This summer a beloved campus landmark, the Abbey Church, turns 50 years old. Members of the college community joined the monastic community at the celebration of the Eucharist on Monday, July 18 to observe the occasion.
Beginning in the 1950s, the need for a church was apparent. With enrollments steadily increasing, students attended Mass in the small college chapel (now the Chapel Art Center) and on occasion in the gymnasium. Building a church would require outside assistance.
In an address to the community in 1963, Richard Cardinal Cushing of the Archdiocese of Boston remarked that without a proper church, the monastery and the college were missing its heart. He then went on to pledge $500,000 to the project.
During the planning stages, architect Nicholas Isaak ’36 collaborated with the Benedictines, primarily Fr. Christopher Hagen, O.S.B., on a design that would meet the demands of a growing student population for worship; accommodate the liturgical changes of Vatican II; and serve the needs of the Benedictines for daily prayer.
On July 10, 1964, Abbot Bertrand Dolan, O.S.B., held special ceremonies to bless the altar site, the completed foundation, and the cornerstone. Almost exactly two years later, on July 11, 1966, Bishop Ernest Primeau, Bishop of Manchester, presided over the consecration of the church and the altar.
In 1974, Saint Anselm Abbey received permission from the Bishop to perform marriages in the church on a trial basis; weddings have been hosted there ever since. Opening Day Mass, Senior Honors Convocation and Baccalaureate Mass at Commencement and many other traditional college ceremonies are also held in this beautiful, spiritual heart of campus.
Contributed by Keith P. Chevalier for Portraits, Spring 2016