Abbot Valentine Kohlbeck, O.S.B.

Abbot, Saint Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois (1919-1937)

Born in Friedrichsthal, Bohemia, on February 17, 1864, Andrew Kohlbeck had his earliest education in German, at the local public school. In 1877, at the age of thirteen, he came to America and Saint Vincent Archabbey, where Archabbot Boniface Wimmer was recruiting students from Bohemia as future members of a Czech monastery. Following novitiate, he professed his monastic vows on July 28, 1883.

After serving as a prefect while a cleric, Father Valentine was sent as a subdeacon in the summer of 1887 to teach in the newly-established school of Saint Procopius Priory in Chicago. On November 6 of that year, he was ordained to the priesthood at Saint Procopius Church by Archbishop Patrick Feehan, and the following year he became a founding member of the newly-independent monastery of Saint Procopius.

At the end of 1885, Father Valentine was named pastor of a new Bohemian parish, Saint Vitus, six blocks west of Saint Procopius. When Prior Nepomucene Jaeger was named the community’s first abbot, he selected Father Valentine to succeed him as pastor of Saint Procopius Parish.  In 1898, he was named manager of the Abbey’s Press in Chicago and editor-in-chief of its publications and he developed into a talented journalist.  In 1905, he became a member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild of America.

Father Valentine was elected coadjutor abbot by his confreres on March 25, 1919. Upon the death of the community’s founding abbot on February 27, 1924, Abbot Valentine assumed the full responsibilities of the office. In this capacity, he presided over a gradual shift in the focus of the monastery’s apostolic works, as the Press began to decline in relative importance and the Abbey accepted several missionary endeavors in addition to its educational and parochial work.

He supported the efforts of Father Cosmas Vesely, long-time rector of the College, to improve the academic standing of the institution by sending numerous young monks away for advanced degrees, and he later worked with Father Cosmas’ successor, Father John Cherf, in bringing the school safely through the hard times of the Great Depression. In 1922, Abbot Valentine accepted the administration of Saint Andrew Parish in Cleveland as a first step towards fulfilling the desire of some of the Abbey’s Slovak members to found a monastery for their own nationality. Though the new foundation meant a loss of much-needed manpower for Saint Procopius, Saint Andrew’s Priory was assisted in becoming canonically independent in 1929.

Pope Pius XI accorded him the privilege of the Cappa Magna on the golden jubilee of his profession. Abbot Valentine died, on his 73rd birthday, February 17, 1937, in the 54th year of his monastic profession, the 50th of his priesthood, and the 18th of his abbatial office.