Abbey History

The monks called it the Beautiful Valley, the Schoenthal, the low-lying ground in the woods a few miles west of the town of St. Joseph where they built a sturdy house as their priory in 1862. There were sixteen of them, priests and brothers, who had started out as a group of five housed on a tract of land on the west bank of the Mississippi south of St. Cloud in 1856.

They had come from St. Vincent Abbey in Pennsylvania at the request of Bishop Cretin of St. Paul to minister to the German Catholic immigrants flooding into central Minnesota. Most of them spoke German as their native language. In 1857 they secured a territorial charter to conduct a seminary for educational, scientific, and religious purposes. That November they enrolled five local boys as the first students at Saint John’s College, as it was called locally.

When it turned out that the well-meaning donors of the property on the banks of the Mississippi did not have legal title to it, the monks explored to the west and staked claims for the land around the beautiful valley. However this lowland acreage with a stream meandering through it was not the best location for a college. In 1865 they moved about a mile through the woods to higher ground on the north shore of a lake later named Lake Sagatagan.

By 1866 the size of the community and its settled location qualified the monastery of Saint Louis on the Lake as they named it, to become an abbey. They elected Rupert Seidenbusch, a monk from St. Vincent Abbey, as their abbot. In his nine years as abbot he structured the school as a degree-granting college and seminary and oversaw construction of the first brick buildings.

To gain water power for grain and lumber mills for the monastery the first monks built a dam across a small stream west of the farmyard behind the main buildings. Lake Watab was the result, called Stumpf Lake because many trees had to be cut down as the water rose. The twin mills served their purpose until destroyed by the tornado that swept through the abbey in June 1894.

Over a span of twenty years the Quadrangle with its twin-towered church took shape section by section with bricks made on the site from local clay. Abbot Rupert was named bishop of the newly formed vicariate of Northern Minnesota in 1875. Father Alexius Edelbrock became the second abbot. It was he who integrated the first brick buildings and church into a multi-purpose five-story quadrangle completed in 1886 to house academic facilities, dining rooms, dorms, and private rooms for monks and seminarians.

Some of his monks thought this building was way too big and criticized him for wasting money, but thanks to its solid construction and standard floor plan it has been adaptable to many uses over the years and has seldom had unused space. Ironically the fine plaster work of the 1870s and 80s was stripped from many interior walls and corridors in the Quad a century later to display the distinctive orange ochre tone and soft texture of the bricks made in the Saint John’s brickyard.

Plumbing in the vast new building was at first rudimentary, cold lake water piped to faucets in the corridors and kitchen. Heating depended on wood stoves until steam heating from a powerhouse fueled with cords of wood from the abbey forest was introduced in 1888. Contemporary Father Alexius Hoffmann wrote:  “A supply main ran from the boiler house to the main buildings and connected with an enormous net-work of pipes which were to carry the steam to every part of the buildings. . . .The day of the stove was over and the horrors of winter lost their edge.”  Ten years later oil lamps and candles yielded to electric light.

Behind the new Quad were shops, mills, and barns. The monastic community aimed to be as self-sustaining as possible and to produce much of the food that was put on the table for monks and students alike. The abbey had a dairy herd and beef cattle, hog pens--later moved to a location off campus, a garden for summer vegetables, potatoes stored in a special potato cellar, cabbage for sauerkraut in 30-gallon jars, an apple orchard where one of the monks, Father John Kapsner, experimented with new northern varieties designed to survive Minnesota winters.

The 1878 brick butcher shop and adjoining smokehouse still stand. Next to the smokehouse was a third brick structure, the wax house where wax from the bee hives in the abbey apiary was processed to make candles. The wax house was razed in the 1970s. The cellar dug into the side of the slope above the Watab to keep the hives in the winter is still in use for other purposes.

In 1880 Abbot Alexius bought a section of good farm land forty miles west of Saint John’s and sent monks there to raise grain, corn, and cattle for the abbey. He soon acquired additional acreage and built a substantial brick monastery on the property calling it St. Alexius Priory. Four brothers and a priest lived there. Deeming the whole operation impractical, Abbot Peter Engel sold the property in 1901 and moved the frame chapel to the neighboring hamlet of West Union, where it became St. Alexius Church, served by a priest from Saint John’s.

