The Way of a Crucifix

Categories: Featured,Monk Reflections

Crucifix in CryptWhen a new monastery is begun, the members of this new community are usually given a fairly large crucifix by the founding community to carry with them and use in their new home. This crucifix will hang in a prominent place in the new monastery. Here at Subiaco you can see our Foundation Cross which was given to our founders by the abbot and monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey as they left Indiana for Arkansas in 1878. This cross hangs in our monks’ dining room today.

In 1971, when Fr. Leo Koesler, Br. Michael Fuhrmann and Br. Benedict Silva left to begin Santa Familia Monastery in Belize they took along a crucifix given by the Subiaco community as their Foundation Cross. This cross, as it turns out, has had an interesting history.

When Br. Michael Fuhrmann came to Subiaco Abbey in 1948 to become a monk here, Fr. Francis Zimmerer was the pastor of the local church and he was in need of a crucifix. So he asked Br. Michael to purchase one to be used in the Abbey/Parish Church. This was in the days before our new church was built, and the area used for the parish church [as well as the monastic community] was in the basement.  This crucifix, purchased by Br. Michael, then hung behind the high altar of this basement church for about ten years, or until 1958 when the new church constructed above was consecrated as St. Benedict Church (see the picture above).

Foundation Cross BelizeI have not been able to trace the whereabouts of this crucifix over the next 10-12 years, but in 1971, when Br. Michael and the other founders of Santa Familia Monastery left for Belize, they took this cross with them as their Foundation Cross where it was given a place of prominence in the new community. By the time I arrived in 1975, we were living in a rented house near where we began to build a permanent home in the town of Santa Elena. This crucifix hung in our chapel in this “rented monastery,” but when we moved into the new monastery, it found a prominent place in our provisional chapel. After some years we were able to add a bigger chapel to the monastery and it was blessed by the then bishop of Belize, Rt. Rev. Osmond Peter Martin in the early 1990s. You can see the crucifix as it hung in this chapel in the picture at the right, which shows the community at that time.

When in 2002 Subiaco Abbey decided to close the foundation due to lack of vocations, this crucifix was packed up and shipped back to the Abbey. Presently it hangs in the renovated Enhanced Learning Center [formerly known as the Academy Library], where it greets students as they come in to make use of the many services offered in that Center.

No one, certainly not Br. Michael, could have guessed the journey that this crucifix was to make. Br. Michael died now over six years ago, but his brother, Fr. Bruno, remembered the history of the crucifix that was purchased for the Abbey nearly 65 years ago.


Author: Fr. Richard Walz

Father Richard was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He was educated at Subiaco Academy, St. Bernard College (AL), Subiaco Seminary, George Peabody (TN), and Loyola University (LA). He served the Academy as a Teacher. He was also assigned as the Prior of Santa Familia Monastery (Belize, Central America). While in Belize he was a Member of the Board of Governors-Sacred Heart College and a Diocesan Consultor to the Bishop of Belize. In the Abbey he serves on the Council, assists with the Office of Development, served as one of the three monks coordinating our Strategic Planning Process for the Abbey, serves as our Novice Master and Director of Formation, and oversees the production of our Abbey Brittle and Monk Sauce. He professed his vows as a monk on September 8, 1961, and was ordained as a Priest on May 27, 1967.

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