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Conception Abbey hosts grand anniversary celebration

CONCEPTION, Mo. (December 15, 2023) — “On December 8th the little monastery was blessed by Father Frowin with great joy and he and the candidates moved in. On the 24th he went over the prayers of the breviary with them and that night in the humble frame church, which in its simplicity was reminiscent of Bethlehem, the solemn choral prayer of the Church was initiated at Conception. That prayer has continued at the assigned hours of the day and night ever since and will continue with God’s gracious protection until the end of time.” – excerpt from Abbot Frowin Conrad, OSB, Founder of Conception Abbey

The monks of Conception Abbey hosted a grand celebration in honor of their 150th anniversary, with the official date of December 8, 2023. On that day, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the monks celebrated 150 years of monastic life.

To honor this special moment in history, the monks hosted bishops and abbots from around the country—really, the world—beginning with Vespers (Evening Prayer) on Thursday, December 7. With the evening light shining beautifully into the Basilica, Abbot Christian Meyer, OSB, preached about living in community with one’s brothers and sisters. Abbot Christian is the abbot of Engelberg Abbey in Switzerland, which is Conception Abbey’s motherhouse that recently celebrated its 900th anniversary.

The main events on Friday, December 8, were the Holy Eucharist and a luncheon. Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB, the 10th and current abbot of Conception Abbey, celebrated Mass, and Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, the ninth abbot of Conception Abbey and the head of the Benedictine Order in Rome, preached about the similarities of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and Abbot Frowin Conrad, OSB.

At the luncheon following Mass, Abbot Benedict offered a welcome and a few words of gratitude. Bishop James V Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph offered remarks and prayer. Abbot Christian, as well as Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, of Conception’s sister monastery, Mount Angel in Oregon, gave remarks and presented Abbot Benedict and the monastic community with commemorative gifts. Sr. Dawn Annette Mills, Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, ended the program with regards from the nearby sisters, many of whom were in attendance.

Over the course of the two days, the monks of Conception Abbey hosted more than 200 guests, which included religious men and women from fellow monasteries near and far, alumni, oblates, friends, and family.

“It was only appropriate that prayer and fellowship outlined the entire celebration,” said Abbot Benedict. “We felt immense support, especially from our religious brothers and sisters, and we are grateful to have shared this moment in time with so many who mean so much to us.”

In his homily, Abbot Gregory spoke of singing a new song to the Lord and encouraged the congregation to consider what that new song may be for the next 150 years of monastic life at Conception Abbey.

On Sunday, December 10, the monks hosted the local community, offering gratitude to local ancestors who brought the monks here 150 years ago.

“Anniversaries prompt us to look back at beginnings and to celebrate stability, perseverance, and endurance,” said Abbot Benedict. “May this anniversary also encourage us to look forward and recommit ourselves to the prayer and work that the monks and world need today in a community characterized by reverence, welcome, and love so that in all things, God may be glorified.”

As is tradition, the monks invite guests to join them for Midnight Mass in the Basilica on Christmas, made special this year by standing exactly 150 years after the first monks began prayer in 1873.

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Front row:

  • Abbot Justin Brown, OSB, of St. Joseph Abbey, St. Benedict Louisiana; President of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation
  • Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB, eighth Abbot of Conception Abbey

Second row:

  • Deacon James Hall, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
  • Fr. Macario Martinez, OSB, Prior of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Benet Lake, Wisconsin
  • Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB, Tenth and current Abbot of Conception Abbey
  • Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB, Master of Ceremonies
  • Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt, Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska
  • Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, Mount Angel, Wisconsin

Third row:

  • Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, OSB, ninth Abbot of Conception Abbey and head of Benedictine Order
  • Abbot Elijah Owens, OSB, New Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco, Arkansas
  • Abbot Christian Meyer, OSB, Abbot of Kloster Engelberg, Engelberg, Switzerland
  • Abbot Marc Crilly, OSB, St. Benedict Abbey, Still River, Massachusetts
  • Bishop Gerald Vincke, Diocese of Salina, Kansas
  • Abbot Brendan Freeman, New Melleray Abbey, Peosta, Iowa
  • Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, seventh Abbot of Conception Abbey
  • Fr. Vincent Bataille, OSB, of Marion Abbey, Aurora, Illinois
  • Bishop James V Johnston, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri