On Saturday, April 6, 2013 Fr. Anthony Bigney was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Kevin Farrell of the diocese of Dallas. The following day he celebrated his First Mass in the Abbey Church.
Just one week after Easter, the joyful day came in the midst of a school semester rapidly coming to a close (Fr. Anthony, in fact, had only a few days before sent off the school’s yearbook to be printed). The weather was perfectly cool and bright, and the bluebonnets were just beginning to emerge. The pleasant conditions and the happy occasion seemed to encourage those who attended – the many family, friends, students and parents of the school community – to stay and to celebrate in the courtyard of the Abbey long after the ordination and First Mass were over.
The moment marks a major transition in the life of Fr. Anthony, and, therefore, the life of the Cistercian community. He will continue teaching at Cistercian: “My life as a teacher will make me a better priest - the students are the ones to whom we primarily minister the sacraments, so it's important for me to know them, to know their needs and their personalities.” But in addition to teaching he will now join the rest of the community’s priests in their sacramental ministry in the school and diocese, a responsibility which appears to mark the young monks who have taken it up. Br. John Bayer sees a real difference in the brothers who become new priests: “They all seem to have a new seriousness and excitement towards their vocation at Our Lady of Dallas. It seems the sacramental ministry, especially the celebration of Mass and confession, offers a very concrete feeling of ‘full participation’ in the ministry of the monastery.”
Msgr. Michael Olson, rector of Holy Trinity Seminary and former teacher of Fr. Anthony, preached the homily at his First Mass. When asked about some of the insights and words he received from his family and friends, Fr. Anthony said that, among his favorites, were the words of Msgr. Olson about a priest and his vocation. Summarizing them, he said, “Msgr. Olson once told me that ‘God gets the priest he calls.’ The point was that sometimes the priest feels overwhelmed by a sense of unworthiness… but it's good to remember that if one has a vocation it is because God called him with full knowledge of who he is. It's also good to remember that we don't have to lose our individuality, our personality in order to fit into some cookie cutter mold of what a priest should be. God gets the priest he called.”
With gratitude let us pray for Fr. Anthony, our new priest, and for all those whom our Heavenly Father has called, formed, and commissioned to serve the Cistercian community and the Diocese of Dallas!
The new landscaping at Cistercian is transforming the front of the Abbey and will create a green barrier between the Abbey and the adjacent roadways. When David Hocker, a landscape architect and Prep School alumnus, was first asked to design a new landscape, he saw it as an opportunity to create a setting that would enhance the beauty of the limestone church and provide a sort of outside sanctuary for those coming to the Abbey. With the project almost complete, monks and visitors are already raving.
Using such native trees as mesquite, Eve’s necklace, and cedar elm, Hocker essentially defined three walls of an exterior room, letting the church’s façade serve as a fourth wall. On two sides of the “room,” benches made of 8’-15’ cedar beams provide a place for people to sit and chat or to reflect. The design includes a quiet Marian garden, in which of the Abbey’s statue of Mary is more easily seen and appreciated for its beauty. Finally, oversized, irregular limestone pavers, each huge block skillfully cut and fit into place, provide a terrace, where people can again gather after Mass.
Standing on this terrace beneath the beautiful cedar elm, one sees just how beautiful the church is, in addition to finding a quiet, beautiful space for reflection and conversation. Hocker recently commented that “the impact this project is having is invaluable, and long overdue for the Abbey community.”
This summer Our Lady of Dallas was again blessed. On Sunday, August 19th Br. Anthony Bigney and Br. John Bayer made their solemn profession to the Cistercian Order. On the very next day both young men were ordained deacons by Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas.
Only a few weeks later, on September 8th Br. Stephen Gregg and Br. Lawrence Brophy were ordained priests, also by Bishop Farrell. Fr. Lawrence celebrated his First Mass the following day, Sunday, September 9th, while Fr. Stephen celebrated his First Mass on Sunday, September 16th. Large crowds attended all the ordinations, filling the church and manifesting how joyful and grateful the Cistercian community is to see the “young monks” of the Abbey living their vocations.
For Br. Anthony the presence of so many students from the Prep School was a true inspiration: “Seeing the large number of my students and their families present at the Mass was wonderful. The support of the school community has been overwhelming, and I look forward to dedicating my life to teaching and ministering to them.” This year will see Br. Anthony serving at the Prep School in a variety of ways, most significantly as a religion teacher and the director of the yearbook. In addition he will begin graduate studies in world history and government. He will also begin preaching the Gospel and delivering homilies, both for the Abbey’s Sunday Mass and for the various classes at the school.
