January 14, 2005

Fr. Justin DuVall elected archabbot
of Saint Meinrad

By Sean Gallagher and Mary Ann Wyand

SAINT MEINRAD—On Dec. 31, the last day of the year in which they celebrated the 150th anniversary of the founding of their monastery, the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey elected Father Justin DuVall as only the ninth abbot and sixth archabbot to lead the 110-member monastic community in southern Indiana.

Archabbot Justin, a 53-year-old native of Toledo, Ohio, succeeds Archabbot Lambert Reilly, 71, who announced last spring that he would resign on Dec. 15 after serving nine years as the monks’ spiritual and temporal leader.

During a press conference on Jan. 3, Archabbot Justin said, “At the time of the election, I was … stunned is not an inaccurate word. I’m probably still running on some adrenaline, in fact, [and will be] for a while.

“Saint Meinrad, as you know, has been very blessed,” he said. “Right now, I’m taking one day at a time and seeing how things go. … Fortunately, too, I believe that the monks are understanding about this. I think that they know that any new abbot needs a certain amount of time to adjust. I sense a tremendous amount of understanding and support from the community, and that helps a great deal.”

Archabbot Justin said he is “faced with a happy task of finding out how we can best use the blessings that have come to Saint Meinrad. Many of those are already given a direction by the endeavors that are underway.”

The new leader of Saint Meinrad Archabbey entered the monastic
community’s novitiate in 1973, professed his solemn vows in 1977 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1978.

For 11 years starting in 1984, Archabbot Justin served as prior, second in leadership in the monastery, and from 1996 until his election as archabbot, he was the provost-vice rector of Saint Meinrad School of Theology.

He served as associate dean of the School of Theology in 1995-96. After completing graduate studies in library science, he was assistant librarian at the archabbey library from 1979-93.

The election was carried out in accord with centuries-old Benedictine traditions. Following celebration of a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit to seek guidance and wisdom, all solemnly professed monks of the monastery gathered in the community’s chapter room.

Benedictine Abbot Peter Eberle, president of the Swiss-American Congregation, of which Saint Meinrad Archabbey is a member, presided over the election.

The secret voting process by 92 of the archabbey’s monks started at 9 a.m. on Dec. 31. After one hour and 25 minutes, the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church bells were tolled to announce the election of the new archabbot.

Archabbot Justin assumed his new office immediately upon his acceptance of his election by his fellow monks.

Upon his acceptance, he was invested with a pectoral cross, a symbol of his office.

He will receive the remaining signs of his office—a ring, miter and crosier—as part of his abbatial blessing during a Mass scheduled on Jan. 21, the Solemnity of St. Meinrad. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein will be the principal celebrant.

Mary Jeanne Schumacher, director of communications for the archabbey, said the former archabbot will continue to travel widely as a leader of retreats, missions and days of recollection.

The Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad educate priests, permanent deacons and lay ministers at their School of Theology as well as operate Abbey Press, which markets inspirational gifts and publications, and Abbey Caskets, which sells simple wooden caskets and cremation urns to the public.

Archabbot Justin said about 14 monks from Saint Meinrad serve in pastoral ministry at archdiocesan parishes in central and southern Indiana.

“I think that does represent a commitment to the archdiocese,” Archabbot Justin said. “We do have monks who serve in other dioceses. … I don’t foresee any drastic change in the immediate future in those staffing positions. We have very good relations with the dioceses in which we already have monks stationed. I hope to get to know a little better the bishops in those dioceses. I foresee the relationship remaining solid between Saint Meinrad and those dioceses.”

Archabbot Justin said his predecessor, Archabbot Lambert, always used to say, “You’re too good not to get better.”

That advice will no doubt inspire the monks in the days and weeks ahead as they continue their ministries with their new spiritual and temporal leader. †

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