O Brother, Who Art Thou: Q&A with three new alumni monks

Scott Murphy, News Editor

Brother Ignatius Membrino ‘08


What was your major, and what was your undergraduate experience like?

I was a theology major, and I grew up in Billerica, MA.

I was involved with the Knights of Columbus, the Theology Society, and the Campus Ministry retreat program. I was also an altar server in the Abbey Church.

I participated in campus life in other ways, such as going to hockey games in Sullivan Arena, performances in the Dana Center, and events at the NHIOP.

I became fond of “black and white” frappes in the Coffee Shop.

My time as an undergraduate was a very good experience and I continue to maintain contact with friends from college.

What have you done after graduating?

After I graduated from college and before it was time for me to enter the monastery, I worked as a pharmacy technician in a distribution center supplying medication to patients in mental health facilities and inmates in correctional facilities throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

During this time I had the opportunity to observe other religious communities and notice how they compare to Saint Anselm.

What made you want to enter the monastic lifestyle?

I was introduced to monasticism as a result of coming to school here. I found myself drawn to the life of prayer and worship of God in the setting of a stable community.

I appreciate the daily liturgical observance of the monastery and also significant is the concern of the monks for praying for people. I was interested in the monastic life while I was a student. I attended Mass regularly, participated in Vespers, and made retreats in the monastery.

I entered Saint Anselm Abbey as a postulant. I was given the name Brother Ignatius in honor of Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

I am currently taking two philosophy courses in the College as part of my monastic formation.

Any additional comments?

If anyone thinks he might be interested in the monastic life here at Saint Anselm, I encourage him to consider it.


Brother Paul LeSage ‘06


What was your major, and what was your undergraduate experience like?

As a native of Manchester, and a parishioner of Saint Raphael Parish, the parish run by the monks of Saint Anselm, I could think of no college I desired to attend more.

I came in 2001 as a commuting student and remained so for the rest of my time in the school.

Initially I was a Chemistry major, and remained so into my Junior year, when I came to the difficult decision that I was being pulled more towards Theology.

The lateness of the decision meant that I graduated in 2006 instead of 05 with the rest of my class, but I believe it was the right decision.

I also was privileged to be a member of the Saint Anselm College Choir under Fr. Bede’s direction all of my years here, and attended the very first trip to Europe with the choir.

My time at Saint Anselm is one of the most cherished periods of my life. I was always inspired by the care and compassion I found in my professors, people eager to teach and connect to their students, not merely collecting a paycheck.


What have you done after graduating?

I completed my courses in December of 2005, and shortly afterward took a job at Stonyfield Yogurt, working in a laboratory technician, thanks to my chemistry background.

It involved the production of the yogurt through bacterial cultures, petri dishes, analyzing the products, and yes, even taste testing.

I remained there for 2 years before moving on to become the Director of Liturgy at Saint Raphael Parish, a position I held up until joining Saint Anselm Abbey in November 2012.


What made you want to enter the monastic lifestyle?

Though I had grown up encountering the monks as my pastors at Saint Raphael (First Fr. Bede, and then, starting in 2002, Fr. Jerome) my first real experience in monastic life came in the form of a retreat organized in my junior year by the Knights of Columbus.

I was enthralled by the peaceful lifestyle, the joy I found in the community and the simply giving of oneself to God. I had always been deeply immersed in my faith, and the suggestion of religious life had been made to me more than once, but I was resistant.

It wasn’t what I wanted for my life. But God, as he so often does, had other plans.

After the retreat, I began to seriously consider, for the first time, a religious vocation, but I was worried that if I attempted it before experiencing the world that I would always wonder “What if?”

But though I left the campus after graduation, the monastery never left me. I began to long for the life more and more, and I knew that God was calling me. My fellow laboratory technicians at Stonyfield knew of my degree in Theology and were fascinated by it.

Ironically, it was in these long religious conversations in a scientific lab that I knew that what I had felt, what I was still feeling about the monastery was right.


Any additional comments?

I would encourage everyone to consider making a retreat at the Abbey. Even if you don’t think you have a vocation, it’s a wonderful experience, both educationally, and spirtually. And as I learned, you never know just how God might reach you.



Brother Stephen Lawson ‘08


What was your major, and what was your undergraduate experience like?

I was a politics major. Overall, I had a very good college experience. During college, I gained a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Catholic faith, met great friends, and was involved in various clubs.

My one piece of advice for students would be to find a balance between their academic work and non-academic activities.

When I was in college I ran a website about the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary, and I was so devoted to it that my class work suffered.


What have you done after graduating?

After graduating I lived in Manchester with a former college roommate. I was a reporter for the website PolitickerNH, which is no longer exists, but was a website that covered New Hampshire politics.

After that website closed, I was then the web editor for the Live Free or Die Alliance, which is a nonpartisan organization that provides objective information about issues facing New Hampshire.


What made you want to enter the monastic lifestyle?

During college I began to discern a religious vocation and became attracted to the monastic lifestyle.

I first started to think about entering the monastery because Fr. Cecil once said to me that I should spend some time in the monastery and think about becoming a monk.

At first I was a bit taken aback, but he was right! The more time I spend in the monastery, the more I realized that I might be called to a monastic vocation.

Ultimately I was attracted to the monastic lifestyle for three reasons: sacrifice, community, and prayer.


Any additional comments?

In college the best advice I ever received was to say the Hail Mary five times a day. This daily practice was an easy way to cultivate a habit of prayer. Short prayers, like the Hail Mary, remind people that there is a divine presence that should impact their live.

I would also recommend that students download the Honor Your Inner Monk app, which has a very short prayer for the morning and night. This is a great app for anyone who wants a short, but insightful prayer to open-and-close their days with.

For students who are seeking a more intense prayer life, I would recommend the Laudate app, which has a wide collection of prayers, daily mass readings, and the Liturgy of the Hours.