The Joys of Religious Life

December 20, 2019

By Fr. Stephen James Rossey, O. Praem.

Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.
Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B., in her 2017 book Radical Spirit, suggests that communio in religious life is built on relationships, not on simply living alone together. In my 66 years of religious life, I have found this to be true. I’m sure Saints Norbert and Augustine, whose Rule of Life we follow, would whole-heartedly agree. 

In my lifetime in our Order, I’ve had the privilege of living in each of our houses for extended periods of time. Sharing experiences, revealing one’s own inmost thoughts, being provided the best education to utilize one’s talents, traveling to see and experience what one has spent a lifetime teaching about, are but a few of the joys I have been afforded. And all of these pluses of common life did not begin with me, nor end with me. Happiness is about relationships, interdependence, empathy, and care and concern about the well-being of others. 

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.

I have counted so many good men as brothers. Tom Hagendorf entered the order at Daylesford in 1955 and came to De Pere after his simple profession to complete college and study theology. We became immediate friends after a trip to our camp in the northwoods where he learned about rustic living after his youth in the asphalt and concrete jungle of South Philadelphia. Sal Cuccia, from our parish in Madison, joined the order in 1958; the same year I professed solemn vows. We bonded quickly over our mutual esteem for cooking and all things Italian. Xave Colavechio, a couple of years ahead of me in the Order, studied theology in Rome and became well-acquainted with the Order’s houses in Europe. We often traveled to Europe together to acquaint Norbertine Associates, college faculty, friends, and confrères with Norbertine customs and traditions. After my return to the abbey in 1984 from my teaching position at Archmere Academy in Delaware, Bart Agar another Easterner, took over the liturgy at the abbey and we spent hours planning liturgies and recalling our times together at the old abbey, teaching in Philadelphia, relaxing at our retreat on Lake Michigan, and daily chit-chats at breakfast with Abbot Tremel. One really never has to be alone in religious life.

“I attribute my length of days and happiness to the joy and gladness of heart I have found in my vocation.”

Consecrated celibacy has given me the ability to share my inmost life with others; poverty has afforded me the opportunity to share my talents with a wider audience than myself; and obedience has made me accountable for my choices and actions. In this process of self-discovery I found that we are all too human. We all have with our warts and foibles; but even with these, I have the ability to laugh at myself and with others, and this makes for a most joyful, satisfying life. 

Sirach writes, “Gladness of heart is life; joy is what gives length of days.” (Eccles. 30:22-23.) I attribute my length of days and happiness to the joy and gladness of heart I have found in my vocation, the apostolate of teaching, and living in common with like-minded giving confrères who help me along the way.

Rev. Salvatore “Sal” Henry Cuccia, O. Praem.

September 1, 1940 – November 17, 2018

Fr. Cuccia, age 78, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey and a Norbertine priest, passed into God’s eternal kingdom on November 17, 2018.

Fr. Cuccia was born on September 1, 1940, in Madison, Wisconsin, to John and Anne (DiSalvo) Cuccia. His home parish was St. Joseph Parish, Madison.

In 1963, Fr. Cuccia received a B.A. degree in philosophy from St. Norbert College, De Pere, and in 1968 received a degree in theology from Marquette University, Milwaukee.

Upon entering St. Norbert Abbey, he was vested as a novice on August 28, 1958. He professed Simple Vows on August 28, 1960, Solemn Vows on August 28, 1963, and was ordained to the priesthood on September 1, 1966. He celebrated 50 years of priestly ordination in 2016.

Fr. Cuccia was a faculty member at Archmere Academy, Claymont, Delaware, from September 1967 to June 1986, where he taught theology. He was associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Baltimore, from June 1991 to April 2000, as well as associate pastor at St. Norbert College Parish from 2000 to 2012. He then was named administrator of St. Norbert College Parish from 2012 to 2015.