Farm operations continued at Saint John’s for another half century until college dorms displaced the chicken house and the flour mill and encroached on the now empty barns and barnyard. Sale of the herd of a hundred registered Holstein dairy cattle in 1958 marked the end of an epoch. What survived as a reminder of the past was Saint John’s bread, first baked by Brother William Baldus in the 1890s with flour milled at Saint John’s.

On the academic front, Saint John’s College published its first annual catalog in 1870. It described the natural beauty of the campus as rivaling that of ancient Greece:  To the west is Lake Watab from which flows the Watab River, beautiful in its windings through the valleys as the Pencus through the Thessalian Tempe of old. And in an age when tuberculosis was common, the catalog noted the healthy climate, one of the healthiest in the Union, as many who have regained health and vigor testify.

The catalog listed the courses for a six-year classical curriculum primarily meant to prepare young men for the three-year seminary program leading to ordination or possibly for law school and the learned professions. In 1872 a parallel two-year commercial department was introduced to prepare students for employment in the business world. In one more adjustment to frontier reality, in 1879 a “minim” department was added “in recognition of the defective elementary education of many of the pupils” who applied for admission to the college from the surrounding area. This auxiliary program taught basic pre-secondary skills. It was tailored to individual needs and continued under one heading or another until 1916.

Enrollment grew slowly. Most of the faculty were monks. Most of the students came from nearby communities. Numbers were not large. In September 1881 classes began with only 60 students in attendance. In two weeks the number grew to 85. This was considered a good number.

The school year took on an established pattern. Student activities included choral and instrumental groups, literary clubs, and outdoor games among the stumps in the front yard. Commencement became an elaborate all-day event with five-act dramas, orchestral concerts, oratory and prize-giving.

The academic program gradually assumed standard American shape, four years of secondary education followed by four years of college. The commercial department was absorbed into the college curriculum. In 1921 the fifth abbot, Alcuin Deutsch, restructured the whole academic program as a prep school, a college, and a seminary, each with its own dean.

Education was only part of the Benedictine mission to Minnesota. Some of the first monks were missioners heading out on foot through the woods to pioneer settlements, backpack loaded with provisions for celebrating the Eucharist and being away for days or weeks at a time.

More priest monks followed them as the monastic community grew. Settlements in the woods turned into towns dotting the countryside, vying with one another to build impressive parish churches with spires visible miles away over the fields and pastures. Many of those parish churches still in use have carefully preserved the rich artistic detail of altars, Stations of the Cross, and windows that reflect the taste and devotion of the early parishioners.

From the first it was taken for granted that many of the monks would serve in parishes or missions as their life work and that virtually all of the ordained monks at the abbey would go out to parishes on weekends and at Christmas and Easter.  Father Colman Barry’s centennial history of Saint John’s, Worship and Work, listed 361 places in Minnesota, neighboring states, New York, California, and the Bahamas where Saint John’s monks had served or were currently serving in 1956.

Particularly significant was the century-long mission to Native Americans on the White Earth and Red Lake reservations in northern Minnesota which started at White Earth in 1878 with the ministry of Father Aloysius Hermanutz and two sisters from the Convent of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph. At Red Lake the monks and nuns staffed a church and school and for many years ran a farm.

Totally unanticipated was the mission to the Bahamas which came about almost incidentally when Archbishop Corrigan of New York befriended Abbot Alexius after the abbot’s  forced resignation in 1889. The archbishop asked in return that the abbey assist him in establishing a Catholic presence in the Bahamas, which Rome had attached to the New York diocese.

The new abbot, Father Bernard Locnikar (1890-1894), did not approve of founding a new monastery in the Bahamas but allowed Father Chrysostom Schreiner to go to Nassau in a pastoral capacity. Abbot Bernard’s reluctance to commit the abbey to a distant apostolate when there were many claims on the abbey close to home is understandable. Yet Father Chrysostom was the first in a line of 103 Saint John’s priests and brothers who would serve in Nassau and the out islands between 1891 and 2012.

