Norbertine Profiles

Community is the hallmark of Norbertine life, and from our community life flow various ministries, including:

  • pastoral and sacramental ministry
  • education and administration at Norbertine institutions
  • parochial ministry at parishes entrusted to the Norbertine community
  • hospitality and retreats
  • advocacy for and ministry to the poor and marginalized
  • prison and jail ministry
  • sports ministry
  • numerous unique ministries as needed in the local Church

The following Norbertines of the St. Norbert Abbey community share their stories about past and present work—at home and abroad.


A Lifetime Friendship

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 4-6)

By Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Left to right: Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., and Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

Left to right: Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., and Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

“How would you feel about my tagging along?” At the time I never realized that simple question would lead to a lifetime friendship.

Fr. Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., was planning a trip to Innsbruck, Austria, for a General Chapter of the order in 1968, a gathering of the Norbertine Order’s abbots and house delegates from around the world. I remarked that if I could tag along we could leave early and travel to European cities, churches, and museums before he went on to participate in the chapter meetings. For me it would be an occasion to see many of the places and objects about which I taught in art history classes, but had never really seen. For Xave it meant he could brush up on the numerous foreign languages he had learned during his student days in Rome and spend time with me, who knew something about art. It seemed like a win-win situation.

The trip was a great success. I could not have done it without Xave, as I knew no French, Dutch, or Italian. My friend’s previous trips had familiarized him with European train schedules and travel, menu selections, and cheap lodging. He knew how to barter, flatter, and cajole. He was a storehouse of knowledge: history, theology, philosophy, and national customs. Best of all, he was a great companion; he never complained about my idiosyncrasies. Whatever I wanted to see or do he made possible, with nary a complaint.

With my 1971 transfer to Archmere Academy, a college-prep high school founded by Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., just outside Wilmington, Delaware, again I called upon Xave to lend a helping hand as I endeavored to found an art department for the school. Student trips to Europe began in 1974 during the two-week Easter break. They were repeated each year, and in 1978 we spent a month in France with students. Xave set up the travel arrangements, booked the hotels, contacted our abbeys, and even drove a van.

While in France, we stopped at our Romanesque pilgrimage abbey of Conques. Conques is on the pilgrimage route from Paris to Santiago in Spain and is famous for its treasury of precious relics as well as an untouched architectural style. During a delightful tour of the church, I was able to crawl above the galleries to see where medieval pilgrims slept. Xave was able to arrange such a feat by promising to send colostomy bags from the U.S. to an infirm French confrere who was unable to get what he needed in France.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Most Rev. Norbert Calmels, O. Praem. (Abbot General), Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., and Fr. Rossey at the Norbertine Generalate in Rome

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Most Rev. Norbert Calmels, O. Praem. (Abbot General), Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey at the Norbertine Generalate in Rome

In 1979 Xave was granted a sabbatical from the St. Norbert College faculty. He studied at Oxford, and I accompanied him to attend classes and research the art and architecture that underlies the neo-renaissance villa of the Archmere Estate. Xave and I roomed and boarded at the Jesuit Campion Hall at Oxford, and by the end of the first term we rented our own flat in London, where Xave could do research at the British Library and I could spend hours at London’s many museums.

Here we soon found out that Xave was a much better cook than I, so my domestic duties were limited to laundry and house cleaning. It was a system that worked out very well. We spent our evenings watching Maggie Thatcher on the BBC and reminiscing on what we had seen and done each day. They were mutually rewarding days, to which our daily diaries attest.

We were fortunate to be in Florence for Easter and were invited to participate in the services at the cathedral. What a thrill it was to process down the main aisle with banners flying and bells ringing, cross the Duomo Piazza and enter the Baptistery through Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, for the chanting of Morning Prayer. Another thrill came when Cardinal Benelli asked us both to help distribute Holy Communion during the Mass. What a privilege it was.

Left to right: Fr. Cuccia, Fr. Colavechio, and Fr. Rossey mimicking the Laocoön in the Vatican Museum.

Left to right: Fr. Cuccia, Fr. Colavechio, and Fr. Rossey mimicking the Laocoön in the Vatican Museum.

