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Benedictine Archabbot Justin DuVall, leader of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, announced on Jan. 13 that he will resign as abbot of the monastic community. His resignation will be effective on June 2, the day on which the election of his successor will take place.
Archabbot Justin has served as the ninth abbot and sixth archabbot of the 162-year-old Benedictine community for more than 11 years. He was elected on Dec. 31, 2004.
Unlike the superiors of most religious communities who serve for a specified term of office, those who are chosen to lead Saint Meinrad are elected to an indefinite term.
In an interview with The Criterion, Archabbot Justin spoke about his reason for resigning at this time.
“Fundamentally, I believe this time is right for me to resign now,” he said. “My discernment took into account the strengths and needs of the community, as well as my own, and putting both together, I concluded that it is the right time for another to assume the responsibility—and the privilege—of holding the place of Christ in our good community. The key to me is the right time, not necessarily a particular date or number.”
During his tenure as abbot, Archabbot Justin has overseen several significant building projects, including the final stage of construction of the monastery’s Guest House and Retreat Center and the renovation of St. Gregory Hall, St. Bede Hall, Newman Hall and the St. Martin Center.
Most recently, extensive repairs are under way in the 33-year-old monastery, including an addition to the infirmary and the installation of a geothermal heating/cooling system.
He also led the final 18 months of the Archabbey’s largest-ever fundraising campaign, which raised nearly $43 million for renovations, endowment and operating expenses.
“Our community at present is healthy and strong,” Archabbot Justin said. “We have had a recent influx of vocations. Our Seminary and School of Theology is flourishing. We are also able to continue our service to the Church through the good work of those monks who serve in parishes, schools and chaplaincies. The community is well positioned for change and the need to move forward.”
Some 80 percent of the priests of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis received at least part of their priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. And nearly all archdiocesan seminarians beyond college seminary are enrolled there.
Additionally, monks of Saint Meinrad currently serve as pastors of three parishes in the Tell City Deanery.
Archabbot Justin expects the historic close relationship between the monastery and the archdiocese will remain strong during this transition of leadership at Saint Meinrad.
“Any change in leadership sets in motion a series of effects,” he said. “However, I would have every confidence that the solid and mutually beneficial relationship between the archdiocese and the archabbey, built and strengthened over so many decades, will remain fundamentally in place. Since it is a relationship of respect and trust, it is the basis for facing challenges together, as well as sharing benefits together.”
When Archabbot Justin steps down from office, Saint Meinrad will have five previous leaders of the monastery in its community. Additionally, a retired abbot of the former Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota is now a member of the community, Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein resides in the monastery’s infirmary, and there is also in the community a retired abbot of the former Corpus Christi Abbey in Texas.
Archabbot Justin hopes after resigning to speak with these leaders about their experiences and wisdom.
“I think there is an untapped resource there, and I would like to gather some basic information from them and then see if I might be able to produce an article or perhaps some other document that would be helpful to particular houses or monastic congregations,” he said.
Being a leader of the monastic community, he said, involves nurturing the leadership qualities of its younger monks.
“One responsibility of any leader is to recognize and promote the next generation of leaders,” Archabbot Justin said. “This is true for abbots as well, and in this regard, Saint Meinrad has been blessed immensely.
“I am grateful to my predecessors who trusted me with positions of responsibility earlier in my monastic life, and in this way gave me experience from which to learn. I have tried to ‘pay it forward’ during my time, so that the next abbot—or even abbots—will have the blessings that I had.”
When the election of Saint Meinrad’s next archabbot takes place on June 2, the monks of the community who have professed lifelong vows, known among Benedictines and other religious as solemn vows, will serve as electors. There are currently 79 monks in solemn vows at Saint Meinrad.
For a monk to be elected archabbot, he must receive 2/3 of the votes of the electors during the first three rounds of voting. In subsequent rounds, only a simple majority is required.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Archabbot Justin professed vows as a monk of Saint Meinrad in 1974 and was ordained a priest in 1978. He earned a master of arts degree in library science in 1979 from the University of Michigan.
From 1979-93, he was the assistant librarian in the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Library. In 1984, he was appointed prior (second in leadership) of the monastery and served in that capacity until 1995. Other assignments have included master of ceremonies, assistant to the novice/junior master, and chairman of the monastery’s Liturgical Advisory Committee.
Archabbot Justin served as associate dean of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology from 1995 to 1996, when he was named its provost and vice rector, a position he held until his election as archabbot.
“Saint Meinrad Archabbey has been my home for almost 45 years,” Archabbot Justin said. “The monks whom I first got to know when I came here to college have been a tremendous influence in my life, although at the time I had no idea how that was true.
“I am grateful for the privilege of being able to give back to the community in some small way for all that it has given me. In all things, may God be glorified.”
(For more information about Saint Meinrad Archabbey, visit saintmeinrad.org.) †