On the evening of June 22, 2020, the Benedictine monastic community of Saint Vincent Archabbey gathered at Saint Vincent to elect a new major superior, the twelfth archabbot of Saint Vincent. The new archabbot will succeed the Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., who, on May 8, 2020, at the mandatory retirement age of 75, resigned as religious leader of the 173-year-old monastic community and as chancellor of Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary.
Due to concerns with travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the election was delayed until the week of June 22, following Pennsylvania’s entry into the “green” phase of reopening.
Opening the meeting and conducting the traditional election process of a new archabbot is the Rt. Rev. John Klassen, O.S.B., abbot-president of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries and the tenth abbot of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota. The American Cassinese Congregation is comprised of 25 monasteries and dependent priories in the United States, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Taiwan, and was founded by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., founder of Saint Vincent Archabbey.
An archabbot is an ordinary of a self-governing monastery, in the tradition of Saint Benedict and his Rule for Benedictine monasteries. The archabbot of Saint Vincent is the spiritual head and Father of Saint Vincent Archabbey, the first Benedictine monastery in America. His role to the monks is equivalent to that between a bishop and his people. The archabbot is a prelate in the Roman Catholic Church and is entitled to wear a ring, pectoral cross and mitre, and is entitled to carry the crozier (or pastoral staff).
The monastic community is comprised of more than 160 monks who are priests or brothers. They serve at Benedictine Priory in Savannah, Georgia, Wimmer Priory in Taipei, Taiwan, and São Bento Priory in Vinhedo, Brazil. The archabbot is also chancellor of Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary. Saint Vincent Benedictines also operate Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia, and the Roman Catholic campus ministery program at Pennsylvania State University, and serve in parishes in Savannah; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; and the dioceses of Greensburg, Altoona-Johnstown, Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania.
Beginning the election with a Mass on the evening of June 22, the monks then gathered to begin the process of the election with nominations of eligible candidates. According to the regulations established by the Benedictine Congregation, all solemnly professed members of Saint Vincent Archabbey are eligible to vote; however, only those who are 35 years of age, ten years professed, and ordained to the priesthood can be elected.
The election will continue with three sessions each day, in the morning, afternoon and evening, until a new archabbot is chosen. Before an election is announced by the abbot president, a two-thirds majority must be reached on one of the first three ballots. If no one is selected on the first three ballots, a second round of three ballots is taken, at which time a monk may be elected by an absolute majority.
A live broadcast will take place following the election, with Abbot John Klassen, Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, Prior Earl Henry, Saint Vincent College President Father Paul Taylor and Saint Vincent Seminary Rector Father Edward Mazich providing remarks, as well as the twelfth archabbot of Saint Vincent. Links to the various ways to watch will be posted on the Archabbey’s website, www.saintvincentarchabbey.org, or on the Archabbey’s Vimeo® channel, https://vimeo.com/user109924459.
ARCHABBOT DOUGLAS R. NOWICKI, O.S.B., ELEVENTH ARCHABBOT OF SAINT VINCENT
Retiring Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., is the eleventh Archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey; Chancellor of Saint Vincent College and Seminary, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and the Major Superior of the Benedictines at the Priory and Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia, and the Benedictine Priories in Brazil and Taiwan. The son of the late Sylvester and Evelyn (Jackamonis) Nowicki, he was born in Everson, Pennsylvania. His brothers are Edward Nowicki of Greensburg, and Lawrence Nowicki of Harrisburg. His sister is Mrs. Dean Sickenberger of Greensburg.
Archabbot Douglas attended Catholic grade schools at Saint Joseph, Everson, and Holy Cross, Youngwood, Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Saint Vincent College in May of 1968, a Master of Divinity from Saint Vincent Seminary in May of 1971 and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee in December of 1977. He was professed as a Benedictine on July 11, 1966, and ordained to the priesthood at the Archabbey Basilica on May 21, 1972, by the late Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg.
He was elected by his fellow monks on January 8, 1991 to become the eleventh Archabbot of Saint Vincent. On March 1, 1991, he received the Abbatial Blessing from the late Anthony G. Bosco, Bishop of Greensburg. On May 11, 2010, he was re-elected to an additional ten-year term as Archabbot.
Prior to his election as Archabbot, Archabbot Douglas had served for five years as Secretary for Education of the Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1986 to 1991 and Pastor of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, North Side, Pittsburgh from 1984 to 1986. At Saint Vincent College, he served as Chairman of the Department of Psychology from 1979 to 1984 and Associate Academic Dean from 1983 to 1984. From 1978 through 1983, he was also a member of the staff in the Behavioral Science Department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The Archabbot was consultant to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for a number of years and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the McFeely-Rogers Foundation.
In his role as the Archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey, he is leader of the first Benedictine monastery established in the United States and one of the largest monasteries in the world. He is also the chancellor of Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary. Saint Vincent Benedictines operate the Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia, and the Penn State Campus Ministry Program at State College in Pennsylvania. In addition to his responsibilities in this country, the Archabbot is also the leader of monasteries in Brazil and Taiwan. The Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey founded the original Fu Jen University in Beijing, the first Catholic University in China, in the 1920s. Today Saint Vincent Benedictines have a priory in Taiwan, do pastoral work and teach at Fu Jen University in Taipei. In 1992 Archabbot Douglas was named “Man of the Year in Religion” by the Pittsburgh Vectors. In the fall of 1999 he received an honorary degree from Fu Jen University in Taiwan, Republic of China. In 2015, he was presented with the Arnold Palmer Spirit of Hope Award by Arnold Palmer at the Adelphoi Spirit of Hope Reception. The award is given to individuals who exemplify the spirit of compassion and caring toward children in the community and around the world. Archabbot Douglas serves as a member of the International Benedictine Commission on China.
The 30-year tenure of Archabbot Douglas has been a period of extraordinary development at Saint Vincent. The Archabbot often comments that without the generous help of countless friends, alumni and supporters, the academic and construction developments could not have been achieved.