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EPISODE #256
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: UNDERSTANDING MARRIAGE AND FAMILY WITH GUEST FR. SEBASTIAN WALSHE

On this episode, Deacon Steve Greco is honored to have Fr. Sebastian Walshe join us in the studio for the first time. Fr. Sebastian is a priest of the Norbertine Order; and, is quite an accomplished author and speaker.

Fr. Sebastian has quite an interesting life story to share. As a young man, he accomplished a great deal in the business world. Then, at the age of 29, the Lord called him onto a different path.

Listen, and SHARE the story!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 8/30/20

NORBERTINES PREPARE TO MOVE FROM HISTORIC ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY

The historic St. Michael’s Abbey, a 33-acre property in South Orange County, was recently listed for sale, as the Norbertine Fathers prepare to move to a new home not far from the property, in Silverado Canyon. 

The Catholic priests have shepherded the property for the past 60 years, building their religious community into an autonomous abbey, seminary and nationally recognized preparatory boarding high school for young men.  

  Founded in 1961 by seven priests who escaped Hungary after communist officials nationalized Catholic schools in 1948, St. Michael’s Abbey now hosts nearly 50 priests, 35 seminarians and 64 secondary students. That exponential growth has prompted the abbey to expand its campus on a new 300-acre property seven miles away. 

“We all are looking forward to this new chapter in our history, and the proceeds from this sale will help to support our ministry, social outreach and maintenance of our new campus,” said Rev. Gabriel Stack, O.Praem, Ed.D, headmaster emeritus. “There are so many ways this incredible place could be put to good use with its existing facilities, or reimagined as something completely different. We’ve already had interest from religious organizations, boarding schools, private colleges, residential developers and buyers looking for a retreat or educational center.”  

Roughly five acres of the property is developed with an abbey for priests and guests, a church with seating for 343 people, a dining hall and commercial kitchen, as well as a separate convent and chapel for the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary who have helped the Norbertine priests since 1977. Also on site is a seminary with classrooms and lodging, and a preparatory high school with dormitory, classrooms, offices, athletic field, an outdoor swimming pool and basketball court.

SPIRITUAL SANCTUARY

Despite the ambitious construction underway on the new St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon, stillness pervades the remote hills, making it easy to hear God’s voice. 

His message, no doubt, is one of approval and excitement, given the ambitious project undertaken by the Norbertine Fathers. 

During a recent visit, the final exterior coat of golden-toned stucco was drying on two sides of the massive complex. “The shell of the monastery and church are nearly complete, and we are anticipating delivery later this month of the stained-glass windows,” says Fr. Justin Ramos, O. Praem., head of fundraising. “Like the buildings, the windows will be designed in the Romanesque style.”  

Once complete, the $120-million series of buildings will include a monastery, convent, administration building, church, guest house, conference center, cemetery, crypt, and cemetery chapel. The project, which commenced in July 2018, is on schedule for its tentative dedication in January 2021, Fr. Ramos says.  

Judson Studios of Studio City is creating the windows, which will include various meaningful symbols such as the fleur-de-lis, particularly significant to the Norbertine fathers, whose order was founded in France. Stained-glass windows in various sizes will be located throughout the project, including a huge rosette window with eight petals representing the eight Beatitudes. Rather than depicting saints or stories, the windows are designed primarily to bring in color, sunlight and warmth.   

The project’s architect, Jean-Louis Pagès, was chosen more than a decade ago after one of his abbey designs caught the eye of St. Michael’s leaders while they were touring southern France. Pagès and his associate Bernard Lacoutre have worked extensively with California architect Daniel Conrardy on the project. 

Matt Construction of Santa Fe Springs is building St. Michael’s Abbey. Matt Construction has worked on many prominent projects, including the Petersen Automotive Museum, The Broad, and the Music Center Plaza.  

An Italian company is working on thousands of individual tiles to create a huge mosaic of the Blessed Mother’s Assumption into Heaven that will grace the entire east wall of the presbytery, Fr. Ramos explains.  

Four bronze bells built in the French Alps were recently installed in the 115-foot-tall bell tower. Each handcrafted bell is decorated with artwork by a Norbertine father and was christened: The largest, at two tons, is Asumpta, for Our Lady of the Assumption; the others are called Bautista, for St. John the Baptist; Augustinus, for St. Augustine; and Gertrude, because St. Gertrude holds a special place in the Norbertine tradition. 

