In the history of every new community, the transition from the founder to the next generation of leadership is a positive sign of growth and maturity. I am happy to announce that the monastic community of Norcia has reached this important moment.
The earthquakes of the past several months have presented us with incredible challenges, which require vigorous, creative leadership. While I am in good health at the moment, I do not have the strength or energy necessary to meet these challenges. Therefore it is time to pass the baton to younger, more energetic hands. After consulting the chapter members of the monastery, I submitted my resignation to the Abbot Primate, the Most. Rev. Gregory Polan, O.S.B., who appointed Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B., to take my place.
Fr. Benedict is extremely well-qualified to lead the community. He has much experience as Subprior and Novice Master, and possesses the human and spiritual qualities necessary to guide the monastery in these difficult times. As for me, after eighteen years of intense labor, I am ready to accept a less demanding assignment, and will continue to serve the community in whatever way I can, especially as a liaison with our many friends and benefactors.
When St. Paul talks about the transition of leadership in the church of Corinth, he writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6). We give thanks for the life of our community: for the planting, for the watering and for the growth that comes from God.
Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
November 22, 2016
A Note from the New Prior
In 18 years, a new life is conceived, cared for in the womb, coddled in the crib, accompanied on first steps, then school, and at last graduates from high school before moving on to college or the workforce. For our founder, Fr. Cassian, these last 18 years have meant all that labor multiplied many times over. His indefatigable work to re-found traditional monastic life in Norcia gave to the Church signs of life for which his monks and Catholics worldwide are profoundly grateful.
Now Fr. Cassian is giving another gift, and we hope not the last. In resigning and passing the custody of our monastic community to another, he is offering to accompany us as we continue to grow. Though he is retiring and will no longer serve as prior, he will continue to be, in an even deeper way, father to the monastery and the town of Norcia.
Following the earthquakes that destroyed our church and monastery, we monks have come to appreciate that the spirit of monastic life Fr. Cassian instilled in our community transcends walls and buildings. As Fr. Cassian once said, the monastery exists as a lighthouse. We exist as a lighthouse so that souls tossed about at sea might traverse the waves of this world and find rest in the harbor of God. But before we monks can summon others to shore, we must ourselves draw close to the light that is Christ. It is our vocation, our duty and delight to be always seeking Him. It is my honor and joy now to lead my brothers in our search for God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. For this I and my brother monks ask your continued prayers.
About Fr. Benedict
Born in Stamford, Connecticut, Father Prior Benedict Nivakoff was baptized into the Catholic Faith at 12. He was educated by the Benedictine monks at Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island. He graduated from the University of the South in Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts in Medieval Studies. Immediately after he graduated, he joined the monastic community at Norcia. After making his profession in 2003, he studied philosophy at Santa Croce in Rome and theology at the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria.
He was ordained a priest in 2008. Fr. Prior served as subprior at various stages since 2006 throughout Fr. Cassian’s struggles with cancer. For the last 4 years, he has held the position of novice master. Besides these roles, he has been active in fundraising for the construction of the brewery and for renovations to the Basilica of St. Benedict, which was destroyed Oct. 30 during a powerful earthquake. He was appointed Prior of the Monastery of San Benedetto by the Abbot Primate Nov. 22, 2016, succeeding Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.