American Project


The Americans of Klosterneuburg

What are Americans doing in Klosterneuburg, Austria?

For some years a group of American priests and seminarians have perceived the need to renew priestly life. Thus began a search for a better way to live the priesthood. This group sought not only the common life, but also a form of life that is essentially priestly and focused on perfecting the priesthood according to the Evangelical Counsels, monastic discipline and the solemn celebration of the liturgy. Through this search it has become clear that new forms of life and new houses, rooted in an ancient tradition in the Church, need to be founded. They are needed to meet the needs of the many young men, priests and seminarians who so desire to be solidly formed priests and religious, faithful to Holy Church and devoted to the Sacred Mysteries and their solemn celebration.

This search has led us to Canons Regular of St. Augustine.

The Canons Regular stand firmly in a long tradition of clerical reform and renewal. From the earliest times in the Church, the common life for the clergy was the key to its renewal. This St. Augustine understood well when he as bishop founded his own community of priests in Hippo at the end of the Fourth Century, and composed the Rule, which the canons were to adopt in large numbers in the 11th century, and which they still follow today.

Seven centuries after Augustine wrote his Rule, at a critical moment of the Church’s history, the Canons Regular took their place as the spearhead of the Gregorian Reforms for the clergy, siding definitively with the Holy See in the battle to protect the freedom of the Church against powerful temporal lords and the evils of clerical concubinage and worldly corruption. Moreover in the churches and communities which were given into their care, the canons eliminated liturgical abuses, introduced Roman liturgical practices, promoted appropriate liturgical music and Gregorian chant. Wherever they went they restored the splendor of the Church’s liturgy to God and His people.

It was in a pioneering spirit and with much trust in Divine Providence that two American priests and a seminarian left their dioceses to come to Klosterneuburg to begin living this form of life here. It is our desire, should God will, to return to a diocese in the U.S. in a few years in order to plant this most ancient and wonderful form of life there. Several other American priests, seminarians and laymen are also seriously considering entering here, as they see and sense the great need we have for the canonical life in our country, and the wonderful hope that this great adventure could hold for us all.

Our hope is not without foundation.

We have been encouraged in our desires and hopes by Abbot Anthony Maggs, the current Abbot Primate of the Confederation of Canons Regular. He has been a steady support for our group, whether it be those of us here in Austria or those in America who are contemplating coming. He believes that it is in the very nature of the canonical life to help with priestly renewal, especially in the most difficult circumstances and periods of history.

The choice of Klosterneuburg as a place to begin is also clearly providential. One of our members has been a guest here at the Stift many times since 1985 and built up good relations within the house. The novice master, Dom Markus Eidsvig, perceiving the growing interest in America, has long been a strong advocate for an “American project”. He has been a source of encouragement and prudence in all of our deliberations. The Provost of Klosterneuburg and Abbot-General of the Austrian Congregation, Dom Bernhard Backovsky, has also been most receptive to our approaches and has so generously agreed to let us try our vocations here at this ancient Abbey, perched above the Danube.

Dom Josef, Dom Elias and Dom Clemens (left to right), the first three Americans who came to Klosterneuburg.

“Anything truly sublime and uplifting comes to birth in agony and great labor, after much care and at heavy cost…

I have a principle which I find admirable: In order to gain a lot we sometimes have to permit ourselves the chance of losing something. Those who wish to be too prudent, too careful, who never want to run the risk of losing, or leaving, or letting go of something that belongs to them: possessions, rights, just claims, their rest, their peace of mind, sometimes – no, frequently – miss fine occasions to do great service for God and neighbor and to enrich themselves.

St. Peter Fourier

Saint Patrick on the Hill, the oldest parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Saint Patrick on the Hill, the oldest parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The Church of Saint Rocco, founded in 1937.

The Church of Saint Rocco, founded in 1937.