Under the 70-foot vaulted ceiling of the main church are two long ambulatories on either side of the sanctuary. From each of the two corridors sprout four smaller chapels named for saints, including one dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Huge areas are specially designed for the Norbertine choirs – the fathers are famous for their Gregorian chants – and upstairs areas are accessible for those who are sick or in need of wheelchair assistance so that everyone is able to participate in prayer. 

“This is a dream coming true,” says Gabriel Ferrucci, project manager, who began working on the plans 16 years ago. “Not only because of the project itself, but also because of its setting which is totally serene, quiet and private.” 

“It’s very unique,” Ferrucci adds. “It’s gratifying to finish my career doing something for the Church. I feel I’m answering God’s call to do something good for the glory of His name.” 

One reason the Norbertine Fathers are expanding is that they have the noteworthy ‘problem’ of attracting more men to vocations than they can accommodate.  

The abbey under construction is located several miles from the fathers’ current site and includes 327 acres on both sides of Silverado Canyon Road that was formerly part of the Holtz Ranch. As impressive as the ambitious complex is, just 50 acres is set to be developed.   

The new complex is funded with donations from people worldwide. Gemini Industries Corp. founder and chairman Sebastian ‘Paul’ Musco and his wife Marybelle led fundraising efforts, Fr. Ramos notes, with nearly 30 percent of the gifts for the new abbey coming from outside the Diocese of Orange. 

The Norbertine Fathers first came to Orange County in 1961, Fr. Ramos says, when seven priests fleeing the Hungarian Revolution were invited by Cardinal James McIntyre to live and work in Orange County, which was then part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They purchased the current St. Michael’s Abbey property in Trabuco Canyon, located one block from Cook’s Corner, from Mr. Cook himself and built the existing boys’ boarding school, church, and residences.  

Today the Norbertines minister and teach in dozens of parishes and parish schools throughout the diocese and in the Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino dioceses. 

ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY NORBERTINE PRIESTS AND SEMINARIANS TRIUMPH AT SPARTAN RACE

St. Michaels Abbey Norbertine priests and seminarians triumphed in the Jan. 26 Spartan Race at Prado Regional Park in Chino. They ran in the world-renowned race to raise support and awareness for vocations. Five seminarians and seven priests participated. 

The Spartan Race is considered to be the global leader in obstacle course races. The teams from St. Michaels Abbey competed in 20 obstacles over a three-mile distance. 

Fr. Prior Chrysostom said of the race: The most exhilarating challenge is overcoming oneself. Nothing challenges you like a Spartan race. We loved our first group attempt and look forward to doing it again in the future. 

Seminarian frater Pavel Blain added: Losing to Fr. Ambrose is not as much fun as it sounds, but running with and encouraging my brothers was just like our community life. 

The seminarians who participated were frater Abel Cobo, O.Praem (San Dimas, CA – 1st year of Philosophy), frater Athanasius Inman, O.Praem (Leander, TX – College studies), frater Gerard Juhasz, O.Praem (Wilton, CT – Apostolic year), frater Pavel Blain, O.Praem (Albuquerque, NM – Apostolic year), and frater Silvan Kopp, O.Praem (Johnstown, PA – Apostolic year). 

The Norbertine priests who participated included Fr. Joachim Aldaba, Fr. Prior Chrysostom, Fr. Miguel Batres, Fr. Ambrose Criste, Fr. Charbel Grbavac, Fr. John Henry Hanson, and Fr. Justin Ramos. 

The team surpassed their goal of raising $30,000, which will go to the support of vocations. 

 

RACE RESULTS 

36:13 — Fr. Ambrose (1st in age group and 5th overall) 

37:28 — frater Pavel (3rd in age group) 

39:09 — frater Gerard (8th in age group) 

43:33 — frater Abel (4th in age group) 

45:15 — frater Athanasius (6th in age group) 

51:15 — Fr. Justin (16th in age group) 

1:03:48 — Fr. Prior (69th in age group 

1:03:57 — Fr. Joachim (182nd in age group) 

1:05:07 — Fr. John Henry (76th in age group) 

1:13:42 — frater Jeremiah (273rd in age group) 

1:13:43 — Fr. Miguel (274th in age group) 

ST MICHAEL’S ABBEY LAUNCHES NEW VIDEO SERIES THAT EXPLORES THE LIVES OF THE APOSTLES 

The Norbertines at St. Michael’s Abbey have launched a new video series called “After the Upper Room,” which explores the extraordinary lives of the Apostles after Pentecost. Each episode of the new series focuses on one of the Apostles and delves into his life, faith, and influence on the world after Pentecost. The first video in the series features the Apostle Andrew. 

