Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B, president of Saint Anselm College, announced today that the Abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey and Chancellor of Saint Anselm College, Abbot Matthew Leavy, O.S.B. will retire June 5, 2012.
Elected in 1986, Abbot Matthew has led the abbey and college for almost 27 years. The monastic community will elect a new abbot June 5.
The election of a new abbot has happened only four times in the abbey's history: in 1927 when Saint Anselm became an independent abbey with the election of Abbot Bertrand Dolan, O.S.B.; in 1963 with the election of Abbot Gerald McCarthy, O.S.B.; in 1972 with the election of Abbot (now Bishop) Joseph Gerry, O.S.B.; and in 1986 with the election of Abbot Matthew Leavy, O.S.B.
Abbot Matthew is the monastic community's religious superior and spiritual leader. As chancellor, he oversaw the college's change in governance to a new model with lay members sharing responsibility for the college. Abbot Matthew also taught in the psychology department.
A native of the Bronx, New York, Abbot Matthew took vows as a monk in 1968 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1975. He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master of divinity degree at St. Albert's Dominican College and completed a doctorate at Duquesne University.
"To be worthy of the task of governing a monastery, the abbot must always remember what his title signifies and act as a superior should. He is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery, since he is addressed by a title of Christ, as the Apostle indicates: You have received the spirit of adoption of sons by which we exclaim, abba, father (Rom 8:15)…" Excerpt of Chapter 2: Qualities of the Abbot from the Rule of St. Benedict
He will continue to serve on the Abbot President's Council of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries and will be a presenter at the upcoming world Congress of Benedictine Abbots in Rome next September. In addition, following a period of sabbatical for rest and renewal, he will continue to serve the abbey and college in new ways yet to be determined.
Today he is among the longest-serving abbots in the Benedictine Order worldwide and is therefore entirely deserving of retirement from what Saint Benedict himself describes in his Rule as "a difficult and demanding burden." While acknowledging the inevitable challenges, Abbot Matthew is quick to say that the joy of service and the support of his confreres, Trustees and colleagues in the College over these many years have more than compensated for whatever difficult demands he has encountered.
In speaking about Abbot Matthew's retirement, Father Jonathan says, "We can all be very grateful for the long service of Abbot Matthew to both our monastic and college communities, for the care he has so often exercised for us individually and collectively, and for the many gifts and talents he brought to his work. We look forward to his future contributions as well."
The rare election process for a new abbot involves the entire monastic community. Members of the Benedictine community at the Saint Anselm Abbey nominate and then vote for their new leader.
"In choosing an abbot, the guiding principle should always be that the man placed in office be the one selected either by the whole community acting unanimously in the fear of God, or by some part of the community, no matter how small, which possesses sounder judgment. Goodness of life and wisdom in teaching must be the criteria for choosing the one to be made abbot, even if he is the last in community rank…" Excerpt of Chapter 64: The Election of an Abbot from the Rule of St. Benedict