‘It’s all by God’s providence’
Norbertine Fathers open Corpus Christi Priory in Springfield, Evermode Institute to launch Aug. 15
By ANDREW HANSEN
Beautiful music and chanting filled St. Francis of Assisi Church in Springfield during a joy-filled celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass on July 1 as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, priests, deacons, religious, and the lay faithful of our diocese welcomed the newest religious community to our diocese. The Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey have officially established Corpus Christi Priory on Springfield’s northeast side.
“It is a very happy and very exciting day seeing a lot of things come to fruition here, and I think it’s all by God’s providence,” Bishop Paprocki said. “No one sat down and said, ‘Let’s put all these pieces of the puzzle together in one piece.’ They really came from different aspects and different directions as the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis were trying to discern what to do with their community and with this property, and as the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange, Calif., were growing and wondering where they could go, where could they expand, and through conversations I had with both of these communities, eventually this came together. So, I really see God’s hand in all of this, the work of the Holy Spirit, and I am very grateful to Almighty God for all these blessings.” (Read a more detailed backstory of how the Norbertine Fathers came to Springfield in Bishop Paprocki’s column on pages 4-5).
Immersed in the 900-year tradition of their order, the Norbertine Fathers live a common life of liturgical prayer and care for souls. Their life at Corpus Christi Priory is organized according to prayer of the Church: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. “Seven times a day I praise You,” says the Psalmist, and by chanting together the prayers of the Divine Office, Norbertine canons “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.”
You can pray with the Norbertines every day and attend Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church (4867 Laverna Road in Springfield). Confessions are also offered three days a week (see the schedule on page XX).
“We are very excited to be here and begin our new life and ministry in Springfield at the new Corpus Christi Priory,” said Father Augustine Puchner, O.Praem., the prior of Corpus Christi Priory. “All of this is part of God’s providence. The response by the community to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the bishop’s invitation, it was months in the planning and my visits in the past months have all come to this day (opening Mass on July 1), and it’s a very joyful and happy day.
“We will do our best to be the Church at her best,” Father Puchner continued. “That is sort of our mission statement, to be the Church at her best. Our sacred worship with reverence, dignity, and beauty, in our ministry to teach and preach the authentic Catholic faith, and for our community life to be authentic religious, to live a joyful life, that’s really our mission and ministry.”
The Norbertine Fathers have also established the Evermode Institute at Corpus Christi Priory, which will serve Catholic teachers, administrators, and formators in our diocese and beyond, offering a complete curriculum in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith that is confident in its Catholicism and clear in its approach.
“Our official launch date is Our Lady’s Assumption, Aug. 15, that’s when our learning management platform will be ready to go,” said Father Ambrose Criste, O.Pream, director of the Evermode Institute. “We already have plenty of people all set to be enrolled. We’ve already undertaken a couple of intense periods of filming to produce the online video content, the first-year curriculum, two semesters. Editing is happening right now. All the wheels are turning.”
The seven priests who call Corpus Christi Priory home are: Fathers Augustine Puchner, O.Praem., prior, Stephen Boyle, O.Praem., Gregory Dick, O.Praem., Godfrey Bushmaker, O.Praem., Benedict Solomon, O.Praem., Ambrose Criste, O.Praem, and Anselm Rodriguez, O.Praem.
Many in Central Illinois are familiar with the buildings and grounds as Corpus Christi Priory is the former site of the Chiara Center, operated by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. The Hospital Sisters continue to live in the convent on the property.
“It’s the end of the era on part of us, but it’s the beginning of something new, and we are very excited about it,” said Sister Janice Schneider, OSF. “We’re excited to work together. We are very happy they will be our chaplains (Norbertine Fathers), and we will get to celebrate with them, we will get to know them both personally and professionally because we will include them in some of our community activities. We hope they feel as at home with us as we do with them.”