A few knew last December. Others wondered–because of the 1995 decision of the American Cassinese General Chapter that changed the required resignation of abbots from 65 to 75 years of age–if Abbot Timothy Kelly, Ninth Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey, would step down at 65 years of age. A number felt disconsolate that he chose to end his abbatial tenure according to the regulations extant when he was elected in 1992.
Abbot Timothy made his decision clear to the whole community gathered for the annual retreat of 29 May-2 June led by Monsignor Preston Moss, a ’61 graduate and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Nassau, Bahamas.
“On 14 December 1999, I told the abbot’s staff and members of the Corporate Planning Committee that I would not be a candidate in the next abbatial election…. In my April letter to the community I reported that Abbot Melvin Valvano, President of the American Cassinese Congregation, has set the date for our next abbatial election; we will begin the election process on Thanksgiving afternoon, 23 November,” he recounted.
In his graceful address, Abbot Timothy then described “from my vantage point some of what I believe you all should know about the office of abbot at Saint John’s.”
For example, listing his work in the abbey, the schools and their sponsored programs, the parishes and chaplaincies, he noted “the abbot chairs or is a member of some 21 committess or their equivalent.” He “mentioned such things reluctantly” because he has heard monks say they did not want to bother the abbot because he is so busy. “But that, my brothers, is what the abbot is for. The time is there for whatever needs you have; you have no need to apologize for taking an abbot’s time,” he underlined.
While praising the community for its varied engagements and the dedication to excellence shown by so many monks, he expressed a number of specific concerns before concluding with a seminal guideline:
“Yes, we have had to cut back on our involvements in some areas of ministry and apostolates. At the same time we must always be careful that we are not turning in on ourselves as a community but rather recognize that we are a community for the sake of humanity and the church.”
On 9 June, he wrote to members of the multiple university, Liturgical Press and preparatory school Boards, and their related programs’ Boards. He thanked all for their service and commitment to Saint John’s and the various works of the abbey and asked them to join the prayer of “the monastic community as it prepares for what is the most important voting day they have, the election of an abbot.”
Abbot Timothy Kelly to Resign, Election Set for November