Four novices will complete a year of contemplation and study designed to discern a vocation as a Benedictine monk, culminating in their professing simple vows on Tuesday, July 10 at Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica. They are Brother Basil Alexander, O.S.B., of Houston; Brother Theophilus Núñez, O.S.B., of Brooklyn; Berother Miguel González, O.S.B., of Virginia Beach, and Brother Rafael Quesada, O.S.B., of Michigan.
Brother Miguel González, O.S.B.
“Looking back over the past year as a novice at Saint Vincent, the experience has been incomparable to anything else in my life,” said Brother Miguel. “The whole morning of our investiture was unforgettable, being invested with the habit, to sharing the sign of peace with each member of the community, and then beginning a year-long journey of discernment and living the monastic life.
“Following a four-month postulancy of prayerful discernment, I felt confident that God was calling me to continue to the novitiate. Only now, can I look back and truly appreciate the impact of this experience and what an opportunity it has been to grow closer to God.
“The novitiate has been a time of great joy and deep spiritual and personal reflection, yet it has not been without its challenges,” Brother Miguel said. “Some of the greatest moments I have had this year are with my classmates. Though we come from different cultural, professional, and geographic backgrounds, it has been no obstacle in growing in fraternal friendship.
“I have also come to value the daily interactions with the men of the community, especially hearing the stories of their own vocational journey. The novitiate is a time of deep prayer and discernment, and with the help of my spiritual director and superiors, I have been challenged to grow personally and spiritually. Every novice is challenged to confront the ways in which God may be calling him to greater conversion, and this is a challenge I have not been immune to. The novitiate above all has given me a greater awareness of God’s providential movement throughout my life.
“I have come to a greater appreciation of how special my vocation is and what a gift it truly is. I consider it a great blessing to pursue first profession of vows to the very community of men that ministered to me as a parishioner at Saint Gregory the Great, Virginia Beach. It was no doubt due to the fervent prayers of family and friends, particularly through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, and the unyielding response of the monastic community, that my classmates and I have been given the grace of perseverance in our vocations.
“As Saint Benedict writes in the rule, ‘the love of Christ must come before all else’ (RB 4:21). I look foward to the day when we stand and profess vows of obedience, stablity and conversion of life together.”
Brother Miguel earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, Ohio, in 2008. He served as a sacristan, Eucharistic minister, RCIA sponsor and catechist at Saint Gregory the Great Parish, Virginia Beach, which is served by Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey.
Brother Theophilus Nuñez, O.S.B.
Brother Theophilus Núñez, O.S.B., of Saint Vincent Archabbey is the son of Louis and Leonora Núñez of Brooklyn, New York. He has three sisters, Lori Núñez Iaquinta of Oceanside, New York; Jeanine Núñez of Oceanside; Michelle Núñez Alman of Baldwin, New York and Michael Núñez of Brooklyn. He graduated from Xaverian High School in 2001. He studied at Saint Francis College, before earning a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Saint John’s University in 2006.
“I consider it a great honor to have been welcomed here to the Archabbey. This truly is a Benedictine Place. The generosity and charity that has been shown me has truly been incredible,” said Brother Theophilus. I have been grateful every moment from the openness of Archabbot Douglas and the monastic community. I have been taught many lessons about Scripture, prayer, community living and above all how to grow closer to Jesus Christ.
“Most importantly though is learing about the importance of the essentials to building a strong foundation of obedience and silence. As we are taught, if one can do these well then the rest are footnotes.
“Throughout my year in the novitiate I have grown spiritually and I have been able to gain a better understanding of my gifts and talents. Initially I was encouraged to learn new hobbies. I have begun to learn piano, stained glass, pottery and I have come to develop a love for Mozart and opera. I am looking forward to taking vows and seeing how I can contribute to the community here. Being from Brooklyn has been a particular challenge in getting used to and adjusting to a new rural environment. Now the only thing left to discern is whether I am going to stay a New York Giants fan or become a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.”
Brother Basil Alexander, O.S.B.
Brother Basil, who was known as William before receiving his monastic name, said the name was selected after the Doctor of the Church and monastic father Basil the Great. Hailing from Houston, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in drama from the University of Dallas in 2007.
In reflecting upon his year in the novitiate, he noted that “The year has had quite a few ups and downs spiritually and emotionally: moving to a different part of the country with new faces, daily schedules, and geography, along with the expected spiritual battles is a lot to handle. I have come to realize what many monks have told me: you have to be an individual before you can live in community. Fortunately, I am learning through the novitiate who I am in Christ.
“Boniface Wimmer wrote to the men who were to follow him to America, ‘I do not know what the future holds, I only show you the cross.’ This cross of life calls us to die to ourselves. Following God’s call to join Saint Vincent has been a process of dying to my old self, and I am glad I came.”
Brother Rafael Quesada, O.S.B.
Brother Rafael Quesada, O.S.B., lived in Michigan and worked in the Information Technology and web design industry. He remembered “traveling to Saint Vincent was a very exciting time for me. It was the Fourth of July when I arrived at the abbey. I remember that as I traveled from Michigan to Latrobe that I had many questions in mind. What was monastic life in the Abbey like? Would this be the right place for me? The novitiate answered all those questions and more. It has been a spiritually enriching experience.”
“I took the name Rafael in honor of the archangel,” he said. “Angels have been a great help to the Church and to many saints throughout history. And to this day they can help all of us as long as we ask them for assistance.”
Brother Rafael is originally from the Philippines. The son of Hector and Clare Quesada, he is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, earning a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering in 1998. “The novitiate has been a great introduction to the life of prayer and service to the Church that the Lord has called me to. I learned many new things together with my novice classmates and although we come from different parts of America, we were all united in seeking the Lord and sharing the monastic life with all our brother monks. In order to grow we need help. And so we have all been fortunate to have the help and guidance of many monks who teach us how to live a life of prayer and work in the Abbey. All things eventually pass away and the only thing that endures is the time we spend with Christ and the time spent working towards eternity.”
Junior monks renewing their vows included: Brother Romuald Duchene, O.S.B.; Brother Matthew Lambert, O.S.B.; and Brother Isaac Haywiser, O.S.B.; Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.; Brother Canice McMullen, O.S.B.; Brother Joachim Morgan, O.S.B.; and Brother Gregory Zimmerman, O.S.B.