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The Saint Anselm Crier

The student news site of Saint Anselm College

The Saint Anselm Crier

The student news site of Saint Anselm College

The Saint Anselm Crier

Abbot Mark to resign when he hits 75; election in April

Courtesy/Saint Anselm College FLICKR
From left, Abbot Matthew K. Leavy, who served from 1986-2012, Abbot Mark A. Cooper, newly elected, and Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, retired bishop of Portland, Maine, and Abbot Matthew’s predecessor who served from 1971-1986 for at the 2012 blessing of Abbot Mark.

The last time Saint Anselm Abbey elected a new abbot, the college was only a few weeks into their summer recess in 2012. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni sat outside the Abbey Church, waiting. Twelve years later, the monastic community is getting ready for what will be another major abbatial election to take place April 29-30.

Fr. Francis McCarty, O.S.B., is serving as the secretary of election for the monks. His role is to document, record, and prepare the physical room for the abbatial elections. For Fr. Francis, this is an exciting opportunity and the first he has experienced as a monk. “I’m excited about the election. It’s an opportunity for the monastic community to look at ourselves and choose who we want to lead the community. That obviously will affect SAC, Woodside, St. Raph’s because the abbot sets the tone and the direction that a monastic community goes in. Because we’re connected to all three apostolates, it’s a big deal.”

The preparation for such a major event takes months. According to Fr. Augustine Kelley, prior and professor of his popular class, The Benedictines, the most important aspect of preparation is prayer. “We will have periods of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for the monastic and wider communities, as well as special Masses leading up to the election. We also have a visiting abbot with us on March 9th to lead the monks in a day-long workshop to focus on abbatial leadership and what our community needs at this period in our history.”

The process of electing a new abbot reaches its summit during the actual voting and nomination days. Day 1 is focused on nominations. The monks nominate and evaluate potential candidates and pray about what direction they may vote in. Day 2 consists of the actual voting.

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One thing that looks differently about this election is the participation and presence of ten monks who have all joined and professed solemn vows since 2012. Another is the issues that a future abbot may have to deal with. Fr. Francis listed a few: “Facing any community in the northeast is always the ever-present problem of vocations and making sure we have monks to continue living out the Rule. Although not a problem, the on-going work of the

abbot is also going to be strengthening and defining further the relationship between the monastery and the college.”

As the monastic community starts to prepare for the election, Fr. Augustine asks the Saint Anselm community to keep the monks in their prayers. “The monastic community appreciates the prayers of the college community during this important process. We truly believe that the Holy Spirit is with us, to guide and direct us, and that the Spirit will provide a leader that is right for the community at this point in our history.”

According to the Constitution for the Congregation that Saint Anselm Abbey is in, it is forbidden to campaign or engage in any political activity in the voting for an abbot. As they prepare, Fr. Francis wants the college to know, “It’s not really helpful for monks to be asked who’s going to be the next abbot. It’s not political. It’s a moment where the monastic community asks the Holy Spirit to be present and to help choose their next abbot. It’s why our preparation process is so generic. It’s not very helpful to use when people ask who the next abbot will be. But please ask us about the process, the election, and the preparation.”

A final message from the monastic community is to keep your ears open for the bells on April 30. Fr. Augustine wrote, “At some point on the morning of April 30th, the tower bells will peal letting everyone know that an abbot has been elected. Shortly after that, the monks will process into the choir of the Abbey Church for a service of thanksgiving. The abbot will be at the end of the line. Everyone is invited to come to the Abbey Church when the bells ring.”


Abbey to elect new abbot in late April (Courtesy/)
Abbot Mark Cooper’s abbatial blessing. (Courtesy/)

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    Marty HennesseyApr 27, 2024 at 1:41 pm

    God Bless Abbott Mark and give guidance to the community to select a good leader for a great and good place