Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Cullman, AL Mr. Roy Drinkard announced a $500,000 planned gift to the Saint Bernard Clairvaux Society. Mr. Drinkard’s leadership gift will serve as a foundation gift for Saint Bernard’s $10 million planned giving program. The Clairvaux Society’s Planned Giving endowment goal was announced in 2010 as part of St. Bernard’s 10 Year Strategic Plan.

Mr. Drinkard announced his gift on September 26, at a luncheon honoring the benefactors of St. Bernard and the fortieth anniversary of Abbot Cletus Meagher’s and Father Marcus Voss’s ordination to the priesthood. In toasting Abbot Cletus’ and Father Marcus’s dedicated service to St. Bernard and the Cullman community, Mr. Drinkard encouraged everyone to remember St. Bernard in their wills and estate plans.

Roy Drinkard graduated from St. Bernard Prep School in 1938 and was honored as its first Distinguished Alumnus in June, 2009. A U.S. Marine veteran of World War II, and a distinguished civic and business leader for over 60 years, Mr. Drinkard’s gift reinforces his commitment to St. Bernard, Cullman, and North Alabama.

Gazebo created from cistern artifact

The large green dome that once was the top covering the water purification system and hidden by large bushes outside the Dining Hall at St. Bernard now serves as the roof of a newly constructed gazebo that occupies the same space.

The gazebo is a gift given to St. Bernard in memory Oscar A. and Mildred S. Meagher and the deceased of the Meagher-Sommers families by the generosity of their children.

Abbot Cletus Meagher, OSB is pleased to see the new gazebo created from an artifact of the old cistern. “It’s pleasing to see something old given a new purpose, and this is a nice way to preserve a relic for the community and for succeeding generations of Bernardians to enjoy,” Abbot Cletus said.

After consulting with architect Jock Leonard and a structural engineer, Abbot Cletus gave the nod for construction to begin. In the Spring of 2011, the roof was lifted and the old cistern was filled with dirt. The personnel of the physical plant at St. Bernard, under the direction of the David Caples, Physical Plant Manager, began work immediately and they are primarily responsible for the construction of the project.

Apel Machine generously provided a boom to begin the work by removing the top of the cistern and replacing it as the top of the gazebo. Others assisting in the construction project were John Arndt Welding, Richard Electric, Kreps Concrete Finishers, and O.F. Richter and Sons, all of Cullman.

With a grateful heart Abbot Cletus said, “I wish to thank my family for their generosity and support of me and the many projects at St. Bernard. This project is a tribute of reverence and respect for the memory of our parents and their generation –who so generously nurtured in us the gift of our Catholic Faith.”

Benefactors celebrated at St. Bernard

Benefactors of St. Bernard Abbey and Prep School packed the Abbey Church on Monday, September 26 to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of St. Bernard Abbey, in appreciation of their prayers and generous support of St. Bernard.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of Atlanta presented the homily titled "What’s in it for me."

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory stated, "Benefactors Day brings together many of the generous supporters of this Benedictine community who have made a substantial and valued investment in this community."

Benefactors of St. Bernard were obviously not looking for any return on their investment beyond the satisfaction of seeing the religious institution flourish as it has in the past 120 years. What began as a pastoral outreach to Germans seeking Catholics in North Alabama has become not only a monastic occasion but the repository of many friends, alumni, clerical and religious associates.

The standing room only crowd gathered in the Abbey Church were confident that their gifts, their contributions, and their prayers for this monastic community will benefit the work of Christ, and allow them to continue to influence and shape the lives of those who live, visit, and study at St. Bernard and the countless thousands of those who have paused to pray at St. Bernard.

Music for the occasion was provided by organist, Dr. Rebecca Whited, and the St. Bernard Chorus under the direction of Mr. Rodney Fike.

St. Bernard Prep School Knights of the Altar served at Mass with Michael Schartung serving as Grand Supreme Knight.

Abbot Cletus Meagher, OSB thanked Bishop Foley and Bishop Baker for being present at the celebration and Archbishop Wilton Gregory for his wonderful homily.

“On behalf of all the monks, we offer thanks to our St. Bernard community - all the administrators, educators and staff members here at St. Bernard–our benefactors, those of you who are our students-the promise of tomorrow. Thank you for entrusting your gifts, confidence and prayers within this Benedictine institution,” Abbot Cletus said.

A buffet meal prepared by Chef Andy Carmadella and his staff was served in the dining hall.