“The Apostles couldn’t be more foundational to our faith. They led such extraordinary and inspiring lives, yet there aren’t a great deal of popular resources that delve specifically into their lives. So we thought, ‘Why not do the research for you and show their influence on the world after Pentecost?’ Our hope is that this new series fires you to preach the Gospel to every creature,” said Fr. Chrysostom, Prior.  

This new video series is a part of the Norbertines’ Abbot’s Circle, which features videos, audio, and written content from the Norbertine confreres for lay Catholics, priests, and religious. “After the Upper Room” follows the successful launch of the Abbot’s Circle and the City of Saints web television series in the spring of 2017, detailing the work of the Norbertine priests among the people of Southern California, reaching over a million viewers worldwide, and helping to support future projects to spread the faith.  

In March of 2018, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey completed one of the largest capital campaigns in the history of the Catholic Church in America, securing $120 million for a new abbey to handle the influx of vocations to the abbey. 

Access to the Abbot’s Circle digital library is given as a “thank you” to the monthly benefactors who support the ministries of St. Michael’s and the formation of future priests and seminarians. 100% of donations are tax deductible. St. Michael’s Abbey currently supports 38 seminarians, with 2 others on a waiting list (awaiting space). To join the Abbot’s Circle go to theabbotscircle.com. 

HILLTOP RETREAT

On a rugged hillside in Silverado Canyon – where hawks circle overhead and the wind whistles through the branches of California live oak trees – workers are constructing a massive stone abbey.   

Reminiscent of the great monasteries of Europe, the long, Romanesque-style church has a 100-foot bell tower that juts into the horizon and graceful rounded arches. In fall 2020, if all goes according to plan, the church will accommodate 500 people for Mass.  

The Norbertine Fathers’ 55-acre St. Michael’s Abbey expansion is well underway. 

“It’s very exciting to see a project that began in 2006, with strong fundraising efforts in 2015-16, finally coming to life,” says Father Justin Ramos, O. Praem., head of fundraising for the expansion project.  

Matt Construction of Santa Fe Springs is building the project, which includes a monastery where the fathers and seminarians will live; a convent; an administration building with offices for Abbot Eugene Hayes, O. Praem. and his staff; and a large guest house. Included also are conference rooms, a cemetery, crypt, and cemetery chapel.  

Matt Construction has worked on many prominent projects in Southern California and beyond, including the Petersen Automotive Museum, The Broad, and the Music Center Plaza. The project’s architect, Jean-Louis Pagès, was chosen more than a decade ago after his design of an abbey caught the eye of St. Michael’s leaders while they were touring southern France.  

Construction began in July 2018 and completion of the expansion is expected in October 2020, Father Ramos said.  

“We are blessed to have strong support from donors who are interested in what we do,” Father Ramos continues. Led by Gemini Industries Corp. founder and chairman Sebastian ‘Paul’ Musco and his wife Marybelle, generous benefactors both local and throughout North America have given $120 million to fund the expansion. Nearly 30 percent of the gifts for the new abbey came from outside the diocese. 

The Norbertine Fathers first came to Orange County in 1961, Fr. Ramos says, when seven priests fleeing the Hungarian Revolution were invited by Cardinal James McIntyre to live and work in Orange County, which was then part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  

The men purchased their current Silverado Canyon property, located one block from Cook’s Corner, from Mr. Cook himself and built the boys’ boarding school, church, and residences. Today the Norbertines minister and teach in dozens of parishes and parish schools throughout the Diocese of Orange. They say Mass and provide ministry beyond the diocese as well, in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. 

“We’ve outgrown this property,” he notes, adding that with more than 50 priests, 40 seminarians, and 64 students, the hillside complex cannot hold everyone who wants to live, work, and be educated there. At the 7 a.m. weekday Masses and 11 a.m. Sunday Mass – often attended by lay worshippers – parking can be difficult, especially so at Christmas and Easter. 

The new abbey property is located several miles away and includes 327 acres on both sides of Silverado Canyon Road. Formerly part of the Holt Ranch, much of the Norbertines’ land will remain wilderness crisscrossed by hiking trails, Fr. Ramos says.  

He recently returned from a visit to a little town in the French Alps where he blessed the caldron of molten bronze that was then poured into a mold to create the sixth and largest bell designated for the abbey bell tower. The two-ton bell, like the other five, has an inscription and portrait of a saint. In this case, the largest bell is named for Our Lady and features an image designed by a Norbertine seminarian. 

