(Updated) Father Marcus Voss elected 10th abbot of Saint Bernard Abbey

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Courtesy of St. Bernard

CULLMAN, Ala. – Tuesday morning, July 24, on the second day of the abbatial election at St. Bernard Abbey, the bells of the abbey pealed, breaking the silent anticipation of a campus awaiting news of a new abbot.  As the monastic chapter- composed of all monks in solemn (lifelong) vows- emerged from the election room and processed to the abbey church for a service of thanksgiving, where the junior and novice monks joined them in choir, they were greeted by onlooking employees and friends of the abbey and school, all hoping to get a glimpse of the new abbot and learn the identity of the man whom God had chosen as the new leader of the monastic community and the highest authority of matters both spiritual and temporal of the abbey and its various apostolates such as St. Bernard Preparatory School.  The man at the end of that procession and now wearing the pectoral cross—a sign of the abbot’s role as “father in Christ”- was Father Marcus Voss.

Abbot Marcus succeeds Abbot Cletus Meagher, who resigned from office after reaching the mandatory retirement age and having served the abbey in the role of abbot for 24 years.  Abbot Marcus also succeeds his uncle, Abbot Victor Clark, who served as the eighth abbot of St. Bernard from 1987 until 1995. 

Born in Cullman Aug. 29, 1943 to Joe and Catherine Voss, Abbot Marcus has a large family, including three siblings, Martha Thomas, Marcella Bailey and Michael Voss, and many nieces and nephews.  Baptized and raised at Sacred Heart Parish, Cullman, Abbot Marcus attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and both Cullman High School and St. Bernard High School where he excelled as an athlete, particularly in basketball.  For his athletic accomplishments as a competitor and as a school administrator, he was inducted into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

After high school graduation, the future abbot enrolled at the University of Alabama, but during orientation week decided he could no longer ignore the possibility of a monastic vocation and suddenly withdrew from UA, applying as a seminarian at St. Bernard College, studying for the abbey.  After undergraduate studies at St. Bernard, he completed his theological education for ordination at St. Bede Abbey, Peru, Illinois and St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, earning the degree of Master of Divinity.  He also holds a second master’s degree in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and later participated in summer programs in monastic studies at Sant’Anselmo in Rome.  Abbot Marcus professed vows as a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey July 5, 1964 and was ordained to the priesthood with three others- including his predecessor Abbot Cletus- May 24, 1971.

At the time of his election, Abbot Marcus was serving as the director of development and alumni affairs of St. Bernard Preparatory School.  Additionally, his recent responsibilities have included co-chaplaincy to the Benedictine sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, junior master to monks in formation and weekend pastoral assistance to the parishes of the Diocese of Birmingham.  Known far and wide- both in the diaspora of St. Bernard alumni and in the local Church- Abbot Marcus has forged many strong and friendly relations in a lifetime of service to abbey and school alike, including his previous roles such as college registrar; abbey procurator, choirmaster and novice master; and prep school headmaster and president.  In the 1980s, Abbot Marcus played an instrumental role in the re-establishment of St. Bernard Preparatory School.  The beautiful, recent renovation of the Heidrich Library serves as a tangible sign of the many fruits of Abbot Marcus’s work overseeing capital campaigns, annual appeals and planned giving.

Among the many things concerning the role of abbot that St. Benedict writes in his sixth-century Rule by which Benedictine monks live, he says,

To be worthy of the task of governing a monastery, the abbot must always remember what his title signifies and act as a superior should. He is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery, since he is addressed by a title of Christ, as the Apostle indicates: ‘You have received the spirit of adoption of sons by which we exclaim, abba, father’ (Rom 8:15). Therefore, the abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from the Lord’s instructions … Furthermore, anyone who receives the name of abbot is to lead his disciples by a twofold teaching: he must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example” (Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. 2). 

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the monks of St. Bernard Abbey have thus entrusted to one they have come to know as a man of deep spirituality, of steadfast dedication to the monastic life and of proven administrative capacity this enormous responsibility of the abbatial office.  While they rejoice in this happy day, the monks also ask for many prayers for their new spiritual father and for the entire community as together they begin a new chapter in the abbey’s 128-year history.

To learn more about St. Bernard Abbey, its legacy of service to the Church and people of north Alabama and its various apostolates such as St. Bernard Preparatory School, the Ave Maria Grotto and the Retreat and Conference Center, visit www.stbernardabbey.com.

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