From the Abbot’s Desk: Visiting a young Norbertine Community in India
e share life at Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey with three Norbertines from our community of Mananthavady in the South of India. Fr. George is pastor at St. Augustine Parish at the Native American Pueblo of Isleta. Fr. Bijoy is presently participating in a Clinical Pastoral Education Program (CPE) at Presbyterian Hospital, and Fr. Thomas is Catholic Chaplain at Lovelace Medical Center and the Heart Hospital. They are all important contributors to our life and ministry in New Mexico.
Fr. George, Abbot General Thomas, Abbot Joel, Fr. Thomas
Last October I visited their community of Mananthavady in the state of Kerala for the blessing of their first Priory church which was dedicated to St. Norbert, as well as to witness the election of a new Prior. This is a young Norbertine Community, only 35 years old, serving in many places around the world. For the first time, almost all of the solemnly professed and priests (65 of 71) were able to gather for the blessing and their community chapter. Fr. George and Fr. Thomas were among them. A Cardinal, several Bishops and a number of Norbertine Abbots, including our Abbot General from Rome and myself, were able to share in this historic occasion.
“Whatever Makes For a Stronger Community Life Is a Higher Priority”: A Conversation with Fr. Nick Nirschl, O.Praem.
By Brother Stephen A. Gaertner, O. Praem.
t 86, Fr. Nick Nirschl is the senior member of the Norbertine Community at Santa María de la Vid Abbey. Originally a canon of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin (he entered the Order in 1951 after a stint in the U. S. Army and was ordained in 1956), Fr. Nick has served in a variety of capacities, from being a mathematics professor at St. Norbert College to being assigned as a missionary to Peru, where he ultimately assumed duties as the pastor of San Marcos parish from 1985 until 1995 in Lima. In 1995, after leaving Peru, Fr. Nick became a member of the then - Priory of Santa Maria de la Vid in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He served as pastor of St. Augustine Parish at Isleta Pueblo until his retirement in 2002. Since retiring though, Fr. Nick keeps a faithful presence at all community liturgies, meals and functions. And this is no accident or merely due to the belief that he now has “nothing better to do.” Quite the contrary! Fr. Nick’s consistent and enduring vision of Norbertine community life is a perspective which he has held since his first days in the Order. “Community life more than ministry is about doing things together, as opposed to functioning as individuals; everything is done in common,” Fr. Nick insists. “And the locus of that life is in the Abbey itself. Community life should be more important than ministry.”
Yet it is also a country of great natural beauty. Kerala is one of the twenty-eight states that makes up this immense country.
Fr. Nick explains: “Many people can do ministry, parish priests and laypersons. Ministry is a manner of serving. We serve not as performers of that ministry, but as religious. Our religious dedication ought to be greater than our dedication to our particular ministry. The individuals have to recognize that community life is more important than ministry. If they don’t, community life won’t be an actual realization for them. It’ll be a word, and nothing more; one has to be convinced.”
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India is a land of great beauty, great poverty, and generous people. The country has 1.2 billion people, second only to China, and it is estimated to be the home of a third of the world’s poor.
Holy Rosary has an App!
ur Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, served by the Norbertine Community since 1985, is on the crest of twenty-first century technology. Under the direction of our Fr. Robert Campbell, pastor, the parish has created its very own custom “app.” This application provides smart phone and tablet users with up-to-date access to Holy Rosary’s mass and confession schedules. Current and upcoming events are also posted, along with pictures and videos reflecting the parish family’s life. At this time it is the most used app in Albuquerque! The app complements Holy Rosary Parish’s upgraded website and new bulletin-in-the-making, offering parishioners one more way to stay close to Christ.
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It is a state with a tropical climate and rolling green hills with small farms as well as estates of tea, spices, rubber, rice, coconuts and a whole host of fruit trees. Only 2.3% of the population in India is Christian. Catholics are the largest Christian church, numbering almost 20 million or 1.6% of the population. However, the building of numerous Catholic schools, hospitals, and social work centers has had a significant impact on the development of this nation, far beyond the numbers indicated.
OUR NEW COAT OF ARMS!
fter many months of discussion and deliberation, the Norbertine Community of New Mexico has chosen the coat of arms for our Abbey of Santa Maria de la Vid. You’ll see the coat of arms at the top of our newsletters from now on. Following is a synopsis of the coat of arms’ symbols and their significance. At the center of our coat of arms is a Celtic or resurrection cross which, in heraldry, represents the unity of heaven and Earth; it is also similar to the cross in the Abbey cemetery. The crescent moon in the upper left of the shield symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as referencing our founding from St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, WI. The vine points to the patron of our Abbey, Santa Maria de la Vid, and is rooted in the cross from which it goes forth and to which it returns. The grapes reference the original 13 members of the Norbertine or Premonstratensian Order/community which was founded at Prémontré, France, in 2011, by Norbert of Xanten. The fleur de lis is an ancient symbol of the Norbertine Order, the Virgin Mary, and the Trinity. The colors chosen for the coat of arms are also significant. Gold and red are the state colors of New Mexico and also represent the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in which we serve. Blue is found in the Prémontré coat of arms and in that of St. Norbert Abbey, and represents truth and loyalty in heraldry. The color white—which stands for peace and sincerity—as represented in the empty quadrant of the shield—points to the hoped-for future growth of the Norbertine Community in New Mexico. Page 2
Indian Norbertines celebrate in their new Priory Church
That spirit of generosity is now being felt around the world as priests and religious from India are being missioned to other countries to serve in Christ’s name. The young Norbertine community I visited serves in Australia, Austria, Germany, Holland, South Africa and New Mexico. To leave one’s country and culture to serve elsewhere calls our brothers to make many sacrifices. Among the memorable moments I had during my stay with my Norbertine brothers in India was the opportunity to visit with some of their families and to thank them for the sacrifices they have made as well. The Norbertines of New Mexico feel blessed by their generosity.