Fr. Ramos believes that holy intervention is one reason the expansion property was made available to the Norbertine fathers. He describes a 2006 hike in Silverado Canyon during which he and some companion priests agreed that the property was desirable for the abbey expansion. The Norbertine fathers secretly erected a statue to St. Joseph on one of the hilltops and asked the saint to look favorably upon their possible purchase of the land. Their initial efforts failed, but six years later the fathers were able to buy the land, and they discovered that St. Joseph’s weather-worn statue remained on the hill where it remains to this day. 

“For decades many lay faithful come to St. Michael’s Abbey to pray, attend the Liturgy of the Hours, and participate in Gregorian chants,” notes Fr. Damien Giap, a Norbertine Father who ministers in St. John the Baptist parish and school in Costa Mesa. “The new facilities will accommodate priests and seminarians and all those who want to come to us to pray. The new abbey will allow us to offer spiritual conferences and retreats, which we can’t do presently for lack of space.” 

The breathtaking beauty of the canyon offers unparalleled views and a natural environment that will attract religious and lay visitors who want to enjoy quiet solitary walks through the hills, Fr. Giap adds. 

“Like the magnificent churches in Italy, ultimately the abbey speaks to the love that the people have for God,” he says. “Building a beautiful church gives glory to God. While it is true that you can pray anywhere, churches don’t take away from Christ’s poor but instead give everyone a beautiful place to pray.”

CALL ME CATHOLIC: GUESTS ARE YOUSSEFF FARFAN AND ANDREW REZNER

God bless these two fine young men who will become seminarians just days from now. Yousseff Farfan and Andrew Rezner, may Mary keep you close to her heart and continue to strengthen and inspire your resolve to serve our Church through the priesthood. Thank you for sharing the story of your discernment on today’s Call Me Catholic and our prayers are with you as you enter into the Norbertine seminary at St. Michael’s Abbey.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 8/18/18

ABBEY ROAD

Late in the afternoon on a recent crisp and chilly Sunday, a single blue balloon floated more than 100 feet above a 327-acre site ringed by canyon ridges brushed in green from recent rains. 

Tied to the ground and dancing in the wind, the balloon represented the height of where the bell tower of the new St. Michael’s Abbey will soar above Silverado Canyon. 

On top of the bell tower, a cross will point to the skies. 

“Take a moment to look at this property,” Father Justin Ramos told the 200-some guests assembled to mark the March 18 groundbreaking for the new abbey and to celebrate the success of a $120-million campaign to get it built. 

“Dream of what it will become,” Ramos told the crowd, which included Bishop Kevin Vann, the Right Rev. Eugene J. Hayes, abbot of St. Michel’s Abbey, major donors (dubbed the “27 Apostles”) and the abbey’s nearly 100 Norbertine priests and seminarians. 

“These majestic hills surround and (will) house a magnificent structure,” Ramos said. “Think of the many souls that will be touched at this site and the lives that will be changed, and all this because of you, the generous men and women who courageously sacrificed so much to build this abbey, a house of God, a gate of heaven.” 

Years in the planning, the new St Michael’s Abbey will replace the existing one located a few canyons away, above Cook’s Corner. 

Seven Hungarian priests who fled Communist oppression founded St. Michael’s Abbey in Trabuco Canyon in 1961. The facilities are aging and the 35-acre site has become geologically unstable. 

The Norbertine priests and seminarians of St. Michael’s Abbey, members of an order dating back more than 900 years, live a monastic life of prayer and also run numerous community ministries, including teaching religious education in prisons. 

St. Michael’s Abbey also houses an all-male boarding school that is ranked among the top 50 Catholic high schools in the nation. 

The new 125,000-square-foot St. Michael’s Abbey, scheduled to open in 2019 or 2020, will include a church, monastery, convent, cemetery chapel and an administrative building. 

It’s being built on the former Holtz Ranch on Silverado Canyon Road in Silverado Canyon. 

Construction on the site’s infrastructure has been going on for more than a year; March 18, 2018 marked the start of “vertical construction,” or the buildings themselves. 

At the groundbreaking, guests enjoyed beer, wine, soft drinks and coffee and appetizers including grilled chicken with feta, mac and cheese truffles, and mini short rib grilled cheese sandwiches. 

