Meet the Norbertines of St. Michael’s Abbey

Consisting of more than 50 priests and 35 seminarians studying for the priesthood, St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, is home to the Norbertines, who live a monastic common life of sung praises, regular prayer and community service – especially in education.

“Our mission is to live a common life of liturgical prayer and religious observance in order to provide for the care of souls,” said the Very Rev. Chrysostom Baer, O. Praem., prior of St. Michael’s Abbey. “We bring Christ to God’s people by serving as priests in multiple
ministries and cultivating in all whom we serve a love for the Church.”

The Norbertines of St. Michael’s Abbey have served Southern California for more than a half century. Some of the many things they
do to support the community:

  • Educate young men at St. Michael’s Preparatory School. Additionally, serve over 3,700 students annually at seven schools with four administrators; six catechetical programs for adults, youth and the disabled; and seven chaplains at elementary, secondary, and college institutions.
  • Staff two parishes completely staffed with pastors and parochial vicars; support 22 churches in their Sunday Masses.
  • Provide spiritual and educational services to 12 local and national associations, two nursing homes, two county detention centers and one Catholic hospital.
  • Operate a youth summer camp, serving nearly 500 boys.
  • Provide 15 chaplains, confessors and instructors to nine communities for consecrated women.
  • Support the diocese through appointments to diocesan tribunal, Censor Deputatus, Ecumenical Commission and Jewish-Catholic Dialogue.

Over 57 years of service, the abbey’s campus had served the community well. But two major factors propelled the Norbertines toward a new home.

In 1998, a mudslide destroyed one of the abbey’s school buildings, which also housed students. This led to a site inspection and the painful realization that the abbey’s buildings were sitting on geologically unstable land. This campus could no longer be a long-term, safe home to the abbey and school.

At the same time, a positive development – the explosive growth in seminarians – made it clear that the abbey had outgrown its current space. While nationwide vocations have declined, the abbey has been blessed with an abundance of men desiring to enter the priesthood. Because of this, the average age of Nortbertine Fathers is 21 years younger than the average for diocesan priests.

The construction of a new church, monastery, administration building, guest facilities and cemetery chapel will allow the abbey to accommodate additional priests, increase the number of seminarians, and provide more opportunities for spiritual direction and retreat offerings for the religious and lay community.

“Our community had come to an important crossroad,” said the Rt. Rev. Eugene J. Hayes, O. Praem., abbot of St. Michael’s Abbey. “I am grateful to 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.”