This year Br. John will journey to Rome to study theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University. As a newly minted deacon, he has already had the opportunity to preach in a variety of venues, most recently for the students of the University of Dallas Rome campus at the “Basilica di Tre Fontane” on the Feast of All Saints. Br. John both looks forward to preaching as a deacon and, at the same time, feels the responsibility that comes with such a solemn task. During the rite of ordination, he was moved when the bishop placed into his hands the book of the Gospels: “That point in the rite makes me think about how the Gospel is something ‘handed on’ through the ministry of the Church; and how, as an ordained minister of the Church, I am now expected to read, believe, and preach—to ‘hand on’ faithfully—that Gospel.”
Fr. Stephen, now finished with his program in patristic theology at the Augustinian University in Rome, will begin working towards a doctorate in English literature at the University of Dallas, in addition to teaching Church history and elementary Latin in the Prep School. His return to Dallas is a blessing for many at the School, especially those who remember him as a Cistercian student and rejoice now to see how the blessings of God have worked in his life.
Both Fr. Stephen and Fr. Lawrence will join the rest of the priests at the Abbey in celebrating Mass and hearing confessions at the School and at local parishes in the diocese. The assumption of this responsibility is, in a way, the final step in becoming a member of Our Lady of Dallas, insofar as it is a community of monks dedicated to serving the community as teachers and priests. For Fr. Lawrence his ordination carried a sense of completion and a renewed sense of belonging to the community: “While Stephen and I were kneeling and Bishop Farrell was concluding the Ordination prayer, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’m a priest.’ It was hard to believe that after all the years of discernment and formation and struggle in a brief, quiet moment we were ordained priests and were entering into a new way of life. It was very moving to exchange the sign of peace with all the other priests in the community, from those younger than I to elderly fathers who could barely walk. It was like joining the community all over again.”
Fr. Lawrence reached another major goal this summer: he passed his qualifying exam in the doctoral program in mathematics at the University of North Texas. In addition to celebrating Mass for the freshman class in the Prep School and assisting in parishes, Fr. Lawrence will continue his full-time pursuit of a PhD in mathematics.
Please join the Cistercian community in celebrating these young vocations to Our Lady of Dallas, praying that they might faithfully and fruitfully exercise the ministry to which God has called them!
CPS Class 2012 Gives Sedes Magistrorum
We are happy to report that the Cistercian Class of 2012 has enhanced the beauty of our campus with a wonderful gift to the abbey and school. In honor of Fr. Peter Verhalen, who retired as headmaster last year to take up the office of abbot, and in thanksgiving for every other headmaster of the school, the Class of 2012 commissioned the Sedes Magistrorum (“The Seat of the Teachers”). The Sedes is a beautiful bench, made from the same limestone as the abbey church and placed at “Observation Point,” a particularly beautiful outlook along the new Stations of the Cross trail.
Shane Macedonio, student council president from 2011-2012 and presently a freshman at Harvard, announced the gift to the Cistercian community during the closing ceremonies of last school year: “Our class has a unique opportunity as we graduated during a historical year for Cistercian. This year marks not only the fiftieth anniversary of the school, but also Fr. Peter’s last year as its headmaster, after sixteen years of tireless work and selfless dedication. To show our sincere appreciation for all you have done for us, Father Peter, in a way that honors all of those that have helped make Cistercian the school it is today, we dedicate to you the Sedes Magistrorum. This bench, made of the same stone as the Abbey chapel, has been commissioned in honor of all of the headmasters—Father Damien, Father Denis, Father Henry Father Bernard, our beloved Form Master, Father Paul and all future headmasters—whose names, alongside yours, will be etched into the stone. Like the Chapel, the bench will represent stability and permanence, as it will remain much longer than any of us.”
The bench will make an excellent addition to our campus, and it will stand for many years as a reminder of the many gifts the Cistercian community has been given. Located on one of the highest and most secluded places on campus, the bench will offer a quiet place for prayer and reflection upon the last fifty years, as well as a place to plan for the next.
Spring 2012 Newsletter Released
We've put the finishing touches on our Spring Newsletter! Take a look inside to read about Fr. Peter's installation and benediction as Abbot, Fr. Thomas' adventures in Italy and Greece with the stduents of the University of Dallas, an Easter reflection by Fr. Gregory, and much more.