For entertainment, two fourth-year seminarians at St. Michael’s Abbey played songs on the cello, keyboard, guitar and a hammered dulcimer, including tunes by George Harrison and Cat Stevens. 

“We’ve outlived our old grounds,” said Frater (“brother” in Latin) Louis Hager. 

The groundbreaking was held on the eve of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus Christ, and two days before the first day of spring. 

“St. Joseph has never been known to fail us in our petitions,” Abbot Hayes said in his remarks, noting that a statue of St. Joseph was erected on the site a few years ago to guide its transformation into the new St. Michael’s Abbey. 

“The Psalms tell us (God) brought forth his people like sheep, he guided his flock in the desert, he led them safely with nothing to fear, he brought them to this holy land, to the mountain,” Abbot Hayes said. 

“We are very grateful to celebrate this momentous day with all of you, you who are the generous faithful of the church, the generous faithful of Christ who provided us with the resources to build a new abbey that will allow us to further glorify God and serve His people better.” 

Paul Musco, owner of Santa Ana-based Gemini Industries, and his wife, Marybelle, led the $120-million fundraising campaign. 

Musco, 92, teared up when he spoke. 

“I look at this group and I choke up,” Musco said. “Without your work, this couldn’t have happened. I thank you with all my heart. I couldn’t believe it could be done, but it’s happened.” 

Bishop Vann called the event an “historic moment, a moment in time in God’s providence, certainly for St. Michael’s Abbey but also for the diocese and us all.” 

Added the bishop: “With the journey of this new St. Michael’s Abbey, we take another step that began years ago and ask for God’s continual blessing upon St. Michael’s, the Norbertines, their ministry, missions and community, and all involved in the construction.”  

Father Gregory Dick introduced lead members of the general contractor, MATT Construction, but cited one person as the most valuable member of the construction team: St. Joseph. 

“(This) is literally St. Joseph showing us how good he is, and how good God is,” Dick said. “We really owe him a debt of gratitude.” 

 

QUIET CHANT IN A BIG ROOM

COSTA MESA — A group of 14 Norbertine priests from St. Michael’s Abbey collaborated with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra for three “Cathedrals of Sound” concerts Oct. 23 through 25 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, performing their signature Gregorian chant.

The Norbertines paired with the celebrated organist Paul Jacobs and later joined the Pacific Symphony to punctuate Ottorino Respighi’s richly textured work, “Church Windows.”

It was the second appearance with the symphony for both the Norbertines and Jacobs.

The unusually programmed concert actually was presented in three parts. As concertgoers arrived in the hall, the Norbetine fathers performed chant selections, alternating with Jacobs and backed by special lighting to enhance the contemplative nature of the music.

“They set an incredibly peaceful and contemplative and meditative atmosphere in the concert hall, which helped prepare all the audience members who had been white-knuckling up and down the 405 to get into a different frame of mind, one in which they could later enjoy two great works that were both steeped in the tradition of Gregorian chant,” said Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St. Clair.

The score for “Church Windows,” the main selection in the first half of the program, does not call for singers, but St. Clair made a creative decision to include them, with what he said was great success.

“‘Church Windows’ is a tone poem in a series of four movements [that represent] four pictures, all inspired by stained glass windows—The Flight Into Egypt, Saint Michael the Archangel, The Matins of Saint Claire and Saint Gregory the Great,” said St. Clair. “I got the idea that since the works were so rooted in Gregorian chant that we should begin and interweave between the movements some appropriately selected liturgical text and prayers that we would have the Norbertines sing to link them. And it worked beautifully in the concert hall.”

The priests served a similar function in 2010 when they performed with the orchestra and “helped contextualize and frame Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, which is dedicated to the greatness of God,” said St. Clair.

“The longtime Pacific Symphony conductor said the Norbertines acted as an unusual and positive catalyst. “They’re tremendous,” he said. “Their presence just changes the concert hall from a normal place where concerts happen to a place where you can really experience spirituality in music.

“They have a unique identity in their sound. And what they’re doing when they’re chanting is the human singing voice, but actually they’re praying. It’s prayer through song. The message, then, for me, comes from a different place.”

The priest-singers actually provided a preview of coming attractions in the first chant they performed: a setting of the Introit. It is the same Introit setting that is employed in the first movement of Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem,” which was the work on the second half of the concert and featured the singers of the Pacific Chorale, baritone William Berger and mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata.

St. Clair said the first concert in the series “was very spiritually uplifting. I received so many comments [later] saying how deeply spiritual it was. People really felt they were at something more than just a concert.”