Leaven Blog

160 years of work and prayer

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

Last Saturday, I attended the Abbot’s Table, an annual fundraiser for St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas.

This year’s event closed the 160-year anniversary celebration of the Kansas monks serving our archdiocese.

Throughout that time, they have preached and taught countless numbers of people, and their work has helped form Catholic communities throughout Kansas and beyond.

The history of our Kansas monks is part of a legacy that started in 525 A.D. when St. Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy, and established standards of how monasteries would be run to this day.

Over the centuries, monasteries based on the Rule of St. Benedict — praying and working for the glory of God and the good of the world — spread across Europe and became centers of prayer, education and charity.

In 1857, Benedictine monks came to the Kansas Territory to care for pioneer immigrants from Germany and Ireland.

These brave men planted the roots of what would become the great monastery on the bluffs above the Missouri River and which now overlooks the campus of Benedictine College

Atchison boasts parishes, Maur Hill-Mount Academy and Benedictine College, all founded by the Benedictines, where they serve as pastors, chaplains, faculty and staff.

“St. Benedict’s Abbey and the monks are very important to the archdiocese,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann. “Thanks to them and the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison is one of the few cities of its size that provides the opportunity for Catholic education from preschool to graduate school.

“And it’s not just academic excellence they provide,” he continued. “I’m proud to say they provide excellent Catholic formation.”

The abbey itself is an impressive limestone structure. Its church, completed in 1957, was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and connects to the abbey.

The monks reach out to the poor and neglected throughout the area, bringing Christ to the spiritually impoverished and those in need.

They provide retreat programs enriching the lives of individuals and groups from the streets of Atchison to the prisons of Kansas and beyond.

At the heart of their ministry is a mission of deep of prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours is an obligation and a central part of the daily life of Benedictine monks.

Five times a day they gather to lift the needs of the world to God.

“More important than any ministry provided by the monks of St. Benedict Abbey, is the living testimony provided by these men whose lives cry out to all they encounter to place God first in our lives,” said Archbishop Naumann.

Indeed, St. Benedict’s Abbey is a light on the hill calling us all to live for the glory of God.

A visit to the abbey is worth consideration. For the Kansas monks, hospitality is a cardinal rule. They will welcome you in the spirit of St. Benedict.

“Let everyone that comes be received in Christ” ~ St. Benedict.

To learn more about the Kansas monks or schedule a visit to the abbey, visit Kansasmonks.org.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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