CULLMAN, Ala. – The journey of two men, which began with an inquiry to St. Bernard Abbey Vocation Director, Fr. Joel Martin, OSB, has entered into a new phase.
Becoming a monk doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that takes several years. At St. Bernard, prospective monks must complete a four-and-a-half-year formation program to become life-long members of the monastery.
After completing an initial six-month period of discernment, Jacob Goode and Alex Munkachy have entered their novitiate year. At a ceremony Aug. 19, the vigil of the Solemnity of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot Marcus Voss, placed monastic scapulars over their tunics and gave them new names. These outward signs represent the beginning of their new lives.
Jacob received the name Joseph, after the spouse of the Virgin Mary, and Alex received the name Augustine taken from St. Augustine of Hippo.
Brother Joseph Goode, a 28-year-old native of Texas, graduated from Dulles High School in Houston and studied Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas. After college, he joined the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York City. He lived in that community for four years. After leaving, he heard about St. Bernard Abbey from a friend and decided to visit. The beautiful liturgy, harmonious community life and opportunity to grow in prayer drew him to seek entry.
“St. Bernard allows for a more cloistered life, as well as the pursuit of a more contemplative relationship with God,” said Brother Joseph.
Brother Augustine Munkachy, 39 from Prattville, Alabama, comes from a military family background. During childhood, he lived in a variety of places including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Portugal and Texas. After completing high school, Brother Augustine graduated from Midwestern State University with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and sciences. He also spent five years in the U.S. Navy, attached to the submarine ship USS Maryland. After completing his term of service, he moved to Washington DC where he was an IT contractor for the Department of Homeland Security and later, the FBI. In 2015 he started an online business, which allowed him to live and work in Hawaii, Hungary and Spain. In 2020, he returned to Prattville to visit family. When the COVID-19 epidemic hit, he decided to extend his stay. That break started him on the path that would lead him to St. Bernard’s postulancy program.
“I love St. Bernard. I have visited many places, but I found God here. Everything I did before doesn’t compare to what I am doing now,” Brother Augustine said. “I was raised Catholic but grew skeptical of the Bible as an adult. Then in 2020, I learned about the miraculous image of Mary that appeared on Juan Diego’s tilma in 1531. The recent research into the tilma is simply incredible. But as I found out last year, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scientifically validated miracles. The miraculous events recorded in Sacred Scripture are still happening today.”
The novitiate is an intense, year long period of formation. Novices may choose to leave at any time, but during this year, they participate fully in the daily life of the community. In addition to the common schedule of the monastery, the day of a novice includes classes, chores, manual work and recreation. There is also ample time for private prayer, reading and study. Novices meet regularly with their novice master and spiritual directors. Like all the stages on the way to solemn profession, the novitiate is a time for formation and continued discernment.
At the completion of the one year of novitiate, novices may ask to profess vows of stability, obedience and conversion of life for a period of three years. If, at the end of that period, the monk and the community believe that he is called to life-long membership in the monastery, he may profess lifetime (solemn) vows.
St. Bernard Abbey is home to 27 monks. Its ministries consist of Saint Bernard Preparatory School, Ave Maria Grotto, St. Bernard Retreat Center and pastoral ministries. For more information visit https://stbernardabbey.com/.