Saint Vincent Memories
I entered Saint Vincent Seminary in September 1946. This was not my first acquaintance with Benedictine monks. I grew up on the North Side of Pittsburgh and the first priests I really knew were the Benedictines who staffed Saint Mary’s Parish on the North Side. It was in that parish that I made my First Communion. Benedictine priests were my first confessors. It was in that parish that I attended Sunday Mass and was catechized. It was for me the Church. The monks were, for me, holy men, albeit somewhat mysterious. Coming to Saint Vincent was not traumatic. I just saw a lot more Benedictine habits than I did in the parish.
One of the first impressions I had of Saint Vincent was the importance of the role that the Benedictine monks played in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this part of God’s Kingdom. I was impressed by the beauty and care given the liturgy. It was uplifting to see a large community of monks, clerics, and novices chanting the Divine Office. Major ceremonies were major ceremonies. Sunday Solemn Vespers were made more solemn with the deep, bass voice of Archabbot Alfred intoning in German-accented Latin the Pater Noster.
One Pentecost Sunday we had a super-Solemn Vespers, all in Latin. Monks were all over the sanctuary in various liturgical vestments. There was lots of good music and clouds of incense. It also happened to be Mother’s Day. As I left the church, I heard a woman tell her companion, “They certainly do Mother’s Day up right, don’t they?” I said not a word.
I learned to appreciate the many ministries of gifted monks. They taught in the college, in the seminary, in the prep school. They served in parishes, and, at times, I even wondered if I should join the community.
At that time of my life, I would never have believed that someday I would be the bishop of the diocese which has Saint Vincent Archabbey as one of its treasures. During my seminary days, the Diocese of Greensburg did not exist. I wondered if I would ever be ordained. The thought of being bishop never entered my mind.
But when the Holy Father appointed me the third bishop of Greensburg, one of the thoughts that immediately came to mind was that I would have the wonderful opportunity of working more closely with the abbots and monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey. They are esteemed friends and co-workers. Their presence in the Diocese of Greensburg is a blessing. Archabbot Douglas was a valued co-worker when we both served the Church of Pittsburgh.
Many of the monks whom I knew have followed Boniface Wimmer into eternity. But I remember them all as having had a great impact on my life. Father Nepomucene was gruff and stern, but probably loved us in his own way. He inspired holy fear. Father Blaise, kind and gentle, would repair rattling windows while we were taking a philosophy test. In the front of my philosophy book a previous student had written, “Father Oliver goes down deeper, stays down longer and comes up drier than anyone we know.” Father Ralph brought music to our ears. Father Quentin tried to pour some culture into us. Father Felix spoke about the Council of Trent as though he had been there. Father Paulinus was always generous with his time as confessor and spiritual guide. There is a rumor that he will never die.
I realize that sometimes distance lends enchantment to the view. Every day at Saint Vincent was not wonderful. Life then, as now, had good days and bad days. But one thing I know for certain. My six years at Saint Vincent Seminary and my present years as bishop of Greensburg with the Benedictine presence have had a tremendous impact for good on me. I will take responsibility for the flaws in my nature. I will give credit to the Benedictine monks for some of the good that may be in me. The spirit of Saint Benedict is alive and well in our world today because of this Benedictine community. We thank God for the blessing of their presence, their witness and their ministry.
Most Rev. Anthony G. Bosco, Bishop Emeritus, Diocese of Greensburg