The new Priory Church in Mananthavady Norbertine Community News
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Fr. Gene Gries and Abbot Joel Garner were colleagues of Fr. Nick’s while on the faculty and staff at St. Norbert College many years ago.
Ultimately, it is a matter of vocation, and not mere functionality. For Norbertines, community life is the primary calling, not a particular form of service, no matter how important or crucial it may seem. This is a difficult concept to grasp, even for many within the Church, in an age when personal career ambitions, efficiency, data, and productivity control much of our thinking, and a shortage of priests and religious would appear to dictate that religious communities take a turn more towards the active than the contemplative and communiocentric. But Fr. Nick takes a very different view. “Our ministry is exactly what the diocesan priest does. But the rectory is a place of work, not our home. Our home life is different. The fact that there is such a shortage of priests does make our ministry more important,” he avers. Nevertheless, “We meet the church’s challenges by getting laypersons more involved. The work is there; it doesn’t change, but takes on its own different nature. It would be foolhardy to abandon ministry, or to try and do it all ourselves; it would drive you crazy. Running a parish now is different than even twenty years ago, more challenging. But that doesn’t mean you give up. There were more sisters and priests then. [Yet today] there are more lay ecclesial ministers.” The bottom line for Fr. Nick? “A vocation shortage is not an excuse to short-change community. As a young man, I thought my vocation was to a particular ministry, teaching mathematics. Once I became a Norbertine, I recognized that that isn’t a vocation. The vocation is religious life; mathematics was a ministry, sponsored by the community. As the needs of the church changed, with more demand for missionaries in South America, our community [accepted the call to serve there] at the prompting of [Pope] John XXIII. This was a community decision. Ministry should always be a community decision. The ministries of a community will change as the church’s needs change.” Volume 18, Issue 1
“The community has an obligation to its members to make demands reasonable (that’s why you have a personnel committee!). If our ministries take us away from community, then the ministry is questionable.” And according to Fr. Nick, this crucial communio-centric orientation must begin early in a Norbertine’s spiritual journey. “During the formation years, the objective is to help us [embrace] community life rather than individual ministerial life within the community. Many have to leave the community because they cannot give up their own desires about ministry. ‘Careerism’ is counter -community. “Common prayer, table, Eucharist [and] recreation are the constitutive parts of community life. If one claims to love community life but doesn’t want to participate in these things, there’s a contradiction.” Of course, this is not always easy, especially when one is tired, preoccupied, or just having a bad day. Community life, like active ministry, requires an outlay of significant effort. What’s the key? For Fr. Nick it is simply “mental discipline. Sometimes I found it difficult to participate fully in community activities. But there’s where self-discipline is important. Through the years, it becomes more likeable, desirable. Everyone’s going to have a bad day now and then.” So, where does Fr. Nick find the “mental discipline” to stay active and engaged in community life after over 60 years as a Norbertine, and now dealing with the increasing “aches and pains” and other physical health issues that come with the aging process? “‘Checking out’ would be duller, and more difficult, than dealing with a handicap or illness. We need something to occupy us.” And even in his mid-eighties, Fr. Nick stays involved with property maintenance at the Abbey. He also serves as a lector for community prayer and gives homilies at Abbey Eucharists, hears confessions, and offers spiritual direction to retreatants. In all this, Fr. Nick’s ultimate message remains clear: “Whatever makes for a stronger community life is the higher priority.” Page 3
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Please remember us in your will â€” that our work may continue... Comings & Goings In early November, 2013, our sister abbey of Our Lady of Daylesford in Paoli, Pennsylvania, celebrated their 50th Anniversary as an abbey. Like Santa Maria de la Vid, it was founded from St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin. Abbot Joel represented our abbey at the Mass of Thanksgiving. Our seminarians spent the Christmas holidays with us. In early January they returned to Holy Spirit House of Studies in Chicago.
Br. Graham Golden (left) will receive his degree in Social Services Administration from Univ. of Chicago in June; Br. Jaime AvilaBorunda is working on his MA at Catholic Theological Union with an emphasis on liturgy and sacred scripture, and Stephen Gaertner is writing his dissertation for a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State, before finishing his Master of Divinity degree. Volume 18, Issue 1
Three Days, One Journey: A Triduum Retreat Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey April 17-20, 2014 You are invited to join the Norbertine Community of New Mexico in prayerful celebration of the Sacred Triduum beginning on Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday morning. The prayer, ritual, reflection and silence of these three days gradually draw/invite us more deeply into the experience of the Risen Christ among us as we renew our commitment to be the Body of Christ today. A limited number of rooms are available so early registration is encouraged. The cost for the retreat is $195.00 which includes accommodations for three nights, four meals and refreshments, and the retreat presentations. (If you wish to spend additional nights at the retreat center, please check with us for availability at a cost of $45.00 per night per person.) To register: Email: MAshcroft@norbertinecommunity.org Phone: 505-873-4399 Page 4