Podcast Episode 028: Not the Final Word

Pictured: The St. Norbert Abbey Cemetery | Photo by Sam Lucero (used with permission)

As October draws to a close and November begins, the Church once again presents us with the human reality of death in the celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. This comes at a poignant time for the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey as our co-hosts traveled back to the abbey to celebrate the life and death of a confrere.

Listen to how the Norbertine community prayerfully embraces the reality of death and clings to the hope of Christian resurrection and triumph over death!

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Two Brothers, One Calling

On May 27, 2017, Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem., was ordained to the priesthood. The Mass of Ordination was celebrated by Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay in the St. Norbert Abbey Church.

Pictured: Frater Michael Brennan, O. Praem. (right), and Christopher Brennan, C.S.C., in 2013.

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 15)

By Katrina Marshall

Like most siblings, Frater Michael Brennan, O. Praem., and his younger brother Christopher Brennan, C.S.C., have their differences. “Chris is stronger but I can run a lot farther,” said Frater Michael, tennis player and basketball coach. “Despite being smarter [and] more handsome …” began football player Christopher, laughing, “I’m probably more of an introvert.” Regardless of their contrasting hobbies and personalities, these brothers have something very special in common.

On August 28, the Feast of St. Augustine, De Pere Norbertine Frater Michael professed Simple Vows at St. Norbert Abbey. Less than four weeks previous on August 3, Christopher, of the Congregation of Holy Cross, professed First Vows at his Novitiate in Cascade, Colorado. Despite their 12-year age difference, the Brennan brothers are both on track to become priests within the next few years.

“When Mrs. Pearson asked my third grade class at Queen of All Saints to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up, this is the picture I drew. My mom kept it all these years; 31 years later, I finally grew up.” —Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem. | as seen in Surprised By Joy

“When Mrs. Pearson asked my third grade class at Queen of All Saints to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up, this is the picture I drew. My mom kept it all these years; 31 years later, I finally grew up.” —Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem. | as seen in Surprised By Joy

The brothers have strong Indiana roots, born and raised in the Hoosier State. Reflecting on their religious lives growing up, both remember praying at meals, participating in the Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent, and going to Church regularly. “I knew I was going to be a priest since I was seven years old,” said Frater Michael. Christopher knows that passion for becoming a religious got passed on. “It made for an environment in which a vocation for priesthood was a normal thing to consider. Mike’s discernment is a big part of my story,” he said. The men’s Uncle Ted (their mother’s brother) will also celebrate his 50th year of priesthood in May 2017. Frater Michael graduated from St. Norbert College, the only Norbertine college in the world, in May 1999. The following month, he began the Alliance for Catholic Education Program (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. As part of his Masters of Education program, he taught and coached in Louisiana, Chicago, and Atlanta for several years.

He returned to De Pere as a novice at St. Norbert Abbey in August 2011 and spent his novitiate year at Holy Spirit House of Studies, the Norbertine house of formation, in Chicago. Frater Michael spent his Second Year Novitiate and Apostolic Year at Notre Dame de la Baie Academy in Green Bay, teaching math and theology to area high school students.

Christopher followed a slightly different path than his older brother. He entered the University of Notre Dame not only as a college student, but also as an undergraduate seminarian at Old College, the Congregation’s formation and discernment program. After a year-long postulancy at Notre Dame as a senior, Christopher graduated in 2012 and spent the next year at the Congregation’s Novitiate in Colorado.

Both Frater Michael and Christopher agree that, while being blessed with a vocation to priesthood and religious life is wonderful, starting to recognize a particular religious community as “home” is even more special.

As he takes his next step toward becoming a priest, Frater Michael will return to live at Holy Spirit House of Studies, where he will prepare for the priesthood at Catholic Theological Union, starting by earning his Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Theology with a concentration in ethics. Christopher will begin his Masters of Divinity at Notre Dame, living at Moreau Seminary.

Frater Michael said he feels passionately about serving others and learning from those who may have much to give but lack the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. At the heart of his vocation is the Eucharist. “The Eucharist is why I’m Catholic, and why I’m drawn to the priesthood.

“I’m truly blessed to be in formation at this time,” said Frater Michael on the day he professed his Simple Vows. The journey toward priesthood is one he is sharing with not only his blood brother, but also his community brothers, the men in formation with him.

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“Making All Things New!”

As seen in the Winter/Spring 2018 Norbertine Center for Spirituality program guide

Dear Friends,

Winter/Spring 2018The Norbertines have a motto by which they have lived for almost 900 years: “Making all things new!” There is a motto by which Wisconsin residents have lived since the invention of the automobile: “There are two seasons—winter and road construction!” And there is a sign found in many buildings that are under construction: “Pardon our dust!”

What do these things have to do with the Norbertine Center for Spirituality (NCS)? If you have been in this sacred place recently, you might have noticed a few changes: the former entrance to the NCS no longer exists; the abbey pool and sundeck have been gutted; a chain-link fence cordons of f the area; a new sidewalk has been poured in order to maneuver around the construction area; and, the heavy machinery and construction workers are busy creating a beautiful new space for the NCS.

What will this new space look like?

  • There will be a new entrance with a receptionist desk and gathering area.
  • Two large rooms capable of hosting gatherings of 150 to 200 people will occupy the majority of the space.
  • A kitchenette, coatroom, and handicap-accessible restrooms will round out the space.
  • The installation of an elevator is the highlight of the project. Knowing that it has been a challenge for some people to climb the six steps to the Killeen Room or the numerous steps to a second-floor bedroom. The entire complex will be accessible to all. The ability to host groups who can move between these spaces now will be possible.

The construction will take more than a year, so much patience is necessary! The longer walk from the abbey church parking lot in order to attend programs and retreats at the center will be one sacrifice that we are all asked to make. However, the payoff will be a beautiful new space with the amenities necessary to grow the center, as well as the programs and retreats offered here.

So, until the construction process is completed, please “pardon our dust!” Know that the season of construction will take a while. Most of all, the project will help the Norbertine community in “making all things new”—including a new space for the NCS!

Tony Pichler

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