Dear friends of St. Paul’s Abbey,
Happy Easter! We thank God that we have again arrived at this joyous season to celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Jesus. We pray that the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death shine in your lives and that you share the joy of the Resurrection with others. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you, our brothers and sisters in the risen Lord, some of the recent mentionable moments here at the monastery.
Special Events: We began the year with a special New Year’s greeting on January 1 after morning prayer, with thoughts of gratitude to God and hope for the upcoming year. We placed our monastic lives in the loving care of Our Blessed Mother in the Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 2022 is the year of the Black Tiger in the lunar calendar, which only occurs every 60 years, and is a significant year for Koreans in that the tiger is such an important symbol of Korean identity. On January 25th, we celebrated the patronal feast of our monastery, the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul. We aspire to the conversion of life and missionary zeal of St. Paul and seek to imitate his example. The Mass was celebrated in Korean and we were joined for lunch by our oblates and other guests attending the Mass. We initiated our Lenten journey with the blessing and distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, resolved to turn our hearts back to the Lord and prepare to meet Him at the Easter celebrations. Our preparations this day also included the Stations of the Cross in the morning and a Superior’s conference in the evening.
Notes on our Brothers’ Activities: As you are probably aware, most of our community at St. Paul’s Abbey are Korean nationals. This is an election year in the Republic of Korea and our Korean brothers took part in the important civic exercise of electing the next president. On February 25, several of our brothers went to the Korean Association Office in Palisade Park, NJ to vote in the South Korean presidential election. We bless God for the gift of participative government and pray that all of our civic leaders will work towards greater justice and protection of human dignity. On March 15, Fr. Samuel and Fr. Gregory attended the funeral Mass of Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney held at St. Joseph’s Parish in Bronxville, NY. Admiral Lunney served under our Br. Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, OSB on the cargo ship U.S.S. Meredith Victory that rescued 14,000 Korean refugees in 1950 during the Korean War. It was very fitting that representatives from St. Paul’s Abbey were present to honor Admiral Lunney for his courageous service to the Korean people during the rescue and his connection to our monastery through Br. Marinus. We pray that God grant him peaceful rest and console his family in their loss.
On March 23, Fr. Samuel and Br. Matthias visited one of our benefactors, Mr. Peter Kisong Kim, who is in a nursing home in Morris Plains, NJ. Mr. Kim generously assisted and accompanied Br. Marinus during his last days. He was a refugee himself of the Korean War and in gratitude honored Br. Marinus with great affection for his courageous action in the rescue at Hungnam. We pray that our Benedictine presence acts as a sign of God’s healing and comforting grace during this difficult time for him and his family.
Fr. Samuel continued in his priestly ministry by visiting the Korean Catholic community in Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate Mass for them during the weekend of January 8-10. He also visited the Korean Catholic community in Flushing, NY on April 5 to hear confessions. On February 18-22, Fr. Samuel represented St. Pauls’ Abbey at the Benedictine superiors’ meeting at St. Joseph’s Abbey in St. Benedict, LA. It was an excellent opportunity to share in the wisdom of the participating abbots and priors, and to connect with the wider Benedictine family in the U.S.
Guests at the Monastery: We were blessed to have several visitors to our monastery during recent months, including several religious sisters and a diocesan priest who came to make their spiritual retreat. Dr. Whang, an internist and friend of the monastery, came here to volunteer his services and perform routine health checks for our monks on March 6. We are grateful for his generous help.
Retreat House: We continue to be cautious and comply with all state requirements regarding COVID-19 but are gradually moving forward with one of our core activities of providing a spiritual oasis for retreatants. The monastery is presently limiting retreat groups to approximately 30 people with single occupants in each room.
Along with some individual retreatants, we were able to welcome several larger groups at our retreat facility in the past few months. The monastery welcomed a Bible study group that regularly meets here as well as several groups from surrounding Korean Catholic parishes. We look forward to hosting more retreat groups and continuing in our role as a spiritual center in the region, especially for the Korean-American Catholic community.
Christmas Tree Farm: Thanks to your support and prayers, our annual Christmas tree sale was held successfully, continuing a northern New Jersey tradition going back to 1930. While adhering to the recommended COVID-19 precautions, there was a marked change in mood amongst our patrons who were determined to celebrate Christmas joyfully despite the protracted pandemic. It was wonderful to see family groups, some of three generations, many accompanied by the family dog, venture out into our fields to pick out the perfect Christmas tree for their homes. Of course, for the monks here, the Christmas tree farm is a year-round occupation that requires careful maintenance and planning. After Easter, we will replenish the inventory by planting approximately 4,300 seedlings near Stickle Pond and the Gift Shop area. Generally, we plant between 2,000 to 3,000 trees each year. Due to factors related to the pandemic, we were not able to plant any trees last year, and so we are required to do some catch-up this year. We thank God that we have been blessed with our fertile land and given an opportunity to continue the Benedictine monastic tradition of manual labor, and to be able to contribute to the joyful Christmas celebrations of local families.
May our Risen Lord bless you abundantly this Easter season!
Prior Samuel Kim and the community of St. Paul’s Abbey