Abbot Procopius Neuzil, O.S.B.

Abbot, Saint Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois (1937-1946)

The Neuzil family emigrated from southern Bohemia to the United States and settled in northeastern Iowa and began farming. The Czech community in that region was strongly Roman Catholic, which was appealing to the family.

Charles Neuzil wanted to enter the seminary but was rejected due to his poor background. He worked as a field hand in Wisconsin to study in Iowa and began to teach at a school near Spillville after graduating in 1880. He saw an article on Boniface Wimmer and Saint Vincent inviting Czech men to join the order and he immediately applied and was accepted. In 1881 at age 20 he began studies at Saint Vincent, taking the name Procopius.

In 1886 he was sent to Chicago and assigned to stay at Saint Procopius Church, where missionary priests from Saint Vincent had a priory. In 1888 the Saint Procopius Priory became an independing priory with eight founding members and he professed vows there in 1888. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 22, 1888.

He helped establish a school to educate poor Czech-American boys and began teaching in 1887, continuing in that position until 1894. He established a weekly magazine for children of Czech culture, and after several years he created a publication for adults. These became part of the Bohemian Benedictine Press, which later published newspapers and educational literature for Catholic Czech-language schools.

In 1894 the priory was raised to the status of an abbey. In 1897 he became pastor of Saint Procopius Parish, and remained there until 1914. He was named prior of the abbey in 1899, serving for 20 years. He played a role in planning to move the high school he had founded at the parish to Lisle, Illinois. The school was later known as Saint Procopius College. He also established an orphanage.