Podcast Episode 013: Seeing the World Through Norbertine Eyes

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The inner wall of San Saba, Rome

The inner wall of San Saba, Rome

On their recent trip to Rome, Frater Jordan Neeck, O. Praem., and Frater Johnathan Turba O. Praem., stayed at the Norbertine Generalate, the administrative headquarters of the international Norbertine Order. Within this podcast they share highlights of their trip—in particular, the joy of living with Norbertines from around the world.

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Rev. Xavier Gerald Gilbert Colavechio, O. Praem.

April 7, 1931 – March 22, 2018

Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem.

Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem.

Fr. Colavechio, age 86, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey and a Norbertine priest, passed into God’s Eternal Kingdom on March 22, 2018.

Fr. Colavechio was born on April 7, 1931, in Philadelphia to Archibald and Catherine (McCrossen) Colavechio.

In 1948, Fr. Colavechio graduated from Southeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. He graduated with a B.A. degree in philosophy from St. Norbert College (SNC) in 1952 and continued his education, earning graduate degrees in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, in 1957, and from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., in 1959.

Upon entering St. Norbert Abbey, he was vested as a novice on August 28, 1948. He professed Simple Vows on August 28, 1950, Solemn Vows on August 28, 1953, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1955. He celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priesthood ordination on June 5, 2015.

Fr. Colavechio taught at SNC for more than 15 years, where he also served as chairman of the humanities division for much of his tenure. He was known to most of the college students as “Rocky.”

He later served as the rector of the Norbertine Generalate in Rome.

In 1989, Fr. Colavechio was one of the original members of the Norbertine Priory of St. Moses the Black in Raymond, Mississippi, where he served as administrator and pastor of St. Mary Parish, Jackson, Mississippi, and vocation coordinator until 2003.

Upon his return to De Pere, he was appointed director of the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey and held that position for two years.

From 1999-2005, he served on the Board of Trustees of SNC.

In 2005, the Norbertine Abbot General appointed Fr. Colavechio to represent the order to a small community of priests who were seeking affiliation with the Norbertine Order. This appointment found him traveling to Sant’ Antimo, Italy, and during his several visits he worked with the community—teaching about the history, customs, and constitutions of the Norbertine Order.

In addition to this, Fr. Colavechio also assisted at St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, and ministered at the Quad Parishes of Green Bay.

In his later years, he resided at St. Norbert Abbey, working in internal ministry.

Fr. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Colavechio is survived by the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey; one sister, Sr. Regina Fidelis, I.H.M., in Immaculata, Pennsylvania; and three nieces: Patricia Colavechio, Kathleen Colavechio, and Anna Barr, all of Philadelphia.

He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers: Thomas (Nancy) Colavechio and Rev. Francis Colavechio; and one sister: Sr. Therese Maureen Colavechio, I.H.M.

The Norbertine Community is grateful for the extraordinary care Fr. Colavechio received from the abbey medical and nursing staff.


Visitation will be held at the Church of St. Norbert Abbey on Palm Sunday evening, March 25, 2018, beginning with Vespers of the Dead – Reception of the Body at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8 p.m.

Visitation will continue at the abbey on Monday of Holy Week, March 26, 2018, from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.

The Mass of Christian Burial, expressing our faith and hope in the promised glory of the Lord’s Resurrection, will be held in the abbey church on Monday, March 26, 2018, at 10:30 a.m.; the Very Rev. James T. Baraniak, O. Praem., prior administrator of St. Norbert Abbey, will serve as principal celebrant; the Rt. Rev. Jerome G. Tremel, O. Praem., abbot emeritus, will serve as the homilist at the concelebrated funeral liturgy.

Burial will follow immediately in the St. Norbert Abbey Cemetery.

Ryan Funeral Home, De Pere, is in charge of the arrangements.

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A Lifetime Friendship

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 4-6)

By Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Left to right: Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., and Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Left to right: Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., and Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

“How would you feel about my tagging along?” At the time I never realized that simple question would lead to a lifetime friendship.

Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., was planning a trip to Innsbruck, Austria, for a General Chapter of the order in 1968, a gathering of the Norbertine Order’s abbots and house delegates from around the world. I remarked that if I could tag along we could leave early and travel to European cities, churches, and museums before he went on to participate in the chapter meetings. For me it would be an occasion to see many of the places and objects about which I taught in art history classes, but had never really seen. For Xave it meant he could brush up on the numerous foreign languages he had learned during his student days in Rome and spend time with me, who knew something about art. It seemed like a win-win situation.

The trip was a great success. I could not have done it without Xave, as I knew no French, Dutch, or Italian. My friend’s previous trips had familiarized him with European train schedules and travel, menu selections, and cheap lodging. He knew how to barter, flatter, and cajole. He was a storehouse of knowledge: history, theology, philosophy, and national customs. Best of all, he was a great companion; he never complained about my idiosyncrasies. Whatever I wanted to see or do he made possible, with nary a complaint.

