How did Fr. Albert Hauser end up at St. Benedict’s Abbey?
Benedictine presence in parishes speaks volumes. Born on October 26, 1933, in Burlington, Iowa, Robert Hauser was a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, which was staffed by three Benedictines. “My parents were both devout Catholics but it was the parish priests who really played a part in my vocation to the Benedictine life.”
The Hauser family started with a trip to St. Louis, Mo. “Dad was involved in Boy Scouts and led a trip to St. Louis one time…and that’s where he met my mother.” The couple got married and had three boys and two girls. Br. Anthony Vorwerk is his cousin and they grew up together in Burlington, attending high school at Burlington Catholic. “As kids, we spent the summer playing at the local park where there were all kinds of summer activities: tennis, softball, and an occasional picnic.”
The Benedictine priests were Fr. Albert’s first connection to the Abbey. His second connection was Camp St. Maur, held on the Maur Hill campus each summer. He attended the camp and later became a counselor. Already a fan of Atchison, it was easy to choose St. Benedict’s for college. His first year there was 1951. Being in the constant presence of Benedictine monks stirred a stronger yearning for their way of life. He soon entered St. Benedict’s Abbey and professed vows on July 11, 1954.
“I remember my time in monastic formation as a time of great enjoyment. We had our own school of Theology at St. Benedict’s Abbey. At that time, there were a large number of clerics – monks studying for the priesthood. I finished my Theology studies there and was ordained on May 26, 1960.”
Monastic Assignments – A Priest for Kansas
He spent his first ten years in college administration and as Director of Vocations for the monastery. “I was the Registrar, Director of Admissions, a priest, and whatever else they needed.” When the two schools merged to form Benedictine College, he received his first assignment in parish ministry at Sacred Heart in Atchison, Kan. After three years, he served one year at his home parish in Iowa. Then he moved back to Kansas and spent ten years in Seneca, Kan., at Sts. Peter and Paul. In 1984, he returned to Burlington as Pastor for six years. He took a year-long sabbatical in 1991 and enjoyed part of it in Rome. “Abbot Barnabas and I were over there for nine weeks and participated in a program that updated priests on Theology.” When Fr. Albert returned, he became pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, Kan., for ten years. In 2000, he came to St. Michael’s in Axtell, Kan. “It was an interesting transition because I went from a parish of 1500 families to the one here of 180 families. I love it, though, I really do. I also have a mission parish, Holy Family in Summerfield, Kan. – that keeps me off the streets.”
Living the Vow of Stability … Outside the Monastery
Having spent most of his monastic life in parishes, it is a wonder how Fr. Albert lives his vow of stability. He discusses stability through its interior, spiritual dimension:
“I tell people that I am the most unstable of stable monks. Stability has not been a part of my life for all these years I have been in parish work. Stability, therefore, has to do with where I am at the time. Our monastery has always had a number of monks working in the parishes because of the needs of the Church. Stability comes out in a spiritual sense in living the other promises of the monastic life: conversion of life and obedience. Stability is a twofold thing, stability within the monastery and living a stable life outside the monastery as a commitment to the way of the Lord.”
The vow of stability in its comprehensive meaning, for Fr. Albert, includes maintaining stability in prayer, in faith, in works, and in the Benedictine mission as a whole. Living out the vow of stability outside the monastery is a humble acceptance of God’s will and a duty not only as a monk but also as a member of the Church. Remember how Fr. Albert was first introduced to the Benedictine way of life — by the Benedictine presence in his parish.
A Word from the Wise: Vocations
Fr. Albert feels all parish priests are called to foster vocations. This element deals with the question, “Are young people being attracted to the Church today, and how firm is their commitment to the faith?”
He continues, “Religion is not just a matter of following rules and regulations, it is a relationship between Jesus and us. It grows warm and cold. We have to be open to the Spirit and look at the broader picture of faith in life, not just how we feel on a day-to-day basis.” This applies to every vocation because it involves a daily living out of one’s faith. Christ says this clearly in Luke 9:23, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
A Word from the Wise: Parish Life
His time in the parish has revealed some key issues among laity: “I think one of the larger issues today is a decreasing number of Catholics attending Mass. Attendance is about 33%, meaning 66% don’t go regularly, if at all. Another is the problem of marriage – same sex marriages or couples who are living together without the benefit of marriage and then want their children to be baptized in the Church. You have to try as best you can to gauge where they’re at with the Church. Baptism is a miraculous gift, but it involves a commitment to a Christian way of life. When a couple comes to baptize their child, often the first thing you find out is that they’re not going to Church. This brings up the question of what Baptism really means and why parents get their children baptized. How can they vouch for commitment of faith for their child when they themselves are not in the least committed to it?”
Fr. Albert said it best: religion boils down to a relationship between Jesus and us. That relationship is manifested in a commitment to follow God’s will, to receive his graces in Mass each week. Fr. Albert’s experiences in parish ministry have taught him this and the overall value of living out Benedictine stability – even if he has been called to do it away from the monastery!