Brother Kevin Coffey
I had met the monk through mutual friends and he would come over periodically to take painting lessons from me. I didn’t in the least realize that this friendship would lead to becoming a monk.
Since I was 20 I have led a strong and active prayer life. It wasn’t unusual to find me praying the rosary or the Stations of the Cross after the daily morning mass or serving as a lector or Eucharistic minister on Sundays. But the idea of monasticism never entered my mind. There were times where people at mass would encourage me to enter the seminary and become a priest, but whenever I prayed over the matter I always felt led away from it. This was not the case when I was first told I might have a vocation to be a monk. It hit me right in my gut and shocked me straight to the heart.
With a lot of prayer I was able to muster up the courage for my first visit to St. Procopius after several long phone conversations with Br. Guy, the vocation director at the time. I stayed for a week. During that time I got to talk, eat and work with the monks. With each day I knew deeper in my heart that God was calling me to this place with these men. So, I moved back to Southern Maryland to wrap up my affairs and joined in August of 2000.
By God’s grace I am still here and with even more grace I am able to say that there is no other place in the world I would rather be to await my fulfillment in the Lord.
Father James Flint
Then took place a series of happy accidents – or, as I prefer to think, several interventions by God that I was mercifully not allowed to ignore. A Sunday drive with my family led me to discover St. Procopius College, only a few miles from where I lived, but of which I had been almost unaware. Enrolling there, I came randomly to encounter a seminarian of the Diocese of Joliet, who invited me to consider the possibility of priesthood. Involvement with the Diocese made me more visible to the monks of St. Procopius Abbey, one of whom suggested that my nature might be more suited to cloister and classroom than to parish life.
Retreats at the monastery led to no bursts of enlightenment or moments of revelation about God’s will. What I did discover was a sensible way of life I could see had led to an altogether admirable equanimity for some of the monks. If this life could provide some of that within me, I thought, I would not be making a mistake by joining. So I did.
In the thirty-seven years since, I have doubted myself often, I have been unkind enough to doubt confreres on occasion, but I have never had cause to doubt the goodness of the way of life St. Benedict provided with his Rule.
Abbot Austin Murphy
I grew up Catholic but when I came to college I had to decide whether I would live my faith nominally or in a committed fashion. Unfortunately, I was drifting towards the former. But during my first year in college, I had a conversion in which God called me to embrace the Catholic faith with its teachings. At the time, I had no problem believing in God, but the question was whether I could fully accept the Church and her teachings, especially when society was saying that some of those teachings were backwards and wrong. God won out and I accepted the Church’s teachings as His own. This was a difficult process interiorly for me, but it was also a time of grace and growth.
After committing to the faith, I started to discern a call to the priesthood and/or religious life. Although raised Catholic, I really didn’t know much about the different forms of priesthood and religious life, that is, about being a diocesan priest vs. a religious priest and about the different kinds of religious life out there. But as I neared graduation fellow students knew of my interest in a religious vocation and one of them took the liberty of passing my name on to the vocation director at St. Procopius Abbey. She knew of the abbey because her father cooked food for the monks. The vocation director contacted me and we arranged for me to go on a five day retreat at the abbey.
The retreat was offered with “no strings attached,” simply as an opportunity for discernment for young men thinking about a religious vocation. Early in the retreat, in fact, I made sure to clarify to the vocation director that I was not thinking of becoming a monk. God seemed to be calling me to another form of religious life. But a few days later, I sensed that God was calling me to join the monastery! This was certainly not the usual way discernment works, for it happened so quickly – but God is free to do as He wishes!
During my retreat, I enjoyed the freedom to pray privately and in community. Communal prayer was indeed a new experience and I found it very enriching to pray the psalms with thirty other men. All this led to a lot of fervor and during the retreat I began to think eagerly of how I might serve the Lord. As I thought about the options, God put the idea of joining this monastery in my heart and I couldn't shake the sense that He was saying to me, "Join here."
After talking to the vocation director, I was only more convinced that God was calling me to the abbey. So, I began the process of applying. One does not make a final commitment to join right then and there, of course. There are over four years of formation in which to discern whether to take final vows. Through those years I learned more about the monastic life and what God was calling me to do through it. In 2000 I took my final vows, thankful to God for this opportunity to serve Him and His people through prayer and the other ministries the abbey engages in.