Mount Angel Abbey photo
Father Paschal Cheline, Abbot Gregory Duerr
Mount Angel Abbey photo
Father Paschal Cheline, Abbot Gregory Duerr
Abbot Gregory Duerr and Father Paschal Cheline, two longtime spiritual leaders at Mount Angel Abbey, marked 50th anniversaries of priestly ordination over the weekend.

Benedictines especially celebrate the date of their monastic profession, but those who become priests are also remembered on their ordination anniversaries. At the Sunday morning Mass, the golden jubilarians received thanks and prayers.

Abbot Gregory was born in Pierz, Minn., in 1937, and in 1943 his family moved to Mount Angel. His parents, Leo Duerr and Loretta Fleckenstein, had seven girls and one boy. Abbot Gregory entered Mount Angel Abbey as a novice in 1957, professed temporary vows in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1964.

He holds advanced degrees in classical languages from the University of Washington and in formative spirituality from Duquesne University. Among his many responsibilities at the abbey, he has been a leader and mentor of young aspiring monks. In 2007, he began serving as prior and was elected abbot in 2009.

“I want the abbey to be a spiritual powerhouse in the archdiocese, a place where people can find renewed relationship with God in their lives,” Abbot Gregory told the Sentinel after his election. “Here’s our challenge as monks: We need to withdraw, but we need to be careful that we don’t leave our guests standing there. There has to be some linkage while we respect boundaries.”

Some people call the abbey, which is situated on a rise overlooking the Willamette Valley, “the hill.” Abbot Gregory prefers “the holy mountain.” That hearkens to Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel and Mount Tabor, holy land peaks he has visited. “Mountains are places where God speaks and reveals himself,” he told the Sentinel. “It’s a place of encounter with God.”

Abbot Gregory is seen as master practitioner of lectio divina, a monastic form of prayer using scripture. The supplicant reads a text and moves through meditation on the scene to a contemplation that seeks union with the divine will.

Father Paschal was born in Boise. The eldest of three children, his family moved to Twin Falls. After attending a Twin Falls public high school for one year, he transferred to Mount Angel Seminary High School at age 14. After graduation, he studied for a year at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash. before entering the abbey.

Father Paschal has studied at Mount Angel Seminary for the priesthood; Bowling Green State University for a master’s in American Studies; and the University of Notre Dame for a master’s in liturgy.

After a brief time teaching at Kennedy High School in Mount Angel, Father Paschal held a variety of posts in the seminary and abbey, including interim president-rector of the seminary and as director of the Abbey Bach Festival. He serves as a spiritual director to many.

He also is longtime teacher of a course on liturgy.

“The liturgy is like a great party, a celebration of the presence of Jesus Christ the Lord, who is among us in signs,” he tells students. “Further, it embraces all of time — from the past to the present, drawing us into eternity.”

Every liturgical act is meant to restore our hope, he explains. “And hope produces peace and joy.”

Despite the individualistic culture, the Mass is never about “Jesus and me,” FatherPaschal explains, but rather “Jesus and us.”

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