" I have noticed a prayerfulness in the guys. They are interested in developing their spiritual lives. " Msgr. John Cihak, director of continuing education and formation for western Oregon Catholic priests
A monk who is a media star but also humble will lead a retreat for Archdiocese of Portland priests June 27-July 1 at Mount Angel Abbey.

Benedictine Father Boniface Hicks, a member of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania since 1998, is a computer scientist and former atheist who serves as a radio program director. He’s also a popular spiritual leader on social media who cites Church Fathers and other great writers more than his own opinion.

Father Hicks has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Penn State University. He earned a master of divinity degree in 2004 from St. Vincent Seminary.

He was ordained a priest in 2004 then returned to Penn State, where he completed a doctorate in computer science in 2007. He served as an adjunct assistant professor in the department of computer science and engineering and campus minister at Penn State Catholic Center.

Upon his return to St. Vincent, he served as a faculty member at St. Vincent College, associate director of spiritual formation then director of spiritual life, adjunct faculty member and director for alumni affairs at St. Vincent Seminary.

Father Hicks is the author of “Through the Heart of St. Joseph,” meant to help readers develop a personal relationship with the saint. That topic will be the focus of next month’s priest retreat.

Father Hicks “is a humble and prayerful guy who has been through things in life,” said Msgr. John Cihak, director of continuing education and formation for western Oregon Catholic priests.

Canon law requires that priests go on retreat five days out of each year. About 60 or 70 priests usually attend the June retreat in the archdiocese. There are other opportunities for local priests during Advent and Lent.

The annual clergy convocation in October is a social event. Retreats tend to be more reflective.

A typical preached retreat, Msgr. Cihak explained, will have two conferences of about 45 minutes per day, plus Mass, adoration, confessions and time for walks and quiet reflection.

“I tell people, ‘If I don’t pray, I am of no use to you,’” Msgr. Cihak said. “People look to us to be spiritual men. We take that seriously. I have noticed a prayerfulness in the guys. They are interested in developing their spiritual lives.”

It would be easy for a parish priest to do nothing but work, the monsignor said. But that usually ends poorly.

“A priest’s prayer life is essential to his growing in identity and for the fruit of his ministry,” Msgr. Cihak said.

— Ed Langlois