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Pandemic Dampens Indiana Monastery’s 150th Year Celebrations

St. Meinrad Archabbey

The St. Meinrad Archabbey was established in 1854. (Wikimedia)

A southern Indiana monastery is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its elevation to abbey status without crowds after the coronavirus pandemic spurred the cancelation of numerous events marking the milestone.

The St. Meinrad Archabbey was established in 1854, but it wasn’t until 1870 that the Roman Catholic monastery was no longer dependent on Einsiedeln Abbey, its mother abbey in Switzerland.

Monks and staff at the Spencer County landmark had planned to share its historic buildings and grounds with visitors this year during various 150th anniversary celebrations. But the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled or put on hold most of the anniversary events, including hosting a few monks from Einsiedeln Abbey for a visit.

“There was a lot of disappointment about having to cancel the celebrations, but it made sense considering the situation we’re all in,” said Mary Jeanne Schumacher, director of communications for the Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary & School of Theology.

Monks from Einsiedeln Abbey arrived in southern Indiana in 1854 to help the area’s growing German-speaking Catholic population and prepare men to become priests.

St. Meinrad continues with that mission but also has education programs for deacons, lay ministers and even high school students, in addition to the Seminary and School of Theology.

Schumacher told the The (Jasper) Herald that the influence of the abbey, located about 55 miles (88 kilometers) east of Evansville, reaches further into southwestern Indiana than most people realize, including its role in forming other communities and churches.

“We’ve got a long-reaching history,” she said.

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