Beer was available for students over 21 to sample and students once again had the opportunity to spend time with some of the monks of the Abbey. 

On Friday, March 25, the monastic community participated in a worldwide consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In parishes across the world and in the monastery’s own Abbey Church, many gathered to pray for peace in Russia and Ukraine. The consecration was done specifically on March 25 because it is the feast of the Annunciation, or, in Christian theology, when Mary consented to bear Jesus in her womb. Around 50-60 people gathered with the monastic community at noon to pray. Br. Titus Phelan read off the two page prayer in combination with the monastic community’s midday prayer called Sext. “O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace.”

The impact of Benedictine Heritage Week extends far beyond the week itself. Speaking as a senior, Suhocki commented: “The value that the monastery and Benedictine culture brings to campus is immeasurable. The Benedictine hallmarks and their way of life are incorporated into every office and organization on-campus. As an RA, we are encouraged to build community and model these values for our residents. I think that Saint A’s would not be the same environment and community without the presence of the monks and the monastery. … It has shaped a great deal of my experiences here while at Saint Anselm and will continue to have an impact on my life even after I graduate.”

Gabert gave a different perspective on the week’s impact. “I hope that students take away an appreciation for our Benedictine charism and founding community and a new way to integrate this charism into their life and education. In terms of living out the celebrations from the week, I hope students take one element modeled by our Benedictine community and try it out. Take some time to enjoy silence, value work as a prayerful action and a way to return your God-given gifts back to God, and learn the value of both work AND prayer.”