How did this come about?  Thirty years after Abbot Bernard, Abbot Alcuin Deutsch headed a much larger and growing community, and he saw the Bahamas as a promising mission field. He committed many monks to service there, two of whom served as bishops when the Bahamas became a vicariate apostolic, Father Bernard Kevenhoerster (1932-1948), and Father Paul Leonard Haggerty (1948-1981). In 1946 Saint Augustine of Canterbury Monastery was founded in Nassau as a dependent priory of Saint John’s Abbey, and on adjoining property Saint Augustine’s College, a preparatory school for boys.  

By 1946 Saint John’s Abbey had become a very large monastic community with 251 members, 186 of them priests. Over the years the abbey had repeatedly reached out to assist other monastic communities, sometimes with monks who became abbots or temporary administrators. Abbot Alcuin had been generous in responding to such needs. In addition to Saint Augustine in the Bahamas he established four more priories before his retirement in 1950:  San Antonio Abad in Puerto Rico, Abadia del Tepeyac in Mexico, Saint Anselm’s in Tokyo, and Saint Maur in Kentucky.

In 1950 the question facing Saint John’s was how large the college should become. Peter Engel was abbot from 1895 to 1921. He was a scientist by training and under his rule a whole cluster of college buildings took shape: observatory, library, gymnasium, science hall, kitchen, and infirmary. He had a sure pastoral touch to match his academic interests. Under his leadership, continuance of the abbey’s pastoral mission ran parallel with development of the school.

Alcuin Deutsch was the next abbot. He was concerned that the college should not outgrow the monastery. He had studied in Rome and taken an advanced degree in philosophy. He had also visited leading monastic centers in Europe where an exciting rediscovery of historic Benedictine monasticism was underway following the near extinction of monasteries in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. He came home from Europe knowing how a monastery ought to be run.

He wanted the college to be small but good. During his nearly thirty years as abbot he sent 101 young monks away for advanced study including such names as Virgil Michel, Godfrey Diekmann, and Colman Barry. He should be credited with recognizing the significance of the liturgical movement in Europe and making Saint John’s a center of the movement in this country through the work of Father Virgil Michel, Father Godfrey Diekmann, and others. He approved of founding the Liturgical Press in 1926.

But he was not a builder. The only major structures planned and completed during his many years as abbot were the 1927 auditorium and the 1948 powerhouse, replacing the one built in 1888 which was demolished as soon as the new one came on line. A third major structure, the diocesan seminary, was completed in his last year in office, 1950, but it was constructed, owned, and operated by the diocese of St. Cloud. A second college dormitory, St. Mary’s Hall, was reluctantly approved by him in his last year in office with the provision that it should not be called St. Alcuin Hall.

Abbot Alcuin retired in October 1950 and died the following May. Baldwin Dworschak was elected abbot in December 1950, an office he was to hold for twenty years.

His instinct was to continue the regimen of Abbot Alcuin, but he was a different sort of person. He rarely took action without taking counsel. When he became abbot it was clear that something had to be done about the pressures of growth in both the monastic community and the college. Taking counsel from a circle of monks involved in the college, most of whom were his seniors by date of monastic profession, and Frank Kacmarcik, a layman newly appointed to the art faculty but a friend of Baldwin’s from a short stint as a brother ten years earlier, Baldwin made some major decisions that would permanently change Saint John’s.

The first of these was the decision to draw up a comprehensive plan for the campus before doing any new building. His second major decision was to look beyond the local scene to invite a number of nationally and internationally recognized architects to consider doing the comprehensive campus plan with a bold new church as its centerpiece.

This approach led to the choice of Marcel Breuer to do the comprehensive plan. Breuer’s plan provided for a north entrance to the campus from the proposed new interstate highway, delineated areas on campus as monastic, academic, or shops, and located the new church in a commanding position in front of the old church but facing north toward the new entrance.

