Br. Bruno Professes his Simple Vows


Joshua Gebreselassie

Newark Abbey Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B, presents Br. Bruno with his personal copy of “The Rule” during the young monk’s profession.

Joseph Ranalletta, Staff Writer

On Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, Br. Bruno Mello, O.S.B. walked into Mass at St. Mary’s Church with his Simple Vows in hand. In moments, he would be committing himself to the Benedictine Abbey of Newark for three years, and beyond that, potentially for life.

As all the other monks gathered around him, Br. Bruno recited his vows and then signed and left them on the altar for God. He was then presented with his monk’s hood by Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B. With that, Br. Bruno left the rank of novice and became a Benedictine monk, officially.

By virtue of this act, the monks had allowed him to become a part of the community of Newark Abbey.

“Monastic vows, like marriage vows, last a lifetime and are a gift from the Holy Spirit,” Abbot Melvin said, speaking directly to Br. Bruno in his homily. “Bruno, unhesitatingly I say, live these words one day at a time relying entirely on the clear gift you have received as a poor believer, without reservation, and a thankful beggar for your gift of faith.”

During this Rite of Temporary Profession, held at St. Mary’s in Newark, Br. Bruno was accepted into the monastery by its members.

“Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam,” Br. Bruno sang in Latin, kneeling and rising repeatedly with successive verses. “Et non confundas me ab exspectatione mea.” The words can be translated as “Sustain me, O Lord, as You have promised, that I may live; and disappoint me not in my hope.”

Br. Bruno Mello sings the “Suscipe,” the Benedictine chant asking God for support along the monk’s spiritual journey during the special Mass. (Joshua Gebreselassie)

During the ancient ceremony, which included the use of incense, and the singing of Latin hymns and Gregorian chants, Br. Bruno’s family, including his parents, Denise and Jim, and his four siblings — Abigail, Joseph, Marian, and Joshua — and other close family members and friends watched Br. Bruno closely, beaming with pride.

“One time he came up to me after class and said that he just thinks he should be a priest,” said Mrs. Mello, at the reception after the ceremony. Mr. Mello added that they’ve known for a while that their eldest son “wanted to live in a community, and be grounded in a place.”

That place was Newark Abbey. Originally, Br. Bruno was in search of a silent retreat at a monastery within a day’s drive of his family’s Ohio home. While he was scanning the internet, he came across the Abbey’s website, where he noticed an advertisement seeking volunteers to teach at St. Benedict’s. This drew his attention enough to make him want to teach history at the school. During his time here as a Benedictine Volunteer, Br. Bruno grew ever more interested in monastic life. 

In response to Br. Bruno’s focus, Abbey monks invited him to come live with them for two months. Within his stay, he was made a postulant, putting him on track to become a member of the monastery. With the commencement of his new journey, Br. Bruno began to dress in a modified habit, as he got himself involved in the activities with the monks. He was in that position for four months, and then moved on to the next step of the ladder, Novitiate, the state of being a novice. This stage of initiation and instruction, as Br. Bruno described it, is “basically a year of learning how to become a monk.” 

As his commitment grew stronger, he was then renamed from his baptismal name, “James,” to the name, “Bruno,” by Abbot Melvin after St. Bruno of Cologne (1030-1101). St. Bruno was a hermit and founded the Carthusians, another order of monks. Thus, as Br. Bruno began to wear his habit now with the scapular – a symbol of work – he gained a deeper understanding of monastic spirituality, and was given more jobs in the monastery, including an important function as head of abbey publicity.

He also interacted with other beginner monks who were pursuing the same path. They helped each other, inspiring one another.

“Br. Bruno has been an example of humility, prayer, and patience for me,” said Br. Robert Islas, O.S.B., who professed his Simple Vows last October.

Br. Bruno was long attracted to religious life, especially as a priest. He did not feel that way, however, early on toward being a monk. “As a little kid, I had zero interest in monastic life, mainly because of the stability,” he said, alluding to the Benedictine vow that commits a monk to one geographic spot for a lifetime.

Br. Bruno was first introduced to the Benedictine life while a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He was assigned to read “The Rule Of Benedict” for a class in college, and sought out a Benedictine monk in order to prepare for an upcoming class assignment. After a long conversation with Br. Ignacio, a monk from Washington, D.C., Br. Bruno left with a newfound understanding and interest in being a Benedictine monk. “I talked to Br. Ignacio for thirty to forty minutes, and I walked away completely fascinated,” he said. 

A few years later, he found himself on Sunday taking his first vows in St. Mary’s Church. His calling by God to serve others had brought him to the heart of Newark, where he long hopes to serve the community. 

Br. Bruno Mello, O.S.B., gathers with his family after his Profession. (From left) Siblings Joseph, Abigail, Marian, and Joshua stand with Br. Bruno at center, with parents Denise and Jim Mello at viewer’s right. (Joshua Gebreselassie)

Moments after the special Mass had concluded, Br. Bruno was exultant.

“I knelt down at a certain point, and I thought to myself, ‘WOW! This is really happening!’” he said. “I remember thinking ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m living the dream right now.’” 

The next big event for the Abbey will potentially occur in December. If the members of the monastery vote accordingly, Br. Mark Dilone, O.S.B, a history teacher at St. Benedict’s, will profess his Solemn Vows at St. Mary’s. After three years of discernment, he will be committing himself for life to the monastery.

The handwritten and hand-drawn vow chart which contains the “Simple Vows” professed by Br. Bruno. The vow chart is decorated, in the spirit of illuminated manuscripts, with images important to Br. Bruno and alluding to the symbology of the Benedictines, the Carthusians, and the Knights of the Holy Queen, a religious group dedicated to St. Mary that the monk joined as a college student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.