On Thursday, April 12, 2012, Our Lady of Dallas celebrated the benediction of Fr. Abbot Peter Verhalen, who was elected and installed as the third abbot of the monastery on February 15. Abbot Peter is a native Texan, and he is the first American to be elected abbot of Our Lady of Dallas. Before graduating from the Cistercian Preparatory School in 1973, he spent a year enrolled at a Cistercian school in Schlierbach, Austria. Since entering Our Lady of Dallas in August, 1975, he has served the community in several capacities; besides being a teacher and a form master, Abbot Peter was also headmaster of the school for sixteen years and prior of the monastery for eighteen years. Needless to say, his roots in the Cistercian community and tradition are wide and deep.
The benediction of Abbot Peter was a very special moment for Cistercian. Undoubtedly one of the largest events ever celebrated in the Abbey Church, the day was marked in a special way by the presence of so many alumni and current students and their families. Almost a third of the pews had to be reserved for Abbot Peter’s former students and their families. To accommodate the remaining—and overflowing—congregation, a tent was erected on the lawn in front of the Abbey Church in which the mass and benediction could be viewed on live video. Everything was in fact captured on film and can still be viewed at the Cistercian You Tube site.
In addition to former and current students of Cistercian, we were also blessed by the presence of so many friends and supporters of the monastery, including those from the University of Dallas. Collegium Cantorum, under the direction of Marilyn Walker and Fr. Ralph, attended and sang at the mass. Their presence at our liturgies continues to be a tremendous gift to the community. Several priests from the surrounding dioceses also came and concelebrated at the mass, filling the sanctuary well beyond its normal capacity. In addition, we were honored by the presence of four bishops from the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses: Bishop Kevin Farrell (Dallas) and his auxiliary bishops, Bishop Mark Seitz and Bishop Douglass Deshotel, and Bishop Kevin Vann (Fort Worth). Finally, several representatives of the Cistercian Order were in attendance from various monasteries around the globe: Abbot General Mauro, who is the head of the Cistercian Order (Rome), Archabbot Sixtus, who is the President of the Congregation of Zirc (Hungary), Abbot Raphael (Rougemont, Canada), Fr. Dominic (Chau Son Monastery, California), Fr. Anthony (St. Joseph Monastery, California), and Sister Anne Marie, who is the novice-mistress of Valley of Our Lady Monastery in Wisconsin. The presence of so many fellow Cistercians made a notable impression on many members of the community. Br. John remarked, “These days, during which we have had so many members of other monasteries as our guests, have really instilled in me a sense of solidarity with my fellow Cistercians. I now find myself often thinking and praying for the health and happiness of these other communities in our order. That feels very special.”
Bishop Farrell offered a beautiful homily on the vocation of the abbot, which can be found here. His homily, which included several thoughtful remarks on the Rule of St. Benedict, prompted Abbot Peter to joke to Bishop Farrell about the “Benedictine vocation” that he "appears" to have missed. Abbot General Mauro also gave a wonderful reflection, which can be found here.
Though Abbot Peter was officially the abbot of Our Lady of Dallas from the moment of his election and installation, his benediction is a necessary act of public prayer during which the community testifies to the grace of his election and, in union with the heads of the local Church, the Cistercian Order, and the faithful, asks for God’s blessing. During the rite Abbot Peter received the Rule of St. Benedict, with which he was charged to “guide and sustain” his brothers in the monastery. The Rule of St. Benedict is foundational for our Cistercian life and representative of the whole tradition of monastic life, our vast spiritual inheritance. He also received a special ring, a “seal of fidelity” and a sign of the love of a father, who is ever faithful to his sons and to the service of charity. Although he is not a bishop, he also received the pontifical insignia of the miter and crozier in recognition of his role as pastor of the monks of the monastery and of the ministry he and his community offers to the local Church beyond the walls of the monastery.
It is with great gratitude and trust in God’s Providence that the Cistercian community receives the election of Abbot Peter. Please pray for him and the rest of the monks, as they strive to grow in monastic life and to serve the community that surrounds them.