Once this plan was approved in 1953, Breuer was commissioned to design a new wing for the monastery. It was completed in 1955, greatly expanding living quarters for the monks.

They had scarcely moved in when Baldwin made the boldest of his decisions, to commission Breuer to draw up working plans for the church shown in his comprehensive plan. It would seat as many as two hundred monks in choir and 1,650 college students at daily Mass plus as many as 400 prep students in a downstairs chapel intended for the prep school and the local parish. At the same time Breuer was asked to design a low-cost 400-bed college dorm, St. Thomas Aquinas Hall.

The dorm was completed in 1959, the church in 1961. Other Breuer buildings would follow: Alcuin Library (1964), Peter Engel Science Hall (1965), St. Bernard and Sts. Boniface and Patrick college residence halls (1967), the residential complex of the newly formed Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research (1968) on its own campus in Flynntown.

In 1962 the long-awaited Prep School took shape on its own hillside campus where Abbot Peter had built his observatory seventy years before. The Preps were finally able to move out of the Quad into a classroom building and dormitory designed by Val Michelson.

No less important than this extended building program was Abbot Baldwin’s decision in 1958 to relinquish the office of president of Saint John’s University, which the abbots had held ex officio since Alexius Edelbrock. He appointed a monk to the position, Father Arno Gustin, dean of the college, for a six-year term.

By this time the number of monks belonging to Saint John’s Abbey was approaching 400, college enrollment exceeded 1,000, the Prep School numbered well over 300. Baldwin also served as president of the American Cassinese Congregation, the loose federation of American Benedictine monasteries that includes Saint John’s.

As president of the congregation he attended the third and fourth sessions of Vatican II. Saint John’s was also represented at the council by Father Godfrey Diekmann, who served as a peritus for the document on the liturgy. Later he would serve for years as a member of ICEL, the international committee charged with creating English-language texts of the Roman Missal and other liturgical books.

The number of Saint John’s monks peaked at 404 in 1963. In the next decades this number slowly declined as the foundations in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Mexico achieved independent status, the number of young men applying to enter the monastery dwindled, and some professed monks either chose not to make final vows or sought exclaustration and left the community.

The years following Vatican II (1962-1965) were a period of change. The most radical change for the monastic community was the shift from Latin to English in the Mass and the daily round of prayer in choir. Overnight it became possible for the lay brothers and the clerical monks to form a single choir praying the Divine Office in English. This was canonically approved in 1967 when all monks were permitted to make solemn vows, thus eliminating the connection between monastic vows and clerical status which had been in place for centuries.

Developments in the university affected the monastic community. Father Colman Barry became president in 1964. An early accomplishment of his was a substantial across the board salary hike that benefited not only lay employees but the abbey through the approximately seventy monks who held faculty or staff positions in the university. The abbey continued to return a high percentage of annual income to operation of the university and the prep school.

During his tenure as president Colman founded the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, the Philips faculty position in Jewish Studies, and Minnesota Educational Radio. He supported the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research founded by Father Kilian McDonnell, as well as adoption of a single academic calendar and curriculum for Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, which was the essential first step toward close cooperation between the colleges.

He also encountered the social and political turbulence of the late 60s. This demanded a new approach to the traditional role of monks living with the students as prefects in the student dorms, and more broadly to the paternalistic guidelines that had characterized management of the abbey’s academic apostolate from the start.

Abbot Baldwin resigned in 1971 at the age of 65, an age limit adopted by the American Cassinese Congregation during his time in office, later raised to 75. He continued to be a wise and gracious presence in the community until his death in 1996. Father John Eidenschink, canonist on the seminary faculty and longtime subprior, was elected abbot and served until he turned 65 in 1979. Father Colman also resigned in 1971, to be followed by Father Michael Blecker as university president.

