Abbot, Saint Bernard’s Abbey, Cullman, Alabama (1891-1904)
Just four years after German-speaking monks from Pennsylvania arrived in Cullman, Alabama, in 1887, Saint Bernard Abbey was formed. Saint Bernard’s history is linked to Metten Abbey in Germany, which sent monks to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life and to minister to a growing German-speaking immigrant population in the 1840s. Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, became the first foundation in the 1870s, and was instrumental in the founding of Saint Bernard Abbey.
Abbot Benedict Menges, O.S.B. was elected to be the first abbot. Twelve monks from Pennsylvania volunteered to become founding members of the abbey in Alabama, including six priests, four brothers and two monks preparing for ordination to the priesthood. Father Benedict was born on July 31, 1840 in Obermohr, Rhenish, Bavaria. He came to America in 1865, completed his studies at Saint Vincent, entered the novitiate in 1868 and was ordained a priest December 21, 1872. For a few weeks after his ordination he assisted at Saint Mary’s Church, Erie, then was transferred to Chicago then to Allegheny, Pa., where he remained until 1877. From 1877 to 1887 he labored in the missions of northern Alabama, first at Saint Florian and then for nine years in Huntsville.
In 1887 he was recalled to the north and for a short time was prior of Saint Joseph’s in Covington, Kentucky. Shortly after the election of Archabbot Andrew in 1888, Father Benedict was sent to the south as superior of the Alabama missions. He became prior in Carrolltown, Pennsylvania until July 1881.
At that time there was a growing demand to establish a monastery and college in Alabama. In the chapter assembled for the election of a superior in September of 1891 Father Benedict was elected abbot. Abbot Benedict died on July 11, 1904.