I hope my Jesuit friends here at America forgive me, but I want to spill some digital ink talking about a group of Benedictines. The monks at my alma mater, Saint Anselm College, a Benedictine institution in New Hampshire, are gathering this week to elect a new abbot, a process I knew little about before this week.
Rev. Matthew Leavy, OSB, the abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey for the past 26 years, announced several months ago that he would retire in June, and so began the process of electing his successor. Because the abbot also serves as chancellor of the college, the school commenced a campaign informing the college community of how the process would unfold.
Attending Saint Anselm gave me insight to the monastic world that I never would have accessed otherwise. I befriended several monks, completed a retreat in the monastery during Holy Week, and gained an appreciation for Benedictine spirituality. Learning about the process for electing a new abbot has been equally captivating.
The process can be described as a sort of mini-conclave, with monks nominating candidates today, praying and reflecting tonight, and voting tomorrow. There can be up to six rounds of voting, and while there is no white smoke, bells will ring throughout campus when a new abbot is elected and accepts the position. The monks will then process to the Abbey Church to celebrate and welcome their new leader, a service that, in true modern fashion, will be broadcast live via webcast.
The college’s website offers a thorough explanation of the process, with a couple of videos exploring both the election and a presentation from Abbot Matthew about what it means to be a Benedictine college. Click here to learn more about the election process, and here to read a profile of Abbot Matthew.
Michael J. O’Loughlin
Image of Abbot Matthew courtesy Saint Anselm College.