The following decades saw a changing lifestyle in the abbey. Father Jerome Theisen was elected abbot in 1979 and served until he was elected abbot primate in 1992. A new pattern of community life evolved during the years he and Abbot John Eidenschink held office. Shifting from Latin to English for the Eucharist and Divine Office was a multi-stage change. Like many other monasteries, Saint John’s made do with temporary arrangements of the psalter and readings at first. A temporary version of the Office in English was adopted in 1971. The current seven-volume loose-leaf version was carefully worked out starting in 1983. Antiphons for major feasts have been composed more recently.

Hymns took the place of Gregorian chant. Devotions like Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, novenas, the Angelus, Stations of the Cross became less frequent. The hour for Morning Prayer went from 4:45 to 7:00 a.m. Nocturnal silence yielded to academic and social activity, evening television and events off campus.

Deeper changes took place. Vatican II emphasized the communal character of the Eucharist. As this sank in, private celebration of Mass in all of those downstairs private chapels was frowned on. Priests were encouraged to concelebrate at the daily conventual  Mass around the single altar upstairs, its free-standing central location anticipating precisely the liturgical thinking of Vatican II.

A fundamental change occurred when individual personal accounts were introduced. Personal expenses other than health care were charged to this account and a monk could draw cash for personal use within limits approved by the superiors. Gradually a fleet of abbey cars became available for general use. Getting a blessing before leaving the campus fell into disuse.

The community was getting smaller and older. Entering classes of more than three were rare. At the other end of the age scale a whole new generation of monks in their seventies and eighties and nineties needed some or much care. In 1976 Abbot John Eidenschink approved remodeling a section of the second-floor corridor in the Quad as a retirement center with its own nurses’ station, dining room, and chapel. Dedicated as Saint Raphael’s Hall, it was expanded under each of the following abbots to a current capacity of 26 beds. It was thoroughly renovated in 2008.

Under the same abbot the business office refined its accounting structures to distinguish four operating divisions of the monastic corporation: abbey, university, prep school, Liturgical Press. This distinction between the abbey and its apostolates would have far-reaching consequences leading to separate incorporation of the university in 2012.

There were some memorable ecclesiastical moments in the 80s when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops under the presidency of Archbishop John Roach of St. Paul, met at Saint John’s for a June retreat and three subsequent June meetings. A photographer in the monastery garden could have taken a picture of most of the American hierarchy seated under the spreading branches of a majestic black walnut eating corn on the cob for supper on a perfect  June evening in 1986.

Abbot Timothy Kelly was elected when Jerome Theisen went to Rome as Abbot Primate in 1992. By now new entrants to the community had slowed to a trickle and the number of monks available for parish ministry steadily declined. By agreement with the bishop, the abbey resigned its title to pastorates in perpetuity and gradually withdrew from parishes founded by the monks more than a century earlier.

The Japanese priory, at that point still St. Anselm’s in Tokyo, continued as the abbey’s sole mission. In 1999 it moved from Tokyo to Fujimi as Trinity Benedictine Monastery under Father Kieran Nolan as prior. Saint Augustine’s Monastery in the Bahamas closed in 2006. Saint Augustine’s College continued as an independent coeducational school with an enrollment of 1,000 students.

Both Abbot Timothy and his successor in 2000, Abbot John Klassen, had to deal with persistent sexual abuse allegations against members of the community. They gained respect by addressing the issue openly and giving priority to the needs of victims.

Abbot Alcuin had appointed a committee to plan a guesthouse in 1933. Under Abbot John Klassen the abbey finally opened a guesthouse seventy-four years later in 2006 on a site adjacent to the chapter house with all rooms facing the lake. The site was recommended by the internationally recognized Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. At the same time the chapter house was remodeled and expanded to make it accessible to the public. The abbey also approved expanding the cemetery for use by alumni and friends in addition to the monks and members of Saint John the Baptist parish for whom it was originally planned in 1869.

And a final note. In 2012 the seven-volume Saint John’s Bible was completed with formal presentation of the New Testament Letters and Book of Revelation by Donald and Mabel Jackson to Abbot John Klassen and Father Bob Koopmann, president of Saint John’s University, at Evening Prayer on Sunday, May 9, 2012, in the Abbey church. By coincidence in the same year Saint John’s University was separately incorporated and Saint John’s inaugurated its first lay president, Dr. Michael Hemesath, ’81.

