Fr. Anthony celebrates 80 years of service and fidelity

There are often firsts in every family, so even in a monastic community, we too have the pleasure of participating in an event happening for the first time. This year, on March 12, our Fr. Anthony Shidler, OSB, celebrated 80 years as a professed Benedictine monk.

For the first time in our community’s 147-year history, a member has reached this notable benchmark. While his length of years (98) is also something to rejoice in, his dedicated fidelity to the sacred promises he made 80 years ago gives us cause for even greater rejoicing. At just 18 years of age, Fr. Anthony heard God’s call, responded willingly, and never turned back from the joys and challenges that lay ahead of him. When he professed his vows in 1940 as a lay brother, he could never have imagined that God was not yet really done with him and that there would be other calls to answer, and new challenges to take up in responding to God’s numerous graces.

When I think of Fr. Anthony, I think of the monk I have known for more than 50 years who was always an example of monastic living that others could imitate. In particular, during the 1970s, which was a very difficult period for the religious orders in the Church, Fr. Anthony was the Prior of the monastery, the second-highest official for the community after the Abbot. I recall him as one who worked very hard to keep the community grounded in its best traditions and noblest aspirations. He was firm in doing what he knew was right and expected the same of others, and yet his manner and approach toward all was ever kind, compassionate, and gentle.

As I think about his 80 years of monastic profession, what forms in my mind is a short litany of his fidelities which seem to have always been the bedrock of his life:

1. Fidelity to the primacy of God and a constant search for Him

2. Fidelity to simple and daily sanctity, and to daily duty

3. Fidelity to a spirit of joy and sacrifice

4. Fidelity to the service of one’s brethren as envisioned in the Rule of St. Benedict.

It would not be difficult for any one of the monks of the Abbey to elaborate on these hallmarks of fidelity and to demonstrate how each one applies specifically to Fr. Anthony; but to do so would only cause him embarrassment, because he has never been one to seek the limelight or the attention of others. Like all of our brothers of advanced years, he is now given more to the apostolate of prayer for the well being of the community and the Church; but he and all who are “retired” continue to teach and edify us by their long-lasting fidelity to the monastic way of life and the good zeal of their Benedictine living.

In spite of being slowed down by the natural course of physical diminishment, their spirits are still eager to run the race and to live each day as a gift from God. Faithful in prayer and ever interested in the ongoing life of the community, Fr. Anthony and all of our retired brothers support us by the quality of their lives. We can never express gratitude enough to all these elder brothers who through a whole lifetime have ever put God first.

­— Br. Bernard Montgomery, OSB

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