December 15, 2014
By Sue Gabert
Director of Campus Ministry
Communications and Marketing
Forming and Transforming Anselmians: 125 Years of College Spiritual Life
During Advent, Sue Gabert, Director of Campus Ministry, shares her thoughts on the people, places and experiences that have contributed to the special spiritual development of Anselmians throughout the past 125 years:
Reflecting on the history of the spiritual life on campus over the course of the past 125 years at Saint Anselm College causes us to reflect on many different places, people, and experiences. Its roots are in our mission and identity as both a Catholic and Benedictine college. This identity has formed and transformed Anselmians for over a century. The richness of the daily rhythm of the Benedictine life and its unique expression of our Catholic faith is evident throughout the physical space of the college - its traditions, rituals, community and people - and the experiences we all share.
Where has the spiritual life been nurtured, and what are the places of prayer and worship on campus? The history of these spaces is fascinating; did you know that the college's first chapel (1893) was located where our current business office is in Alumni Hall? Or that the Abbey Church was not complete until 1966? How about the fact that two new places of prayer were added to our campus in 2014? At Saint Anselm these spaces matter. There is nothing quite like stepping into the Abbey Church and seeing the light stream through the beautiful stained glass windows, or sitting there late in the evening amid its deafening silence. Take a prayerful walk along Saint Leanders Cemetary to the Stations of the Cross, or visit the new Multifaith prayer room, which is open 24/7 to provide a peaceful space for quiet contemplation for Anselmians of all faith traditions. Most recently, the new Grotto draws us into the loving arms of the Madonna of Saint Anselm, where the Blessed Mother hears our petitions and carries them to her son, Christ Jesus.
While where we pray and how those places of prayer have nourished the spiritual life of Anselmians throughout history is important, there are also people and experiences that contribute to the spiritual formation and growth of our community. Ask any alum about their spiritual experiences at Saint Anselm and you will certainly hear about the beauty and peacefulness of our Abbey Church, but you will also hear about people - monks, faculty, and staff. In particular, you will hear of the transformational impact members of the monastic community have had on so many lives. The rhythm and daily practice of prayer, and the Rule with its the values of stability and commitment to introspection have had a significant impact on campus culture and life. However we would be remiss not to recognize the importance of personal relationships and connections individual Anselmians have had with individual monks, faculty, administrators, and staff, from support provided in the midst of the loss of a loved one or a personal crisis, to simple every day kindnesses. But whether you bonded with Fr. Michael through a mutual love of chemistry, remember meaningful conversations with campus minister Dan Leahy, reflect on the encouragement of Coach Finn, or remember the big smile and joy-filled hello of George Gendron when you entered the Cushing Center, there are countless examples of these relationships and so many more developing into a deep sharing, and in fact a nurturing of the spiritual life.
When Anselmians reflect on their spiritual journey on the hilltop, in addition to relationships they also reference particular experiences. It may be a national crisis like 9/11 when the Anselmian community came together in prayer, or a religious event like the selection and naming of a new Pope or the Abbatial Blessing. It may be the religious rhythm and sounds on campus or regular religious practices: from the tolling of the bells to the invitation to join in the monastic community's liturgy of hours; from the annual Thanksgiving Basket Blessing to receiving Advent or Lenten reflections, Celebrations of the Eucharist or the sounds of the Saint Anselm College Choir. It may be memories of participation on a retreat, in a prayer group, on an SBA or WBA trip, or just hanging out in the Campus Ministry Office. It could even be celebrating their wedding or the wedding of a fellow Anselmian at the Abbey Church. There are so many examples of different events, programs and services offered throughout the year and in response to major events or seasons that have played a significant role in the spiritual culture of the campus.
Saint Anselm College through its physical campus and places of worship; through its people - monks, faculty, staff, and students; and through its experiences, programs, and services, has a rich spiritual life that has truly formed and transformed so many of us. For this place up on the hill is where "souls seek God and minds seek light and faith seeks understanding."
Read more about the monastic community and the history of Saint Anselm Abbey, or view photos on Flickr »