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The History of St. Norbert of Xanten »

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St. Norbert Abbey Mission Statement

The Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey is engaged in a variety of ministries, internally and externally. Regardless of individual apostolates, our mission remains the same:

We, Canons Regular of Saint Norbert Abbey, live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the traditions of Saints Norbert and Augustine. We live a common life “one in mind and heart on the way to God” through celebration of the Eucharist, liturgical prayer and service to the People of God.

Serving a Universal Church: From Prémontré to De Pere and Beyond

Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem.

Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem.

Norbert of Xanten was a reformer who embraced Gospel values. After spending a year in prayer and meditation, on Christmas Day AD 1121 in the valley of Prémontré, France, he founded the Norbertine Order—one of the oldest religious orders in the world today. Since Norbert and his followers (Canons Regular of Prémontré, Premonstratensians, or perhaps more commonly known as Norbertines) made their first profession of vows, Norbertine abbeys, priories, and convents have been established on almost every continent.

The earliest Norbertine foundation attempts in the United States date back to 1842, when Norbertines from Wilten Abbey in Innsbruck, Austria, arrived to perform considerable apostolic work in southwestern Wisconsin. However, suppression of religious orders in their home country caused this band of Wisconsin Norbertines to dissolve in 1890.

In 1893, at the request of the Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, three Dutch Norbertines arrived from Berne Abbey in Holland and immediately engaged in ministry on the Door County “Belgium” peninsula of Wisconsin. The first permanent Norbertine foundation in the United States was established by Fr. Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., who later would become the first American Norbertine abbot.

Five years after his arrival in the States, Fr. Pennings established St. Norbert Priory and St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. His Norbertine community grew in numbers and they established a permanent residence in De Pere. The priory was raised to the status of an abbey in 1925.

Ever Ancient, Ever New

1080 Birth of Norbert (in present-day Germany)
1115 Norbert has conversion experience
1121 Norbert founds the Norbertine Order (in present-day France)
1126 Norbert consecrated Archbishop of Magdeburg
1134 Death of Norbert
1134 Berne Abbey founded (in present-day Netherlands)
1582 Norbert canonized a saint
1893 Fr. Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., and two other Norbertines from Berne Abbey arrive in the Diocese of Green Bay
1898 Fr. Pennings establishes St. Norbert Priory in De Pere
1898 Fr. Pennings founds St. Norbert College in De Pere
1908 St. Norbert Priory becomes independent of Berne Abbey
1925 St. Norbert Priory becomes St. Norbert Abbey with Fr. Pennings as its first abbot
1959 New St. Norbert Abbey building completed in De Pere

Community: The Hallmark of Norbertine Life

Community: The Hallmark of Norbertine LifeThe Norbertine Order is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Rule of St. Augustine, which calls Norbertines to be of “one heart and one mind on the way to God.” Norbertine community life is characterized by the power of the Holy Spirit and a desire to be of service to God’s People. Neither monks nor diocesan priests, Norbertines collaborate in common ministry to the local Church while living in community.

Five key principles and practices underlie the Norbertine experience of community. These principles are fundamental to the Norbertine experience and to the continuing development of community within all Norbertine houses and apostolates.

  1. Common prayer: a witness and invitation to the liturgical prayer of the Church, particularly as expressed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.
  2. Self-emptying service: a willingness to cede one’s personal advantage for the good of the community, particularly as expressed in the generosity and discipline required to participate in the structures that support community life.
  3. Collegiality: a firm commitment to governance by consultation and to interdependence in decision-making.
  4. Subsidiarity: an encouraged independence of sub-groups allowing decisions to be made and responsibility to rest where the issue can be competently handled.
  5. Complementarity: an active cooperation with lay men and women whose often differing life experiences and competencies provide completion and enrichment.
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