As the abbey neared its 160th year, the community devoted major funding and personnel to care of its elderly members and formation of its new members in the monastic way of life. The mission of its founders continued that in all things God might be glorified.

 

Authored by Father Hilary Thimmesh, OSB

1840
1846

Metten Abbey, Germany

St. Michael's Abbey at Metten, founded in 766, is a house of the Benedictine Order in Metten near Deggendorf. It is situated between the fringes of the Bavarian Forest and the valley of the Danube, in Bavaria in Germany. It is from this Benedictine community of monks that Fr. Boniface Wimmer, OSB arrived eventually in Latrobe, PA to establish Saint Vincent's Archabbey in 1846.




1850
1856

St. Vincent Archabbey

St. Vincent Archabbey, founded in 1846 in Latrobe Pennsylvania, sends 5 monks to begin a new community in Minnesota in 1856.




1856

Demetrius di Marogna, OSB - First Prior of Saint John's

First Prior of Saint John's from April 5, 1856 - October 7, 1857.


1857

Founding of the Saint John's Preparatory School

1857

First Priory Building

The original priory in Saint Cloud which was built near the site of the present St. Cloud Children’s Home.

1857

Saint John's College Founded




1860
1863

Benedictine Sisters Arrive in St. Joseph, MN

SAINT BENEDICT'S MONASTERY (CONVENT), ST. JOSEPH, MN 1863 This sketch of the layout of the first church/school/convent complex in St. Joseph, MN, was drawn in 1930 by Sister Paula Bechtold, OSB, from her memory of St. Joseph's Convent where she had lived as a young sister. This complex became the home of the Benedictine sisters when they moved from St. Cloud to St. Joseph in 1863. Gradually a small campus to the west of the complex developed -- consisting of laundry, bakery, summer house, chicken coop, barn, woodshed, and a well.




1865

Lake Sagatagan

In 1865 the priory moved about a mile through the woods to higher ground on the north shore of a lake later named Lake Sagatagan.

1865

Benedictines Settle on Lake Sagatagan

1866

Elevation from Priory to Abbey

1866

Rt. Rev. Rupert Seidenbusch, First Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

December 12, 1866 - February 12, 1875

1867

Construction begins on the Quadrangle

1870
1870

Saint John’s College's First Academic Catalog

1875

Abbot Rupert named bishop of the Vicariate of Northern Minnesota

1875

Rt. Rev. Alexius Edelbrock, Second Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

June 2, 1875 - November 27, 1889

1878

White Earth Reservation Mission

1879

Early School Days

Between 1885 and 1896, Saint John’s offered an Industrial School for Native Americans – classes were held for half a day and then the students were disbursed to printing, tailor, shoemaker and carpenter shops, garden, kitchen, barns and power plant to learn a trade.



1880
1886

Quadrangle Completed

When completed, the quadrangle was largest building west of the Mississippi dedicated to education. More that 62,000 board feet of local timber and almost 400,000 bricks from the abbey brickyard went into constructing the five-story link-up to the existing main building and church.



1888

Wood Stoves Heat The Quadrangle

December 1888. In the early days the Quadrangle and other buildings had to be heated with wood burning stoves. Here huge quantities of cord wood are being sledded across a frozen Lake Sagatagan to provide heat for the campus community.




1890
1890

The Rise of Saint John's Bread


1890

Rt. Rev. Bernard Locnikar, Third Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

May 7, 1890 - November 7, 1894

1890

First Brick Barn

Construction of the first brick barn around 1890. During most of its first century, Saint John’s remained self-sufficient for milk, meat, and vegetables



1891

Nassau, Bahamas Mission Begins

1894

Rt. Rev. Peter Engel, Fourth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

November 28, 1894 - November 27, 1921




1894

Tornado of 1894

On June 27, 1894 a violent tornado passed over Saint John's. "Windows were sucked out, chimneys pulled off, shingles pulverized and the main turret damaged. But the buildings gave not an inch, and when the storm subsided they were there as usual, mighty and indomitable. Icehouse, greenhouse, bakery, boilerhouse, corn mill, butchershop, pigsty and shoeshop were all damaged, while the barn was demolished to the stone foundations." (From Fr. Coleman Barry's "Worship and Work")




1898

Electricity arrives at Saint John's




1900
1901

St. Alexius Church, West Union, MN,




1906

School Activities Included Dramas and Concerts.

