Norbertines prepare to celebrate 900th anniversary of order’s founding

By Special To The Compass | November 25, 2020

Jubilee year kicks off the first Sunday of Advent

De Pere — The Norbertine order is celebrating the 900th anniversary of its founding. The jubilee year will run from the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 2020, through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on Jan. 9, 2022.

St. Norbert of Xanten founded the Norbertine order in France in 1121. 

An aerial view of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere. Founded in 1121 by St. Norbert (Submitted photo | For The Compass)

“To be rooted in such a long and rich history as Norbertines provides us with great hope as we serve and adapt to each generation,” said Abbot Dane Radecki of St. Norbert Abbey. “God continues to call us to live in communio and to serve generously.”

Norbert of Xanten (1080-1134) was known for his ministry as an outstanding preacher and peacemaker, attracting others to follow his way of life. On Christmas Day in 1120, St. Norbert and some of his followers settled in the valley of Prémontré, near Laon, France. A year later, 30 men professed vows, committing themselves to a life of prayer and ministry in community. 

In 1893, two Norbertine priests and one brother left Berne Abbey in Holland for a journey to northeastern Wisconsin. Fr. Bernard Pennings led the group to undertake pastoral work to the immigrants from Belgium, Holland and France who had settled in Wisconsin’s peninsula. 

In 1894, the small group was augmented by two additional Dutch Norbertines, allowing Fr. Pennings to accept the role of pastor at a De Pere parish, where St. Norbert College would be developed, and founded what would become St. Norbert Abbey.

The De Pere Norbertines continued to serve the church in northeastern Wisconsin in education, parishes, broadcasting (WBAY-TV) and its Center for Norbertine Spirituality. In the mid-1960s, a group of De Pere Norbertines also began to serve the poor in Lima, Peru.

Now, 900 years later, the vision of St. Norbert continues through Norbertine communities around the world. The Norbertines dedicate themselves to prayer, sharing a common life and serving local needs.

“St. Norbert College has a compelling story,” said President Brian Bruess. “Rooted in our three pillars of Norbertine, Catholic and liberal arts, the college has never been stronger. We are thriving because, for the past 122 years, St. Norbert College has remained steadfast and true to its mission of embracing Abbot Penning’s founding vision and Norbertine ideals. Our graduates, working for the betterment of society around the globe, are morally and intellectually prepared for every good work, living out the Norbertine value of communio: united as one.”

Additionally, St. Norbert College President Emeritus Thomas Kunkel penned a book on St. Norbert, the man.

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