Another General Chapter, this time at our Mother Abbey of Berne in Holland, was held in 1984, the 800th anniversary of Berne’s founding. Our travels by rail took us through Bayeux in France, where we all headed to the depot restrooms. Mine had a tank of water mounted near the ceiling with a pipe running down to a hole near footprints embedded in the concrete floor. The floor around the hole was littered with bits of toilet paper and hundreds of flies. I remarked what scoundrels these French are! After finishing my duty I pulled the chain to flush with the water stored in the tank. Little did I realize that the French had not flushed because there was a hole in the pipe—and just at chest height. The pressure from the water pinned me against the wall until the tank was empty and I exited from the restroom totally drenched. My companions had a laughing fit as I pulled dry clothes from my bags and emptied my shoes.

In 1989, with the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall, we visited our abbeys in Eastern Europe, which had been under communist control for a half-century. This time Fr. Brian Prunty, O. Praem., and Fr. Salvatore Cuccia, O. Praem., joined Xave and me. New languages to decipher, devastated landscapes, old women dressed entirely in black, and ruined abbeys confronted us; yet it was edifying to see the courage and stamina of the few remaining confreres who had endured hardship for so long.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey before Bernini's sculpture of the Moor in the Fountain of the Moor in the Piazza Navona in Rome, where we enjoyed eating Italian tartufo.

Left to right: Fr. Colavechio, Fr. Cuccia, and Fr. Rossey before Bernini’s sculpture of the Moor in the Fountain of the Moor in the Piazza Navona in Rome, where we enjoyed eating Italian tartufo.

My simple request to tag along almost 40 years ago has yielded me a lifetime of memories, for which I am most grateful. Xave’s companionship, quick wit, unbelievable patience, and enduring friendship have changed my life. From him I have learned to have faith and trust in others as well as myself. I believe our mutual friendship has made me what I am today.

What is most difficult for me to accept today is to witness the diminution of my brilliant, faithful companion as Alzheimer’s disease erases all memories of our wonderful times together. Tears well in my eyes as I witness Xave shuffle aimlessly up and down Xanten cloister, fumble through the pages of our monastic prayer book, and ask repeatedly, “What’s next?” and “What time is it now?” Those are questions he never would have asked in the heyday of our excursions. My role now is to help him find the right book, the right page, and the ever-meandering chant line. Now it’s my time to lead him instead of his leading me—and this is indeed a privilege.

You’ve been a good and faithful friend, Xave. You have taught me more than you will ever realize. I couldn’t have made it this far without the constant gift of you to me and to our community. “What’s next?” you ask. God’s final call is all I can envision. My prayer is that when that call comes I might be granted the privilege of tagging along once more.

The Sandwich Generation: Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Norbertine Priests Juggle Work, Family, and Health Concerns with the Help of their Brothers in Christ

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 9)

By Gina Sanders Larsen

Managing Editor, Abbey Magazine

Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

A Norbertine priest chooses a new family upon his entrance to the order—his confreres, or brothers—yet the man’s family of origin “is understood to be an important part of the community, too,” said Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem., current interim pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Greenville, Wisconsin. Fr. Radecki, 66, has regular responsibilities to support his aging parents’ care and the care of his adult brother, Jeff, who has ongoing medical needs. “I manage my brother’s finances and I am his health care power of attorney. Mom is 86 and Dad is 90 and still living independently in Pulaski, but I expect my family caregiving will continue to increase,” Fr. Radecki said.

Up until his recent sabbatical and assignment to St. Mary’s, Fr. Radecki was a leader in the Green Bay Area Catholic Education (GRACE) system and called upon to consult for Catholic education programs across the country. As with so many other families, no amount of professional responsibility removes the obligation to family caregiving. “Those surprise calls in the middle of the night, or the decision to ‘clean the place,’ or an upcoming surgery, or someone losing her ability to drive—I rely on the generosity of my (Norbertine) community when it comes to caregiving. It’s something you step up and do as a son and a brother,” Fr. Radecki said, noting that his brother and sister also share these responsibilities.