St. Bernard Abbey has been serving the needs and aspirations of their neighbors and those who journey there for a 120 years, and have done so with the abundance of their benefactors and friends. For more information on St. Bernard Abbey, Prep School, Ave Maria Grotto or St. Bernard Retreat Center call (256)739-6682 or visit

Thursday, September 22, 2011

St. Bernard priests celebrate 40th Anniversaries

Abbot Cletus Meagher, OSB and Fr.Marcus Voss, OSB of St. Bernard Abbey will be joined by their community and guests this weekend to celebrate their 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the priesthood.

While the anniversary date was May 24, 1971, both men decided to celebrate this event in conjunction with Benefactor’s Day held on the last Monday of September each year. Msgr. Owen Campion who is editor of Our Sunday Visitor will be guest homilist at the special Mass on Sunday.

Reflecting back on his life, Abbot Cletus says the support from his family in Cleveland, TN and the monks who visited his home parish made it possible for him to continue the course of becoming a monk.

“My parents had so much influence on my life by encouraging the monastic life in our home, and making great sacrifices for us to receive a Catholic education. I was bussed from Cleveland, TN to Chattanooga everyday just to attend Catholic school,” Abbot Cletus said.

Abbot Cletus’ life at St. Bernard pre-dates his ordination. Jokingly Abbot Cletus said, “I came to St. Bernard in high school, and after taking monastic vowis in 1965 they never asked me to leave, so I stayed.”

Looking back on the day of his ordination, Abbot Cletus said, “I remember thinking, ‘Am I worthy of such a gift.’ My life in the community with the monks is a gift of Gods goodness and love. The calling to monastic life and to the priesthood have been great graces in my life.”

After serving as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Cullman, he was elected the 9th Abbot of St. Bernard Abbey in 1995. “By the grace of God, it is my responsibility to lead the monks of St. Bernard who are striving to be faithful to the monastic life as given by St. Benedict in his Rule for Monks. Our mission is to serve those who make contact with us through our school, Ave Maria Grotto and the Retreat Center. Our desire is to receive guests as Christ, always trying to be a witness to them of God’s greatness and goodness.”

Abbot Cletus serves on various Board and Foundations. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for St. Bernard Preparatory School.

Fr. Marcus Voss , a native of Cullman, AL, cites the support of his family as an important factor in “trying my vocation at St. Bernard,” he said.

After he was ordained, Fr. Marcus has served his entire priestly and monastic life at St. Bernard Abbey. “Most of my priestly ministry has revolved around the work undertaken by the monks here on the campus,” said Fr. Marcus. “In my early years, I was a college registrar. Afterwards, I served as chaplain in the college and teacher. When we began work in our prep school, I was happy to take up assignments there as well as in the St. Bernard development office.”

“Ordained monks often take weekend assignments on parishes that need assistance,” said Fr. Marcus. “Over these 40 years I have helped in most of the parishes in the Birmingham diocese and have found this to be a blessing in my life.”

“I’m thankful too, “ he continued, “for the years I served as Novice Master and Formation Director for the Abbey. Working with the new members who joined our Abbey was a privilege and blessing for me.”

“I especially thank God for the years I have spent working with St. Bernard alumni,” Fr. Marcus said. “Our alumni are a great group of people and getting to know them has been a special blessing. They have been a source of help and encouragement to me over these many years and I will always be grateful to them.”

Both priests count it a real blessing to be part of the St. Bernard community. Abbot Cletus said, “Divine grace has made this possible. We are thankful to all who have crossed our paths and been part of our lives. Sometimes things are much better when we get out of the way and let God’s grace take effect.”

The 40th Anniversary celebration takes place at St. Bernard on Sunday, September 25, 2011, at 11:30 a.m. in the Abbey Church.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Burchett shares 9-11 experience with St. Bernard

Lt. Col. Michael Burchett is thankful to be amongst friends and family ten years after the 9-11 tragedy. Speaking to the student body at St. Bernard recently, Burchett says he remembers too well the events that took place on that day because he was there.

“I had just relocated my office at the Pentagon two weeks prior to the attack, and thankfully so. Had I been at my desk, I would have been greeted by the nose of the plane that crashed,” Burchett said.

While many students may not recall the tragedy that killed more than 3,000 people, they were reminded of the scene and the times through a video. Fr. Joel Martin reminded all students the attack was not just on the United States, but the world.

