The Rule of Benedict Present Today


Eric Duarte

(Pictured from left to right) Fr. Albert Holtz, Anthony Agustin SY, Richard Ohia SY, Fr. Augustine Curley, Mr. Adubato, Dr. Margarita Mooney, and Mr. Carlo Lancelotti

Eric Duarte, Staff Writer

To see a video of this event, please see link at bottom.

Panelists recounted the history of St. Mary’s Church and St. Benedict’s Prep on Wednesday, December 4. The panelists, Fr. Albert Holtz O.S.B. ‘60, Fr. Augustine Curley O.S.B., Ph.D. ‘74, and Mr. Carlo Lancelotti, each spoke, in a timely order, of the history from the time of St. Benedict, to how “The Rule of St. Benedict” has applied at the founding of St. Benedict’s Prep, and is alive in present-day life at SBP. This meeting also brought up how the Benedictine values, specifically stability and community, allow the monks to stay true to their principals in the face of challenges and adversity.

Eric Duarte
Dr. Mooney helped fund this event, where she spoke briefly.

The event served as a reminder to students, faculty, and guests of the community about the history of the establishment.

St. Benedict’s Prep was established in 1868, but the church where the school is located, St. Mary’s Abbey Church,  had already stood for a few decades when the school opened. The school is located on the grounds of the Benedictine Abbey of Newark. Rev. Nicholas Balleis was given permission by Fr. Boniface Wimmer O.S.B. to send monks from Austria to Newark, NJ., hence the establishment of the parish of St. Mary in 1842. 

Over the years, other ethnic groups came to Newark. Italians, African-Americans, Germans, Irish, and Eastern Europeans made up the St. Mary’s community at the time. Around the years of the 1930s and 1940s, the African-American population in Newark increased dramatically. The majority of the African-Americans migrated to Newark from the southern states. 

The Newark Riots lasted for five days in 1967. The Mother Mary statue, currently placed in the library, serves as a reminder of the riot due to its desecration from the Newark Riots. The Benedictine value of stability pertains to the monks, as it is the mold of Benedictine lifestyle. In seeking God, the monks resolve to pursue this, as their heart’s deepest desire, together, day in and day out, in good times and in bad, throughout the entire span of their lives.

In 1972, after more than a dozen monks left the monastery, the remaining twelve were left with an empty school. The monks had full authority to build a school in the ways that they wanted to, since the school is not entirely bound to the rules of public schools. 

We looked around us, at the way that the American education system was failing students of color… we were free to take a blank sheet of paper and start imagining a school uniquely our own,” said Fr. Albert.

Eric Duarte
Fr. Albert participates in a discussion on Benedictine values.


Shaping the school into the ways of St. Benedict was the favorable option among the monks, who have proceeded to pass around a sheet of paper, listing ideas on how a school should be run, in the eyes of St. Benedict. For the monks, community was just the air they breathed, so it was easy for them to come up with the idea of bringing to life an educational institution in the form of a community. 

The Benedictine value of community is present throughout the construction of the school from the beginning.

“One essential characteristic of monastic life is that it is counter-cultural. It stands over against the prevailing accepted values of the larger society. So by shaping a school according to Benedictine principles, unconsciously, we wound up making a community that does indeed stand over against the values of our society… there was one point that the twelve of us shared, which was our experience of living in a closely knit Benedictine community,” said Fr. Albert.

St. Mary’s Parish became St. Mary’s Abbey in some time, and in 1968, the monks were granted permission to rename their monastery. It was simple for them to come up with “Newark Abbey” since the monks were involved with the Newark community. 

Violence was a part of the history of St. Mary’s church which refers back to “The Rule of St. Benedict” with the Benedictine values and vows. Being a Benedictine monk means to have obedience, to follow the rules of the monastery, and to listen with “the ear of the heart.” Hospitality and caring for one’s neighbors directly mean to care for others and welcome guests with open arms as if they were Christ. Benedictine monks try to recognize their limitations without losing hope and accept their gifts without becoming arrogant because the measure of their lives is not found in themselves alone.