Belmont, Saint Bernard Monks Studying At Seminary

The dozen Benedictines from Saint Vincent Archabbey who are studying at Saint Vincent Seminary were joined by two new confreres, as a monk from Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, and a monk from Belmont Abbey in Belmont, North Carolina, who completed their first year of studies at the Seminary recently. 

Brother Romanus Davitt, O.S.B., of Saint Bernard, completed his first year of theology studies, while Brother James Raber, O.S.B., of Belmont, now a monk for eight years, completed his second year of studies. Unlike the diocesan seminarians, who live in the two Seminary residences, Brother Romanus and Brother James are living with the junior monks of the Archabbey in the “juniorate,” which is under the supervision of Brother Albert Gahr, O.S.B., who serves as junior master, and Father Michael Antonacci, O.S.B., assistant junior master. In addition to accolades for both Brother Albert and Father Michael, they also praised the hospitality of Seminary Rector Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., as well as other Benedictines of the community. 

Both monks have been schooled in the Benedictine charism of hospitality; however, when they arrived here they were on the receiving end of that virtue, something they have appreciated. 

“You know a tree by its fruit,” said Brother James. 

Brother Romanus noted that he has been enjoying his classes, which he called “challenging, but informative.”

Brother Romanus became acquainted with Brother James while he (Romanus) was obtaining his undergraduate degree at Belmont, which has a monastery and college on its campus similar to Saint Vincent. Both discerned a desire to attend Saint Vincent Seminary. 

Brother James, who has studied at another seminary, said he has appreciated the emphasis Saint Vincent places on human formation and pastoral formation for the priesthood. 

The role of the priest, he said, created in the image of Christ, is to elevate the laity, to help present the “deepest and most profound mysteries of Christianity and help them attain the fullness of God.” 

His studies, he said, are not for his own sake, where that “knowledge terminates with me, but for the benefit of the lay faithful.”

Several faculty members have stood out, they said, including Father Emmanuel Afunugo, assistant professor of moral theology; Father Nathanael Polinski, O.S.B., assistant professor of sacred scripture; and Brother David Kelly, O.S.B., assistant professor of canon law. 

The challenges placed via Father Afunugo’s class, Brother Romanus said, “brought out the importance of being well-formed.”

Father Nathanael, Brother James said, “allows the scripture to speak for itself. He doesn’t try to impose scripture into a narrow box; he allows it to be a living word while presenting the material in a fresh way.” 

Brother James is serving as chaplain to the Saint Vincent softball team, much as he did while living at Belmont, which also has a college on its campus. “It’s a nice way to be involved with the students, a nice outreach,” he said. 

He also recalled being inspired by the late Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, who is buried at Belmont, and who often spoke with him about the marvels of the priesthood. He would say “the priest is really there for the people. The priest should be looking at ways to present the fullness of God to them. I feel like the whole man is being formed here.”