Archabbey's 150th celebrations dampened by virus

Scanned from Archabbey Archives
This photo of the St. Meinrad Archabbey was taken before 1954. The church (left) and school (right) are still as pictured today. The first Mass was in 1907.


This year marks a big milestone for the St. Meinrad Archabbey. The Roman Catholic monastery in Spencer County celebrated its 150th year since being raised to the status of an abbey.

Although the monastery was established in 1854, it wasn’t until 1870 that it stood on its own and was no longer dependent on Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland, its mother abbey.

“St. Meinrad is important to the Catholic community and the area as a whole because it’s had a place in forming other communities and churches,” said Mary Jeanne Schumacher, director of communications for the Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary & School of Theology.

“We’ve got a long-reaching history," she said.

For example, several stone statues at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper are monks from St. Meinrad.

Schumacher looked forward to sharing information like this and celebrating the 150th anniversary this year, before COVID-19 hit. The abbey's influence permeates further into its surrounding communities more than most people realize, she said.

Now, most of the anniversary celebrations, such as hosting a few monks from Einsiedeln Abbey for a visit, have been canceled or are on hold.

“There was a lot of disappointment about having to cancel the celebrations, but it made sense considering the situation we’re all in,” Schumacher said.

St. Meinrad, or the “Martyr of Hospitality,” was a Benedictine monk known for graciously giving his time and prayer to guests who needed his help, despite his desire to be alone. He even invited in a pair of robbers and offered them food and drink before they ultimately killed him.

Monks from Einsiedeln Abbey came to southern Indiana in 1854 to help the growing German-speaking Catholic population in the area and prepare men to become priests.

The first few years, the monks struggled with poor harvests, drought and illness. Then, a Swiss abbot named Fr. Martin Marty arrived to help the monks, and within 10 years, St. Meinrad recovered and was named independent from the abbey in Switzerland.

Today, St. Meinrad is still sticking to its original mission — to help men become priests — but it also has education programs for deacons, lay ministers and even high schoolers in addition to the Seminary and School of Theology.

Schumacher said the abbey should have a new five-foot statue of St. Meinrad by the end of the year, since it doesn’t have a statue of him yet. St. Meinrad’s feast day is Jan. 21, so the statue might be blessed sometime around then, she said.

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