Since 2007 Fr. Cuccia served as house superior at St. Norbert Abbey. As house superior, he had a wonderful gift of bringing people together to share in Norbertine celebrations. He was the chaplain for the Norbertine Associates and co-chaplain of St. Norbert College Department of Alumni and Parent Relations.

Fr. Cuccia is survived by the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey; two sisters, Laura (Dean) Collins and Vincy (Mark Deur) Cuccia; niece Laurean (Thomas) Butcher; two nephews, John (Julie) Collins and David (Allison) Walford, as well as many grandnephews and a grandniece.

He was preceded in death by his parents.


Visitation will be held at the Church of St. Norbert Abbey beginning at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 25, 2018, with Vespers of the Dead – Reception of the Body and concluding at 9 p.m.

Visitation will continue at the abbey on Monday, November 26, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 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, November 26, 2018, at 11 a.m.; Very Rev. Bradley R. Vanden Branden, O. Praem., prior of St. Norbert Abbey, will preside at the funeral liturgy; Rev. Stephen J. Rossey, O. Praem., will serve as homilist.

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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The Blessing of an Abbot

June 29, 2018

Abbot Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Abbot Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Most Rev. David L. Ricken, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, blessed the seventh abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, Rt. Rev. Dane J. Radecki, O. Praem., on July 2, 2018, in the Church of St. Norbert Abbey.

In attendance were the abbot general of the worldwide Norbertine Order, Most Rev. Thomas A. Handgrätinger, O. Praem., Rome, and prelates from around the country and the world, including:

  • Abbot Marcus Champia, O. Praem. | Jamtara Abbey, India
  • Abbot Dennis Hendrickx, O. Praem. | Berne Abbey, Netherlands
  • Abbot Eugene Hayes, O. Praem. | St. Michael Abbey, California
  • Abbot Joel Garner, O. Praem. | Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey, New Mexico
  • Abbot Dominic Rossi, O. Praem., Abbot Emeritus Richard Antonucci, O. Praem., and Abbot Emeritus Ronald Rossey, O. Praem. | Daylesford Abbey, Pennsylvania
  • Abbot Emeritus Gary Neville, O. Praem., Abbot Emeritus Jerome Tremel, O. Praem., and Abbot Emeritus E. Thomas De Wane, O. Praem. | St. Norbert Abbey
  • Rt. Rev. James Herring, O. Praem. | Immaculate Conception Priory, Delaware

Abbot Radecki honored his predecessors by wearing something from each of the prior six abbots:

  • the mitre and ring of Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., founding abbot of St. Norbert Abbey
  • the pectoral cross and crosier of Abbot Sylvester Killeen, O. Praem.
  • the wanga stone of Abbot Jerome Tremel, O. Praem.
  • the ring of Abbot Benjamin Mackin, O. Praem.
  • the medallion of Abbot E. Thomas De Wane, O. Praem.
  • socks from Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem.

Following the liturgy a reception was held on the front lawn of St. Norbert Abbey, followed by dinner at St. Norbert College. More than 450 people were in attendance.

There was a livestream of the event on St. Norbert Abbey’s YouTube channel at 2 p.m.

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July 1, 2018 — Evening Prayer (Vespers)

The Church of St. Norbert Abbey

July 2, 2018 — Mass

from St. Norbert Abbey on Vimeo

The Abbot Radecki Coat of Arms

By Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Radecki Coat of ArmsThe Abbot Radecki coat of arms is divided into two halves: the left half contains the coat of arms of St. Norbert Abbey, and the right half the coat of arms of Abbot Radecki.

The principal symbol in the St. Norbert Abbey coat of arms is a red diagonal cross on a silver field. A pair of red medieval shears is centered in each angle. These shears are symbolic of the Counts of Gennep, the house to which St. Norbert of Xanten belonged (1080-1134).