“Citizens of 90 different countries died when the planes struck the towers. Among them were people of South Korea, Germany, the Peoples Republic of China, Taiwan, Mexico and India (St. Bernard has students from each of those countries). It was an attack on the whole world and the world was changed because of it,” Fr. Joel said.

Burchett recalled a plane clipping the world trade center three years prior to the attack, and thought no big deal. The Pentagon was under renovation and loud booming sounds were not uncommon, and the Pentagon was in the flight path of the national airport.

“No one had put together that we were under three attacks,” Burchett said.

“We started trying to account for missing people who were going to meetings, didn’t show up for work, going to doctor’s appointments, etc., and received orders to move further away because there was a fourth plane headed our way.”

For those working at the Pentagon, it was several hours later until they learned of the devastation that had taken place in New York City. The satellites were overpowered and had been shut down, as well as all mass transit from 9:30 am Tuesday morning until 2:30 p.m.

“I finally get on the subway and as we went by the national airport, there was nothing. It was a ghost town . All planes had been told to divert,” Burchett said.

While the Pentagon lost 189 people in the attack, almost 3,000 were lost in New York City.

Burchett told students, “What we have to keep in mind is that you can see people that are dead, you can see people that are maimed, or scarred. What you can’t see are people who have been affected mentally by what happened on 9-11. It’s been ten years and I still remember that day and am still bothered by it. You may not remember it , and you may be unaware of the changes in your life, but it has a tremendous impact on everyone of us.”

Burchett is the father of Will and Wren Thornton who are students enrolled at St. Bernard Middle School.

A video of the presentation can be found on the school’s facebook or youtube account by visiting the website

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ethics class get visit from Federal Defenders Office in Montgomery

Attorney Anne Borelli of the Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama spoke with the Senior Ethics and Morality class on the topic of Capital Punishment in the state of Alabama.

Last week the senior Ethics and Morality class held debates in which they were asked to discuss the ethical issues surrounding capital punishment.

Anne Borelli is the sister of our own Br. Leo Borelli.

St. Bernard Preparatory School is greatful to Attorney Borelli and the Federal Defenders office in Montgomery.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

St. Bernard students participate in Youth Leadership Program

Jerrica Crawford and Caitlin Varquez have been selected to represent Saint Bernard Prep in the Cullman County Youth Leadership Program sponsored by the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce.

Each school in Cullman County provides two junior students the opportunity to participate in this a year-long program. Monthly, students participate in activities to include medicine, industry, local government, state government, education, law and other leadership programs.

Crawford is the daughter of Marty and Sherri Crawford of Cullman. Varquez is the daughter of Dr.’s Genaro and Mir Varquez of Cullman.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

St. Bernard contracts with American Education Specialist

More than 100 parents and students are taking advantage of a new college admissions service being offered to members of the junior and senior classes at St. Bernard Prep School. One of the primary goals of the new service is to assist students in finding the college and curriculum that matches their talents, abilities and interests.

Representatives from American Education Specialist International met on the St. Bernard campus with parents and students on Tuesday, August 30th. St. Bernard chose AESI because its consultants are experienced school leaders and advisors who are able to give schools and families the critical information they need to tailor a program for students who are seeking college admission.

Headmaster, Fr. Joel Martin said, “Technology has changed the way things are done. AESI is offering each junior and senior in our program, an opportunity to receive assistance in the whole process of their college search. Students will work one on one with representatives to prioritize what they are looking for in a college. A web management system has been put in place to help meet deadlines and to make sure students are on their way to getting things done in a timely manner."

Bill Shelnutt, the executive director of AESI, was among those who made presentations to the participants in attendance. He indicated that high grades and SAT/ACT scores are not enough to gain acceptance into the college or university of choice anymore. Colleges and universities want students that are the “best match” for their admission profiles. AESI consultants provide schools and individual families with valuable insight into a student’s strengths, interests, personality and education goals. It also assists students by developing a strategy and a roadmap for college acceptance. “We help students find their ‘best match’ school,” said Shelnutt.

Guidance Counselor Mary Mayo said it was a very informative program with a lot of good information. “If the students will put it to use, it will be of great benefit to them.”

Saint Bernard is known for its outstanding academics and scholarship awards. President Fr. Marcus Voss said, “We are offering this program to our students so they can expand their opportunities when applying to college. In making this college advisement service available, our hope is that our graduates will have even more options available to them when it comes to selecting the college of their choice.”