Abbot James Zilliox, O.S.B.

Abbot, Saint Mary’s Abbey, Newark, New Jersey (1885-1886)

James Zilliox was born in Newark in 1849 and baptized in St. Mary’s Church. He attended Saint Mary’s Grammar School and when he was twelve he traveled to Saint Vincent because he wanted to become a Benedictine monk. After graduating from Saint Vincent College he entered the Abbey in 1865 and took his first vows a few weeks before his seventeenth birthday. After solemn profession and studying theology at the Jesuit University in Innsbruck, he was ordained a priest in 1873.

Abbot Bonifaz Wimmer sent the young cleric to Rome for further theological studies. There he received his doctorate in theology on August 6, 1875 and returned to Saint Vincent the same year. He taught theology at the seminary, became master of novices, and in 1881 prior.

In 1885 the elected the assembly of the 106 eligible capitulars of the Abbey of Saint Vincent chose Zilliox in the second ballot to be abbot of the newly built Abbey of Saint Mary’s in Newark.  After confirmation from Rome, it was consecrated in Saint Mary’s Church (“Immaculate Conception” on the High-street) by Bishop Winand M. Wigger of Newark.

Zilliox reigned unhappily in Newark and, suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, resigned the following year.

Zilliox, ascetic, contemplative and open to the emerging Beuron influences, often stood in contrast to the hands-on, energetic Wimmer during his years in Saint Vincent. His dissatisfaction with his administration led him twice to intrigues against the abbot, which led to his removal from office both times: in 1879 from that of master of novices and in 1883 from that of prior. However, since Zilliox was popular in the monstery and Wimmer considered him basically “an innocent sheep” who had let himself be harnessed for the machinations of other monks, he quickly reconciled with Zilliox and was very satisfied with his election as abbot.