Weather predictions for 19 September warned of the first killing frost of 1992. But abbey members were numbed by other factors, more deeply felt, as well.
A 5:30 a.m. telephone call came from Rome, waking Prior Jonathan Licari. The caller was Father Francisco Schulte, a confrere studying in Rome while living at Sant’ Anselmo monastery and pontifical university.
Father Francisco exclaimed that Abbot Jerome had just been elected Abbot Primate on the second ballot cast by the Congress of Abbots gathered in Rome. “They’re just singing the Te Deum [hymn of praise] in the chapel, but I just had to call you all immediately!” he exulted.
The news confounded. Many confreres wavered between feelings of joy at the honor given Abbot Jerome and, by family ties, to Saint John’s Abbey; many others felt immediately bereft, as when a loved family member is suddenly taken away by death. “Rudderless” was the modifying word most frequently used.