Located at the top of the shield are two gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue field, symbolic of France where the Order of Prémontré (Norbertines) was founded, and which St. Louis of France conferred upon the Order of Prémontré. Gold and blue are the colors of France. Between the fleurs-de-lis, a silver crescent moon is located. This symbol of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary reflects to whom the Church of the United States of America is dedicated.

Above the shield is a crosier, indicating the abbatial status of St. Norbert Abbey. The superimposed letters A and M on a star denote the angelic salutation Ave Maria, and the Marian invocation Star of the Sea.

The principal symbol in the Radecki coat of arms is the gold beehive and bees on a field of blue, which are taken from the medieval Radecki coat of arms. Bees are noted for their industry and creativity. They work unceasingly, not just for themselves, but for the common good of the hive, producing the “gold” of honey and wax, worthy to be burned as candles on the altar at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The three bees in number denote the Trinity and the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

White-capped blue waves divide the lower right field into two parts and are derived from Abbot Radecki’s French-Canadian maternal heritage (Villeneuve), the waters of Green Bay, and his love of water from his youthful years with his relatives in Upper Michigan.

The upper-right quarter contains a burning lamp of wisdom resting on a book of learning, denoting the abbot’s lifetime of ministry in education. The red background is taken from the Polish national flag denoting the abbot’s Polish heritage.

Above this shield is a mitre, a tall two-sided headdress worn by abbots as a symbol of their office, denoting both the Old and New Testaments.

Abbot Radecki’s motto, or rule by which to live—“Walk Humbly with God”—is taken from the Prophet Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.”

Pontifical Insignia

At his blessing on July 2, 2018, Abbot Dane Radecki, O. Praem., honored his predecessors and respected the wonderful tradition of St. Norbert Abbey by wearing something from each of the prior six abbots.

1. Mitre and Ring

Pontifical Insignia

Pontifical Insignia

Abbot Bernard H. Pennings, O. Praem.
First Prior (1893-1925)
First Abbot (1925-1955)

The mitre symbolizes the abbot’s role of leading his flock in the race to salvation to final victory in Heaven. Its meaning is derived from St. Paul’s analogy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me …” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The abbatial ring symbolizes the abbot’s marriage to the Church and his spiritual parentage over his religious community. The power of the ring is significant, in that it binds the religious to their abbot and his teaching on all spiritual matters.

2. Pectoral Cross and Crosier

Abbot Sylvester M. Killeen, O. Praem.
Coadjutor Abbot (1947-1955)
Abbot (1955-1970)

The pectoral cross symbolizes the strength and protection needed against all evil and all enemies, and for an abbot to be mindful of the Passion and Cross of Jesus Christ.

The crosier (shepherd’s staff) symbolizes the pastoral authority of a prelate. The abbot, like Christ, is symbol of a good shepherd who must lead his community along the path of salvation, disciplining and protecting them as needed.

3. Wanga Stone

Abbot Jerome G. Tremel, O. Praem.
Coadjutor Abbot (1969-1970)
Abbot (1970-1982)

This semi-precious gem is in the form of a touch stone conveying joy and harmony to its owner and is thought to eliminate anxiety from one’s life.

4. Ring

Abbot Benjamin T. Mackin, O. Praem.
Abbot (1982-1994)

This simple gold band ring symbolized a “simplicity of lifestyle” stemming from the vow of poverty.

5. Medallion

Abbot E. Thomas De Wane, O. Praem.
Abbot (1994-2003)

This bronze medallion of Blessed Jacob Kern, O. Praem., was blessed at the beatification ceremony by Pope John Paul II on June 21, 1998.

6. Happy Socks

Abbot Gary J. Neville, O. Praem.
Abbot (2003-2018)

This joy-filled gift to Abbot Radecki contains the symbol of the bee from his coat of arms and includes the inscription “bee happy.”

Cloister Art Gallery Exhibit

See further meaning and history of the symbols of the office of an abbot in the exhibit Abbots, Accessories, Achievements in the St. Norbert Abbey Cloister Art Gallery.

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