Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mount Angel Seminary Celebrates 125 Years as a School of the Lord's Service

by Dean Marshall

Mount Angel, Ore. - Gathering in prayer and gratitude, staff, students, friends, monks, and benefactors celebrated the 125th anniversary of Mount Angel Seminary with a special Vespers service and dinner on March 21, 2014. Highlighting the accomplishments that began with humble roots laid down by the monks of Mount Angel Abbey, themselves coming from Engelberg Abbey in Switzerland just a few years before the seminary opened in 1889, guests not only looked at the successes and growth of the largest seminary in the western United States, but they also looked toward the future.

The evening began in prayer with a Vespers service commemorating the passing of St. Benedict, a patron of Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, and for all those who have contributed to the success and growth of the seminary over its many years. Abbot Gregory Duerr, OSB, explained that the seminary has served as a place for men from dioceses throughout the world to “deeply encounter and learn of the Lord Jesus,” who calls these men to His priesthood. Over the past 125 years, Mount Angel Seminary has sent hundreds of men into the vineyard, preparing them to be priests for His Church.

From left to right: Bishop-Elect Peter Smith, Most Reverend Elden Curtiss,  Most Reverend Liam Cary, Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Abbot Gregory Duerr, Most Reverend John Vlazny, and Monsignor Joseph Betschart.   Photo credit: Ivan Garcia

After Vespers, the guests proceeded to the dining room in Aquinas Hall to look back on the history of the seminary and enjoy food and fellowship, beginning with a social hour and followed by a formal dinner. Light music played throughout the dinner, and during dessert, the student-led music group Voces Fidei performed for the gathered community. Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, mentioned during his opening remarks that Mount Angel has formed and continues to form priests “who can boldly proclaim the Gospel in Word and Sacrament,” leading Christ’s faithful into the Kingdom of God. Msgr. Betschart related the pride with which the seminary forms priests “with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ,” and expressed his gratitude to all who help make that formation process possible.

While Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the evening, he was unable to attend due to medical issues. In a statement prepared for the anniversary, he expressed that “we rightly give thanks to God because what Archbishop Gross prayed for so long ago [at the founding of the seminary] has finally come to pass. He prayed that ‘Mount Angel may from its beautiful summit send forth angels in flesh and blood to promote…the glory of God on Earth.’” The entire community of Mount Angel Seminary expressed its gratitude for the Cardinal’s remarks and assured him of their prayers. Deacon Owen Cummings, the Academic Dean of the seminary, echoed the words of Cardinal George in giving his address: “From their time of formation at Mount Angel Seminary, graduates are…equipped with divine and human learning, to bear the name of Jesus Christ to the people of the United States and beyond.”
Other guests of honor included the Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland in Oregon; the Most Reverend John Vlazny, Archbishop Emeritus of Portland in Oregon; the Most Reverend Elden Curtiss, the first diocesan rector of Mount Angel Seminary and Archbishop Emeritus of Omaha, the Most Reverend Liam Cary, a Mount Angel alumnus and Bishop of Baker; and Bishop-elect Peter Smith, a faculty member and alumnus of Mount Angel Seminary and recently appointed auxiliary Bishop of Portland in Oregon.

Closing out the evening, Archbishop Sample offered some final remarks, expressing thanks to God for the history and continuing work of the seminary, although he also looked forward toward the years to come for the seminary. He called the entire community to “look to the future, to the great work God will continue to do.” Archbishop Sample encouraged everyone to work hard toward moving “[the seminary] forward to even greater heights.” He concluded by expressing his support for the ongoing mission of the seminary, as well as the leadership of Msgr. Betschart and the seminary administration.

The evening ended as it began: in prayer. After the tables were cleared, the entire community joined together in singing “Ave Regina Caelorum,” one of several Marian hymns that may be sung at the close of the day. Through the hymn, the gathered monks, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Mount Angel Seminary asked for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on their behalf, and on behalf of all those connected to Mount Angel. While the night was over, the gathered community was filled with joy and looked forward to the next 125 years of Mount Angel Seminary continuing as a “School of the Lord’s Service.”

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