When someone is amazed I still have my parents with me, I realize each moment with them is a blessing.

—Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.
Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Fr. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Fr. Radecki returns to St. Norbert Abbey weekly, from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon. “The concept is to recharge, but that doesn’t always happen. I may have a funeral, or an emergency call from my brother in Pulaski, and this is when I catch up on his finances,” Fr. Radecki said.

While with his confreres at the abbey, Fr. Radecki slides into the comfortable daily ritual of his community. “Serving in a parish, I miss the communal prayer of the abbey.” Long morning walks are his healthy habit, Fr. Radecki says, but he’s been known to choose more sleep over long strolls. “Sometimes the fatigue wins out,” he said, laughing.

The future is uncertain for Fr. Radecki as he waits to see how his family’s needs will change in the coming months and years. He wonders about moving his mother into the rectory with him so he can be her primary caregiver. “Yet these responsibilities do not weigh heavily on me,” he said. “When someone is amazed I still have my parents with me, I realize each moment with them is a blessing.”

The Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation: Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.

Norbertine Priests Juggle Work, Family, and Health Concerns with the Help of their Brothers in Christ

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 8)

By Gina Sanders Larsen

Managing Editor, Abbey Magazine

Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.

Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem., 53, is one of 11 children born into a Dodge County, Wisconsin, farming family. No stranger to hard work, he is currently the pastor of the 1400-family St. Willebrord Parish in downtown Green Bay, which just celebrated its 25th year as one of the region’s largest and most vital Hispanic Catholic churches. Seventy percent of parish families are Hispanic in language, culture, and tradition, and 30 percent are native English speakers.

“Our Hispanic families are primarily young with children, and our English-speaking members tend to be elderly,” Fr. Cribben said. “Changes in immigration law enforcement have caused a new wave of worry and uncertainty. We work every day to be companions to many long-term and well-established Hispanic people in Green Bay and the people who know them. My biggest challenge is parish unity in the midst of so many different pastoral needs.”

Fr. Cribben lives at the parish rectory and returns to St. Norbert Abbey, just a short car ride away, for meetings or supportive discussions with his confreres. “A group of us gathers intentionally to support one another in our active ministry. We share a desire to be happy, healthy, and holy. It’s where I experience the love and support I need to serve the people of our parish.”

The Norbertine Order’s personnel committee has been responsive to Fr. Cribben’s call for more help at the always-bustling St. Willebrord. Fr. Jack MacCarthy, O. Praem., came on as assistant pastor nearly two years ago, fluent in Spanish and Hispanic culture after decades of pastoral and medical service in the jungles of Peru. Fr. Cribben is confident in and thankful for his confrere’s expertise and compassion. “We can discuss pastoral and spiritual concerns of our parish members and community issues,” he said. “To have a confrere at my side is a great benefit to us both, I believe.” Together with Fr. MacCarthy and Br. Jacob Sircy, O. Praem., up to 12 Norbertines regularly assist Fr. Cribben with twice-daily Masses and eight weekend Masses at the parish. “Several of our elderly priests speak Spanish, so we can gather up to eight bilingual confessors for special events like our recent women’s retreat,” Fr. Cribben said.

I am working to regain healthy habits so I can stay productive and available to the people who need me.

—Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.
Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem. (center)

Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem. (center)

High on Fr. Cribben’s list of concerns is providing capable, Spanish-speaking Norbertines to serve at St. Willebrord Parish. “I hope and pray I have many more years at St. Willy’s, but given the size and complexity of our parish, I’ve already started discussions with the abbey personnel committee about a transition plan. How will we prepare? I rely on the members to help us with longer-term plans,” he said.

Fr. Cribben said self-care is often sacrificed in the midst of his hectic schedule and the heavy emotional and spiritual demands of his flock. “As a farm boy, my exercise was our daily work on the farm, and that has gone away,” Fr. Cribben said. “I am working with Dr. John Gray (abbey health advisor) to try and regain some healthy habits so I can stay productive and available to the people who need me.”

The Sandwich Generation

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