The first Saint John’s Auditorium was located on third floor of the Quadrangle.




1910
1911

First Science Building on a Minnesota private college campus is dedicated.

In 1911 the first science building on a Minnesota private college campus was dedicated at Saint John's. Abbot Peter Engel promoted the study of science. The much larger 1966 science building designed by Marcel Breuer is named after him. The original science building, now named Simons Hall, was renovated in 1989 and houses the social sciences.

1913

College Of Saint Benedict Begun

Benedictine Sisters of Saint Joseph, MN establish a college for women which will eventually partner with Saint John's University in the late 1960's.




1920
1921

Rt. Rev. Alcuin Deutsch, Fifth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

December 29, 1921 - October 19, 1950




1926

Founding of Liturgical Press by Father Virgil Michel, OSB

In 1926 Father Virgil Michel founded the Liturgical Press and Orate Fratres, a monthly periodical devoted to the liturgical movement. With Abbot Alcuin Deutsch's firm backing, other confreres joined in the effort to foster liturgical renewal. Saint John's was soon recognized as a center for the movement in this country.

1927

Auditorium Building is Constructed

Construction of the Main Auditorium. Designed by O’Meara & Hills, the facility continues to support vocal and instrumental music instruction along with Fine Arts Programming. It was renovated in 1984, and the resulting performance hall has exceptional acoustics.



1930
1933

Abbot Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, Appoints First Guesthouse Committee

The first guesthouse committe is appointed to design and plan an abbey guesthouse. Though there are guestrooms eventually built in the Breuer wing of the abbey in the 1950's, an actual guesthouse is not built until 2006.




1938

Father Virgil Michael, OSB, 1888-1938

There is perhaps no other single individual to whom more credit is due for the inception and promotion of the liturgical movement in America than Father Virgil Michael, OSB of Saint John's Abbey. For the movement in this country, in its organized form, may truly be dated from the foundation of the liturgical review, Orate Fratres, near the end of the year 1926.






1940
1946

Founding of Abadia del Tepeyac

Abadia del Tepeyac was originally founded as a dependent priory by Saint John's Abbey in 1946.




1947

Founding of San Antonio Abad

San Antonio Abad is founded as a dependent priory by Saint John's Abbey in 1947.




1948

Founding of Saint Anselm's

Saint Anselm's Priory in Tokyo, Japan, is founded by monks of Saint John's Abbey.




1950
1950

Rt. Rev. Baldwin Dworschak, Sixth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

December 28, 1950 - July 23, 1971




1952

Frank Kacamarik, OblSB

Designer Frank Kacmarcik, OblSB, letters the names of alumni killed in battle around the top of the walls in the “Gold Star Lounge” of Mary Hall. The Gold Star Lounge is dedicated to the alumni who gave their lives during World War II.




1953

Marcel Breuer's Comprehensive Plan Approved

Born in Hungary, Marcel Breuer became an internationally recognized architect of the Bauhaus School of modern design. He also designed the new monastery wing, Saint Thomas Hall, Alcuin Library, the Peter Engel Science Center, Saints Bernard, Patrick and Boniface Halls, and the Ecumenical Institute.




1960
1960

Saint Thomas Aquinas Hall

Saint Thomas Hall shortly after construction. The L-shaped residence hall was the first on campus to be designed by Marcel Breuer of the Bauhaus School of Architecture, and the first to be constructed of something other than red brick.




1961

Dedication of Abbey Church

Abbey and University Church is completed and consecrated on August 24, 1961.