With my 1971 transfer to Archmere Academy, a college-prep high school founded by Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., just outside Wilmington, Delaware, again I called upon Xave to lend a helping hand as I endeavored to found an art department for the school. Student trips to Europe began in 1974 during the two-week Easter break. They were repeated each year, and in 1978 we spent a month in France with students. Xave set up the travel arrangements, booked the hotels, contacted our abbeys, and even drove a van.

While in France, we stopped at our Romanesque pilgrimage abbey of Conques. Conques is on the pilgrimage route from Paris to Santiago in Spain and is famous for its treasury of precious relics as well as an untouched architectural style. During a delightful tour of the church, I was able to crawl above the galleries to see where medieval pilgrims slept. Xave was able to arrange such a feat by promising to send colostomy bags from the U.S. to an infirm French confrere who was unable to get what he needed in France.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Most Rev. Norbert Calmels, O. Praem. (Abbot General), Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., and Fr. Rossey at the Norbertine Generalate in Rome

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Most Rev. Norbert Calmels, O. Praem. (Abbot General), Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey at the Norbertine Generalate in Rome

In 1979 Xave was granted a sabbatical from the St. Norbert College faculty. He studied at Oxford, and I accompanied him to attend classes and research the art and architecture that underlies the neo-renaissance villa of the Archmere Estate. Xave and I roomed and boarded at the Jesuit Campion Hall at Oxford, and by the end of the first term we rented our own flat in London, where Xave could do research at the British Library and I could spend hours at London’s many museums.

Here we soon found out that Xave was a much better cook than I, so my domestic duties were limited to laundry and house cleaning. It was a system that worked out very well. We spent our evenings watching Maggie Thatcher on the BBC and reminiscing on what we had seen and done each day. They were mutually rewarding days, to which our daily diaries attest.

We were fortunate to be in Florence for Easter and were invited to participate in the services at the cathedral. What a thrill it was to process down the main aisle with banners flying and bells ringing, cross the Duomo Piazza and enter the Baptistery through Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, for the chanting of Morning Prayer. Another thrill came when Cardinal Benelli asked us both to help distribute Holy Communion during the Mass. What a privilege it was.

Left to right: Fr. Cuccia, Fr. Colavechio, and Fr. Rossey mimicking the Laocoön in the Vatican Museum.

Left to right: Fr. Cuccia, Fr. Colavechio, and Fr. Rossey mimicking the Laocoön in the Vatican Museum.

Another General Chapter, this time at our Mother Abbey of Berne in Holland, was held in 1984, the 800th anniversary of Berne’s founding. Our travels by rail took us through Bayeux in France, where we all headed to the depot restrooms. Mine had a tank of water mounted near the ceiling with a pipe running down to a hole near footprints embedded in the concrete floor. The floor around the hole was littered with bits of toilet paper and hundreds of flies. I remarked what scoundrels these French are! After finishing my duty I pulled the chain to flush with the water stored in the tank. Little did I realize that the French had not flushed because there was a hole in the pipe—and just at chest height. The pressure from the water pinned me against the wall until the tank was empty and I exited from the restroom totally drenched. My companions had a laughing fit as I pulled dry clothes from my bags and emptied my shoes.

In 1989, with the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall, we visited our abbeys in Eastern Europe, which had been under communist control for a half-century. This time Fr. Brian Prunty, O. Praem., and Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., joined Xave and me. New languages to decipher, devastated landscapes, old women dressed entirely in black, and ruined abbeys confronted us; yet it was edifying to see the courage and stamina of the few remaining confreres who had endured hardship for so long.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey before Bernini's sculpture of the Moor in the Fountain of the Moor in the Piazza Navona in Rome, where we enjoyed eating Italian tartufo.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey before Bernini’s sculpture of the Moor in the Fountain of the Moor in the Piazza Navona in Rome, where we enjoyed eating Italian tartufo.

My simple request to tag along almost 40 years ago has yielded me a lifetime of memories, for which I am most grateful. Xave’s companionship, quick wit, unbelievable patience, and enduring friendship have changed my life. From him I have learned to have faith and trust in others as well as myself. I believe our mutual friendship has made me what I am today.

What is most difficult for me to accept today is to witness the diminution of my brilliant, faithful companion as Alzheimer’s disease erases all memories of our wonderful times together. Tears well in my eyes as I witness Xave shuffle aimlessly up and down Xanten cloister, fumble through the pages of our monastic prayer book, and ask repeatedly, “What’s next?” and “What time is it now?” Those are questions he never would have asked in the heyday of our excursions. My role now is to help him find the right book, the right page, and the ever-meandering chant line. Now it’s my time to lead him instead of his leading me—and this is indeed a privilege.

You’ve been a good and faithful friend, Xave. You have taught me more than you will ever realize. I couldn’t have made it this far without the constant gift of you to me and to our community. “What’s next?” you ask. God’s final call is all I can envision. My prayer is that when that call comes I might be granted the privilege of tagging along once more.

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