Monastic Milestones



Fr. Norbert Schappler, OSB | 75 years professed

Fr. Norbert


“Fidelity” is perhaps the most fitting word to describe jubilarian Fr. Norbert Schappler, who this year celebrates the 75th anniversary of his monastic profession of vows. At the age of 95, Fr. Norbert’s daily participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is an inspiration to the entire community. Decidedly independent, he continues to live in his own room in the monastery, to attend daily recreation and he rarely misses a community meal. And he is still the primary instigator of weekly bridge card games in the monastery!

Born in 1926 in Atchison, Kansas, Maurice Schappler followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Abbot Stephen Schappler when he came to Conception Abbey to attend high school in 1940. He entered the novitiate at Conception Abbey in 1945, professed vows in 1946 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952. Fr. Norbert’s monastic life has been one of loving service to this community, enriching the lives of seminarians, guests and his fellow monks. For much of his monastic life Fr. Norbert served Conception Seminary College as head librarian, professor and spiritual director. His keen interest in calligraphy and art brought him to fill the role of art director at the Printery House for more than 15 years. As a loyal monk, devoted man of prayer, and source of homespun wisdom, Father Norbert is indeed a man “full of faith.” May he be richly blessed ad multos annos.

— Br. Michael Marcotte, OSB


Fr. Richard Cleary, OSB | 70 years professed


Fr. Richard once remarked: “One of the attractions of monastic life for me has always been the practice of table reading, so that the mind is nourished along with the body.” This theme of nourishment of the mind continues in him at age 92. He is always found engaged in reading a new book, and when he comes to the common area for our evening reading, he is eager to listen to and learn from the current book being read.

Fr. Richard professed as a monk of Conception in 1951, but his years of elementary, high school, and college were the first stages on the journey into greater knowledge. After theology studies and ordination here at Conception, Fr. Richard went on to obtain his licentiate in theology from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada. After teaching here at Conception and at the seminary in Westminster Abbey in Mission, British Columbia, Abbot Stephen sent him to the University of Athens in Greece for a year. Then it was on to Rome to study at the Gregorian University, the Pontifical Oriental Institute and Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine University. Back in this country he studied medieval history and political science at Harvard.

Brother monk Abp. Jerome highlighted the priesthood in this monk’s life: “Priesthood has always been at the center of Fr. Richard’s personal identity.” His intellectual interests are a fine complement to this identity. It has to do with that very Catholic – though not exclusively, of course – importance of keeping faith and reason travelling together!

Fr. Richard has had teaching and directing stints along the road. In addition to his teaching here at home and in British Columbia, while at St. Pius X Monastery in Pevely, Missouri, he directed the Paul VI Institute, an adult education program of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. In 1992, he returned to Rome to teach in the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, and while serving as chaplain to the Sisters of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration in Philadelphia, he taught Church history at St. Charles Seminary. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, he served the Benedictine Sisters. His ministry as a parish priest included Conception Junction, Wichita, and Kansas City. The search for knowledge and truth has characterized his life.

— Fr. Xavier Nacke, OSB


Fr. Rene Guesnier, OSB | 60 years ordained


When the effects of advanced age led him to retire from active ministry and return home to Conception Abbey, Fr. Rene had an altar installed in his room in St. Stephen’s Infirmary so that he could be sure to celebrate the Eucharist every day, a testament to his dedication to priestly ministry considering his increased difficulty in moving around on his own. Fr. Rene occasionally concelebrates with the other residents of St. Stephen’s in the chapel for daily Mass, but most days you will find him at the altar in his room celebrating the Extraordinary Form, which has nourished his spiritual life.

Jerome Delano Guesnier came to Conception as a seminarian in 1952. He felt the call to the priesthood in high school and traveled to Missouri in pursuit of this vocation, leaving behind his family and friends in Seward, Kansas. When he set out, he did not know all of the places this life of ministry would take him, but he went forth in faith trusting that God was leading him and would provide the grace needed for a life of service. His various assignments have taken him around the world as a military chaplain and back to his Kansas roots as a pastor before his return to Conception where he continues his life of prayer and dedication to the Church. Thank you, Fr. Rene for 60 years of priesthood.

— Fr. Victor Schinstock, OSB


Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB | 60 years professed


Celebrating 60 years of monastic profession this year is our confrere Archbishop Jerome. As one might surmise from his title, he has spent a good portion of his life away from the monastic community of Conception, first as Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota and then as Coadjutor and Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa. The 26 years that he spent away from the monastery in service to these two local churches in no way lessened his deep commitment and love for the monastic life to which he first vowed himself 60 years ago.

In the beginning of his monastic life, Fr. Jerome (ordained in 1966) appeared to be destined for a life of teaching and academic work in our seminary. As often happens in the context of religious life, however, other calls came to him, a most significant one being his election as sixth abbot of Conception Abbey in 1977. This began a course of service to the community which lasted 10 years, until his call to serve the wider Church in the role of Bishop.

When elected to head the monastic community in 1977, Abbot Jerome took as his motto: Prodesse Magis Quam Praeesse (to profit [his brothers] rather than to preside [over them]). This is an admonition found in the 64th chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict. To his confreres, it is evident that as monk, priest, and bishop, this jubilarian has been true to his motto throughout his life.

Retiring from his duties as bishop in 2013, he returned to his monastic home and to his brethren, donning again the monastic habit, eager to be engaged in the daily round of prayer and work: teaching seminarians and permanent deacon candidates in the classroom, working at his favored gardening pursuits, and taking a regular turn celebrating the Eucharist for our Benedictine Sisters at Clyde. For 60 years of fidelity in the monastic life, and for his dedicated years of unforeseen labor in the Lord’s vineyard afar, we rejoice and give thanks to God.

— Br. Bernard Montgomery, OSB


Fr. Albert Bruecken, OSB | 50 years professed


Though Fr. Albert marks his Golden Jubilee of Profession this year, he remains as young at heart as ever. Coming to Conception from Des Moines, Iowa (though actually born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania), Fr. Albert was the first Conception monk to retain his baptismal name at profession, making first vows in 1971 with fellow novice and jubliarian Jack Polan—now Abbot Primate Gregory. Br. Albert went on to study theology at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. After ordination, his inclination for science led to a doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

For much of his monastic life, Fr. Albert has combined teaching and pastoral work with every kind of monastic assignment imaginable: guestmaster, socius (assistant novice master), vocation director, oblate director, and subprior—to name only a few. He even served in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City as Episcopal Delegate in the Cause for the Canonization of Blessed Stanley Rother, himself an illustrious alumnus of Conception. Since 2017, Fr. Albert has held the plum appointment of Pastor at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville, Missouri. He clearly flourishes best in situations that allow him to indulge his friendly and gregarious nature. Ad multos annos!

— Br. Jude Person, OSB

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