1962

New Saint John's Preparatory School Campus

For the first time in its history the college preparatory school moves out of the quadrangle and begins to develop its own campus east of the abbey church beginning with a boy's residence hall and an academic building.




1964

Alcuin Library Completed

The Alcuin Library designed by Marcel Breuer and constructed by Gunner Johnson Construction of Minneapolis. The roof of the library is supported by massive concrete “trees” that provide the interior with a dramatic, open effect.




1965

New Peter Engel Science Center

Construction of a new science hall, later named Peter Engel Science Center, as viewed from the bell ledge of the Abbey-University Church bell banner. Completed in 1966, this 125,000 square foot building was the fifth building designed by Marcel Breuer for the Saint John’s campus.



1966

Saints Bernard, Patrick and Boniface Halls

Construction of Saints Bernard, Patrick and Boniface Halls, they were among ten Saint John’s buildings designed by Marcel Breuer, who paid particular attention to the seasonal changes in solar energy.

1967

KSJR FM – The Beginning of Minnesota Public Radio

KSJR FM – The beginnings of Minnesota Public Radio. During the inaugural year of KSJR, John Hovanec, a Saint John’s University student engineer, gives the 'you’re on' sign in KSJR's Studio A atop Wimmer Hall.




1970
1971

Rt. Rev. John Eidenschink, Seventh Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

August 24, 1971 - August 20, 1979





1976

Abbey Retirement Center is Established

Due to the number of aging community members Saint John's establishes an in-house, professionally staffed retirement center.




1979

Rt. Rev. Jerome Theisen, Eighth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

August 22, 1979 - September 19, 1992








1980
1983

Loose Leaf Psalter is Adopted for Divine Office

Following Vatican II renewals Saint John's Abbey adopts a loose leaf psalter for use for communal recitation of the Divine Office.






1990
1992

Abbot Jerome Theisen, OSB, is Elected Primate of Benedictines Worldwide




1992

Rt. Rev. Timothy Kelly, Ninth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

November 27, 1992 - November 23, 2000




1994

Fr. Coleman Barry, OSB 1921-1994

Fr. Coleman Barry, OSB was president of Saint John's University from 1964-1971, instrumental in founding The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library and Minnesota Public Radio.




1998

The Saint John's Bible is Commissioned

In 1998, Saint John's Abbey and University commissioned renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson to produce a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible.

1999

Trinity Benedictine Monastery Completed

The new Trinity Benedictine Monastery is completed in Fujimi, Japan











2000
2000

Rt. Rev. John Klassen, Tenth Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

November 24, 2000, to present.




2002

Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB 1908-2002

A monk of Saint John's Abbey, Fr. Godfrey was a teacher, theologian, author, editor, mycologist (one who collects mushrooms), and had a significant worldwide influence on the Church's liturgical movement pre- and post-Vatican II. He was an assistant to Fr. Virgil Michael, OSB. Fr. Godfrey was one of the U.S. periti (a skilled theologian used as a consultant), at the Second Vatican Council.




2006

Saint John's Abbey Guesthouse is Completed

After many years, and even decades of planning, the Abbey Guesthouse opens its doors to the public.




2006

Saint John’s Sesquicentennial

A year long celebration commemorating the departure on April 5, 1856, of five Benedictine monks from Saint Vincent Monastery in Pennsylvania for Minnesota.




2008

Saint Raphael's Hall Renovation Completed

A complete renovation of Saint Raphael's Hall, the abbey health and retirement center, is completed occupying the second floor of the quadrangle.




2010
2011

Saint John's Bible

September, 15, Saint John’s Abbey and University today announced the historic completion of The Saint John’s Bible, the only handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago.




2012

Michael Hemesath - 13th President of Saint John's University

Michael Hemesath became the 13th president of Saint John's University on July 1, 2012. A 1981 SJU graduate, Hemesath is the first layperson appointed to a full presidential term at SJU.




2012

Separate Incorporation of Saint John's University

After seven years of careful study and committee work, Saint John's Abbey and Saint John's University become separately incorporated. The move makes collaboration between Saint John's University and the College of Saint Benedict much easier.