St. Meinrad Archabbey
ST. MEINRAD ARCHABBEY
A Benedictine abbey of the Swiss American Congregation, located in Spencer County, Indiana, in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It was founded in 1854 by the Swiss abbey of Maria Einsiedeln in answer to Rev. Josef Kundek's request for German speaking priests to serve his Catholic colony centered around St. Ferdinand, Indiana. Facing curtailment of their work in Switzerland as a result of the 1847 Sonderbund War, Abbot Heinrich IV Schmid sent Ulrich Christen and Bede O'Connor to investigate making a foundation in America. In 1854, an agreement was reached with the bishop of Vincennes, Maurice de St. Palais, and a German speaking district was placed into the monk's care centered around their priory dedicated to St. Meinrad. After several years of struggle, order and financial security were brought to the monastery in 1860 with the arrival of Martin Marty, who started a successful school to train a native clergy while also taking on greater pastoral responsibilites throughout the diocese. In 1870, St. Meinrad was made an independent abbey, with Marty appointed its first abbot by Pope PiusIX.
In addition to parish work and education, Marty expanded the abbey's scope of activities to include missionary work among Native Americans in the Dakotas and contributed to the founding of Subiaco Abbey, Arkansas (1878). Abbot Fintan Mundwiler (1880-1898), became the first president of the Swiss-American Congregation with the erection of Conception Abbey in 1881, and consulted with Abbot Frowin Conrad, a devotee of Beuron, to establish the observances and customs of the new congregation. Continuing the work of monastic expansion, Mundwiler instigated the foundation of St. Joseph Abbey, Louisiana (1889), but failed in his attempt to create a permanent mission house in Uruguay.
Under its next two abbots, Athanasius Schmitt (1898–1930), and Ignatius Esser (1930–1955), the size of the seminary grew along with the prestiege of the monastery, which began to participate in the liturgical movement. Starting in the late 1920s and continuing through the 1960s, publications of the monastery's Abbey Press, such as The Grail and later, Marriage, sought to promote the apostolate of the Christian family and had subscribers nationwide. During this time new monastic foundations were made at Marmion Abbey in Illinois (1933) and as a result of previous missionary activity on the northern plains, Blue Cloud, South Dakota (1952). On the occasion of its centenary in 1954, Pope Pius XII raised St. Meinrad to the rank of an archabbey.
Monks were sent to California in 1958 to create what would later become Prince of Peace Abbey during the tenure of Archabbot Bonaventure Knaebel (1955–1966), and to answer the call of Pope John XXIII, in 1962 a mission house was established in Huaraz, Peru (closed in 1985). After the Second Vatican Council, and under the leadership of archabbots Gabriel Verkamp (1966–1978) and Timothy Sweeney (1978–1995), St. Meinrad became involved in the ecumenical movement, and continued making contributions to the liturgy through helping to provide translations of the Scriptures and adaptations of Gregorian chant to English. It was also at this time that the college and school of theology gained a reputation for the emphasis placed on pastoral formation and for the implementation of liturgical reforms. More recently, two years after Lambert Reilly's election as archabbot in 1995, the undergraduate school was closed due to declining enrollment and changing patterns in education for ministry. The monastery carries on its tradition of seminary education through the St. Meinrad School of Theology, which enrolls students from a number of dioceses throughout the U.S.
The community of 130 monks continues to serve in parishes, is active in retreat and mission work, supports the Archabbey Library which possesses a substantial collection of historical and theological works, and maintains its outreach to Christian families through the publications and products of Abbey Press.
Bibliography: Archives, St. Meinrad Archabbey and daughter-houses. St. Meinrad's Raben (1888), later incorporated in St. Benedikts-Panier (1889), which became Paradiesesfrüchte (1895), all published by St. Meinrad. a. kleber, History of St. Meinrad Archabbey, 1854–1954 (St. Meinrad, IN, 1954). j. rippinger, The Benedictine Order in the United States (Collegeville, MN, 1990). p. yock, The Role of St. Meinrad Abbey in the Formation of Catholic Identity in the Diocese of Vincennes 1853–1898 (Ph.D. diss. Pontifical Gregorian University, Evansville, IN, 2000).