Serving and Singing for the Pope
Before arriving to Dallas on Holy Saturday, just a few hours before he was to sing the Exultet at the Easter Vigil, Br. Stephen had the privilege of singing in Rome during the Papal services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. On Holy Thursday he sang the Gospel in Latin, and on Good Friday he sang the part of the narrator during the Passion according to the Gospel of St. John. Video for both services can be found online. To see the video and hear Br. Stephen sing, visit the website for the Vatican Player. Once you have arrived at the website, find the proper video by clicking on the "Agenda" tab at the top right and then selecting the date of the service you would like to see (April 5th for Holy Thursday, or April 6th for Good Friday). Next, if you have chosen to see the service on Holy Thursday, select "Mass of the Lord's Supper"; or if you have chosen to see the service on Good Friday, select "Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord". Finally, go straight to the video by clicking on the small TV icon a little below the "Agenda" tab at the top right. On the video for Holy Thursday Br. Stephen begins singing around minute 37:00; and on the video for Good Friday he begins around minute 34:00. We're very proud of Br. Stephen, and grateful that God has blessed him with such a talent and opportunity!
A Cistercian Sociological Study
We are always so happy to hear about the college successes of our alumni, and the recent achievements of Thomas Z. Horton ('11) ("Zach") are no exception. While in his first year at Princeton, Zach has produced a very impressive sociological study on the monastic community of Cistercian. Titled Hungarian-American Cistercians in Texas: An Immigrant Community in Transition, the study clearly represents the fruits of many, many hours of work. After spending a large amount of time conducting interviews, writing and analyzing surveys, and pouring through any other available resource, Zach has written a paper that seeks to understand the course of Cistercian's fifty-year history and the dynamics of the monastic community, with a particular focus on the way in which the different cultures (Hungarian and American) and generations relate to each other. The work is a timely gift, given this year's fiftieth-anniversary celebration of the Abbey and Preparatory School. It is also a very fun read, full of pictures and "insider" quotations from many of the monks. Enjoy!
New Abbot Elected at Our Lady of Dallas
We are pleased to announce that on Wednesday, February 15 the Cistercian Monastery elected Fr. Peter Verhalen as the new Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey Our Lady of Dallas. Fr. Abbot Peter was installed shortly after the election, and immediately assumed the full responsibilities of his office. Archabbot Sixtus, who arrived on Monday from the Abbey of Zirc in Hungary, presided at the election and installation.
Over the next several weeks, the Cistercian community will elect the Abbot's Council, and Fr. Abbot Peter will appoint various officers within the monastery as well as the Headmaster in the Prep School. In this interim period, Fr. Paul McCormick as Assistant Headmaster will carry extra responsibilities for the day-to-day operations of the School.
A formal, public Benediction of the new Abbot will be scheduled during the week after Easter on a date convenient for Abbot General Mauro from Rome, Archabbot Sixtus from Hungary, and Bishop Farrell of Dallas. Invitations to the Benediction will be sent out once the date and time are finalized.
Fr. Peter Verhalen (CPS '73) was born in Texas in 1955, and he entered Our Lady of Dallas in August 1975. He made his solemn profession in 1980 and was ordained to the priesthood in April of the same year. He was Form Master for Class 1989, 1997, and 2003. Besides fulfilling his duties as Headmaster, at the school Fr. Peter teaches Latin and Church History.
After the election Archabbot Sixtus spent several days with the community before returning to the Abbey of Zirc. He toured the school and spent a lot of time with some of the Hungarian-born fathers. Before he left he posed with Abbot Peter and Abbot Denis for a memorable "three abbot" photo shoot before the Abbey Church.
Please join Fr. Abbot Peter and the entire Cistercian community in expressing our profound gratitude to Fr. Abbot Denis for his 24 years of dedicated service, and for preparing the community for this next step.
And please continue to remember Fr. Abbot Peter and the entire Cistercian community in your prayers.
Serving for the Pope
We are proud to announce that on the Solemnity of the Epiphany Br. Stephen served as a deacon during a mass celebrated by the Pope at St. Peter's Basilica! During the mass Br. Stephen had the privilege of singing the Agenda, which is a list of the major feasts in the liturgical calendar of the upcoming year. You can watch (and hear!) Br. Stephen by going to the Vatican website. On the Vatican website click “video”, which is just below the words “6 January 2012”. Br. Stephen sings the Agenda soon after minute 41. Please pray for Br. Stephen, and for Fr. Thomas and Br. Anthony, that their time in Rome may be a lasting source of inspiration for their monastic life!