By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published August 18, 2016 | En Español
“The Roman Pontifical” is the ritual book that contains most of the ceremonies that bishops provide for the Church, and after nearly 33 years as a bishop, I have celebrated most of those rites—some of them multiple times. However, this past Monday I carried out a rite that I had never done before. It was a first for me. I blessed an abbot!
Augustine Myslinski was recently elected the eighth abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, and I was privileged to be able to open “The Roman Pontifical” and bestow the abbatial blessing upon him as he begins his service to that monastic community.
The Conyers monastic community is a very important part of our archdiocesan family. The monks even predated the establishment of this local Church as a diocese, and they represented the Catholic presence in Conyers long before we had a parish in that community or indeed very many Catholics. We had the monks, and their prayerful presence has graced that area since the arrival of those first 21 monks from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to begin a new foundation there in 1944. For more than 70 years these wonderful men have been a source of strength and prayer and faithful witness to countless tens of thousands of people who have visited the monastery. The last of those founding 21 monks, Father Luke Kot, died in January 2014, bringing a joyful finale to the intrepid generosity of those original Trappist pioneers.
Abbot Augustine continues that legacy as he assumes the pastoral care of those monks and all those who come to the monastery. Although his family moved to Georgia in 1970, the abbot, like me, is also a native Chicagoan, and he made proud reference to that heritage in his closing remarks. He even touted his beloved first-place Chicago Cubs in his words of gratitude!
So now he begins his new ministry with the solid support and prayers of the monks of Conyers and the many folks from throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta and beyond who hold that community in such high esteem.
The abbot of a monastery is the pastor and the local ordinary of the community. His authority surpasses mine in reference to the spiritual and temporal life within the walls of that place of work and prayer.
The abbatial blessing contains an exquisite phrase that asks God’s grace upon the newly elected abbot: “Give him a heart full of compassion, wisdom, and zeal, so that he may not lose even one of the flock entrusted to his charge.” Abbot Augustine brings such a loving heart to his new responsibilities as he continues in the long heritage of faith and holiness that has marked the life of the monastery in Conyers.
Nearly 350 guests came to witness the blessing of abbot number 8 and to offer him their warmest best wishes and prayers. There are some rituals within “The Roman Pontifical” that are only infrequently used, and the blessing of abbots and abbesses is certainly one of those rites. I am happy to know that I was privileged to offer that blessing this past Monday. And I am even more delighted to know that a fellow Chicagoan was the one that I had the privilege to bless—even though he is a Cubs fan!
Blessings to you, Augustine, and to all of our monastic brothers at Conyers!