Archdiocese Local Religious life

Through the eye of the abbot

Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, creates a calendar out of his photos


by Jessica Langdon
jessica.langdon@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — More than once, people have remarked to Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, that he has a good eye and ought to keep taking pictures.

He has taken the advice to heart over the years.

And he is happy to share what his eyes see — and what his lens captures — with those around him.

For a second year in a row, a monthly calendar, filled with his photographs and reflections that accompany them, is available through St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison.

“It’s just kind of a work of love for him,” said Dan Madden, director of development for the abbey.

Photos and reflections in the 2012 calendar are among those that have been published in Celebration, an ecumenical liturgical guide published in Kansas City, Mo.

The pictures in the calendar, which was produced at the abbey, correspond with the seasons. February shows a snowy bench. The leaves are changing in October.

Each month offers a scriptural quote, along with a reflection by the abbot.

The stanzas reflect what Abbot Barnabas sees in the pictures through the eyes of his faith. While they’re not necessarily what he would call poetry, the stanzas are written in measured language, and regular readers tell the abbot they know his writings when they see them.

One of the photographs shows a door handle on one of the doors in the older part of the abbey.

Abbot Barnabas heard from a reader at a monastery in another state, who told him he had been able to put the material to use, from lectures to a novena to memorizing it and preaching it.

“That’s kind of heartwarming,” said Abbot Barnabas, “to have somebody write back and say how practical it had been for them.”

Abbot Barnabas has also had work published in Kansas Monks magazine.

Some of his photography is on display at the abbey, and more will be on display soon at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan. The exhibit will be mounted Jan. 23, with the official opening set for Feb. 28.

The opening reception is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 28, and organizers encourage all who are interested to attend. Those who would like to attend the free reception may register online through the Catholic Fine Arts Council website at: www.catholicfinearts.org.

Abbot Barnabas’ inspiration for his photography comes from near and far.

After spending 24 years at thenMaur Hill Prep School in Atchison in teaching and in administration, he had a year’s sabbatical, during which time he studied for 10 weeks in Rome.

“I took a lot of pictures in Rome,” he said.

And people took notice, urging him to stay with it. He took encouragement from that. One of those was a Lithuanian artist — a friend — who told him as they rode a train from Boston to Chicago that he has a good eye and should keep taking pictures.

Following his sabbatical, and before he was elected abbot, Abbot Barnabas was named associate pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park for a few years, and even served as principal there for part of that time. He built relationships with families there through his photography.

He has also taken many photographs during trips to Brazil to visit the Benedictine priory. The faces there make for great photographs. The people are “good picture people, good smiling faces,” he said.

And he takes pictures much closer to home, including many at the abbey.

The calendars are available for $10 each, and proceeds go to the abbey’s general fund to support the works of the monks.

Anyone interested in purchasing one may call the development office at (913) 360-7906, or email the office at: development@kansasmonks.org.

It’s really less of a fundraiser than a ministry that highlights some of what they do in Atchison, the abbot pointed out.

“It’s more than a scene,” he said of the photographs. “I’ve tried to make a faith relationship for the reader.”

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Jessica Langdon

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