"You won't be the same person the day you leave
here that you are today," Fr. Denis assured us at the colloquy I
attended during my first days at Saint Meinrad. He was right.
During my long drive home from graduation four years later, I
ponderedwhyhe had been right. What is it about being part of the
community of Saint Meinrad that is so enriching and
In my experience, it is not because the courses are absorbing,
challenging and enriching - though they are; it is not because of
the friendships I formed or the sense of community I experienced -
though both are strong and supportive; it was not because of the
simple beauty of the campus - though it reflects "the lasting
beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit … precious in God's sight"
about which Peter writes.(1)
Being part of the Saint Meinrad community changed me because
every aspect of my experience, in class and in fellowship, in study
and in worship, invited me ever-deeper into the Paschal Mystery of
Christ and prepared me to extend that invitation to others.
I became interested in Saint Meinrad initially because I wanted
to be part of a community of pilgrims and scholars journeying with
the Church in discerning how to manifest more effectively the
ministry of Christ's touch in a world that needs it so desperately,
and I was never disappointed.
I particularly appreciated that our studies were grounded in a
strong sense of pastoral ministry. Classes were never devoted
simply to abstractions. Whether studying theology or church
history, scripture or pastoral practice, our discussions were
grounded firmly in a dialogue of pilgrims discerning how to live
our baptismal office more fully.
I came to think of it as "academics with a ministerial purpose."
In his Holy Rule, St. Benedict emphasizes the importance of
regarding the tools of our labor as if they are the "sacred vessels
of the altar."(2) Saint Meinrad honed existing "tools" - and
imparted new ones - with which to serve both my parish and
In every class and at every meal, in worship and in relaxation,
the community of Saint Meinrad invited me to enter more fully the
work of ministry and the gospel of service. Saint Meinrad helped
prepare me for the hard work of ministry by encouraging me to
practice the hard work of being present for those who yearn to
glimpse the face of Christ.
I often felt that we were being formed - and Saint Meinrad is a
community of formation, not just education - to become successors
to the "young man … dressed in … white" who beckoned to disciples
on the first Easter morning: "Do not be alarmed; you are looking
for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is
not here. Look, there is the place they laid him."(3) Everything
about my experience at Saint Meinrad helped me, too, to proclaim
that the tomb is empty and to invite others to come see for
As I pursued my studies, I was able to apply what I was
learning. Saint Meinrad helped me to work with catechumens and
candidates in our parish RCIA program more confidently and
creatively. Scripture came alive for me in new and absorbing ways,
something in turn that I was able to bring to parish Bible
Most of all, though, Saint Meinrad taught me the importance of
listening with "the ear of [my] heart"(4) to those in our community
who doubt, those who grieve, those who hunger, materially or
spiritually, as well as to those who celebrate and those who may
not yet be ready to enter the empty tomb.
It was a privilege and a blessing for me to be part of the Saint
Meinrad community for four years. My experience served me well as a
lay minister; it continues to serve me now as a permanent deacon.
Though I graduated and left my active involvement in the community
one and a half years ago, Saint Meinrad has never left me. Saint
Meinrad is always as close as my memories and my thanksgiving, and
always a part of my work.
(1) Pet 3:4 (NRSV).
(2) Fry, Timothy O.S.B., ed.,The Rule of St. Benedict in English
(Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1982), Ch. XXXI, p. 55.
(3) Mk 16:5-6 (NRSV).
(4) Fry,Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, p. 15.