Monday, December 16, 2013

Middle School student receives first communion

What for most Catholics happens around the second grade happened for an eighth grader at St. Bernard Prep.  Blake Burman made his First Confession and received his  First Holy Communion recently at St. Bernard Abbey Church with the assistance of his religion instructor,  Miss Martha Ann Warnke, and School President, Fr. Joel Martin, OSB.  

Burman approached Miss Warnke this past August about the possibility of receiving his First Communion in the Church.  Miss Warnke immediately contacted Fr. Joel to put the wheels in motion to grant his request.    

“Blake was baptized in California, but his family’s frequent moves made preparing for the sacraments very difficult,” Miss Warnke said.   

Miss Warnke gave him information to study in August and prepared him for the sacraments.  He made his First Confession on Friday and his First Communion on Monday, December 16, with his two sisters, grandmother, and parents in attendance.  

Fr. Joel Martin, President of St. Bernard Prep, celebrated the Mass.  Fr. Joel said St. Bernard strives to assist students in their desire for truth and goodness, which is exactly what Blake has asked to do.

“Blake is an outstanding young man who has taken it upon himself to seek out the important things,” Fr. Joel said, “He has been persistent in his desire to know and love God more completely and to receive the power of God in his life.”

In his homily at the Advent Mass, Fr. Joel stated, “In this season of Advent, light increases as we near Christmas and the coming of Christ.  Blake shows us that light by saying ‘yes’ to God, and he teaches us to do the same.”

Blake is the son of Bill and Mary Burman of Arab, Alabama.

Monday, November 18, 2013

St. Bernard Middle School host food drive

Students at St. Bernard Middle School students have spent two weeks collecting food items to contribute to families in the Cullman community for Thanksgiving dinner.
Religion instructor, Martha Ann Warnke, provided a sign-up sheet requesting students to bring canned goods and other items that would make for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  As items were brought to school, it was displayed on their respective tables.
“We had a great response this year,” Warnke said.  “We still have $70 left in cash donations, which will be used to purchase more turkeys and ham.”
The boarding students along with the faculty provided money to purchase turkeys and hams; and the commuting  students contributed the much needed side dish items from cake  and pumpkin pie mix to green beans and stuffing.
William Calvert, Middle School Principal, said this is an annual event at St. Bernard Middle School.  “Our students and their families always come through with enough food to feed several families at this time of year.”
All food is donated to the St. Vincent DePaul Food Bank at Sacred Heart Church in Cullman.

Seventh Grade:  Front row (l-r):  Ivy Edge, Nealy Wyatt, Alden Olyneice, Gavin Whaley, Thomas Fortson, Zachary McClain.  Back row:  Adrian Smith, Madelyne Grimmett, Andrew Williams, Ms. Warnke, Madison Murphy, Andy Zatarain, Carson Holmes, Noah Lewis, Phoebe Coccia, Dallas Anderson, Sam Patel , Mr. William Calvert and Foster O’Neil.

Eighth Grade:  Front row (l-r): Eli Michelfelder, Zachary Phillips, Michael Bain Clemmons, Luke Marti, Marshall Rosenhoover, and Blake Burman.  Standing:  Catherine Cho, Mr. William Calvert,  Eva Barck, Graham Rosenhoover, Olivia Tafizoli, Douglas McCullough, Cailin O’Donnell, Sam Lee, Sarah Peel, Anna Faulk, Victor Fentanes, Isabell Santiago, Avy Whaley, Luis Zatarain, Leahrose Mami, and Miss Martha Ann Warnke.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Honor Society induction held at St. Bernard Prep

Seventeen students were inducted into the National Honor Society recently at St. Bernard Preparatory School in Cullman, AL.  Honor Society advisor, Mrs. Margaret Hinson welcomed all parents, students and faculty in attendance and congratulated each student for their achievements.
Following the welcome, Chaplain Bede Marcy opened the ceremony with a prayer before turning the program over to Zoie Wilson, President of the National Honor Society program at St. Bernard.

Wilson explained the criteria to being inducted into National Honor Society.  “To become a member of Honor Society one must have completed one semester as a junior or senior at St. Bernard Prep, must maintain a grade average of 90 or higher in math, science and foreign language; exhibit leadership, service and character, and participate in meeting and chapter projects.”
Students recognized the four qualities exemplified in NHS—Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character—with the lighting of candles.  Jacob Mynatt spoke on scholarship—the commitment to learning; Logan Ayers spoke on service—establishing a routine to work for those in need; Mrs. Hinson spoke on leadership—having the initiative to train and aid others; and John Gurtowski  spoke on character—distinguishing individuality with respect for others.

Each student was awarded a membership certificate and pin by Headmaster John Tekulve and Zoie Wilson.
After accepting this honor, students pledged to maintain high scholastic standing, to hold as fundamental and worthy an untarnished character, to endeavor intelligently and courageously to be a leader, and to give of themselves freely in service to others.
The National Honor Society is the nation's premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. More than just an honor roll, NHS serves to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character.  These characteristics have been associated with membership in the organization since their beginnings in 1921.
Following the ceremony, lunch was served for Honor Society members and their parents in the Dining Hall.


Bockhold named Commended Student in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program

John Tekulve, Headmaster at St. Bernard Prep School, announced recently that Mackenzie Bockhold has been named a Commended Student in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program.  A Letter of Commendation from the school and national Merit Scholarship Corporation, which conducts the program, was presented to  Bockhold.
About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.  Although they will not continue in the 2014 competition of National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2014 competition by taking the 2012 Preliminary Sat/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
Tekulve said Bockhold placed in the top two percent of the students tested.
“Mackenzie is an outstanding student.  We are happy to recognize and congratulate Mackenzie for her   accomplishments and to congratulate her parents and teachers who played a key role in her academic development. “
Bockhold is the daughter of Don and Sandi Bockhold of Cullman.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

St. Bernard Cross Country teams advance to state

                Dreary weather did not hamper the Saints performance at the AHSAA 1A-2A Cross Country Sectionals held last week at Cold Springs High School.
                Coach William Calvert was all smiles as both teams from St. Bernard crossed the finish line to advance to state competition at Oakville, Alabama on November 9.
                Calvert said, “Our girls had a phenomenal performance. We won the Sectional for the 2nd straight year and placed six runners in the top 13 in a very tough field.   This should put us in great shape for the state meet. “ 
                Senior Logan Ayers won her 5th consecutive meet and repeated as Individual Sectional Champion. Her time of 19:04 was a new course record. She was followed closely by Leahrose Mami in 3rd, Ayleana Mami 5th, Ivy Edge 6th, Jaden Edge in12th and Cailin O’Donnell in 13th place.   

Calvert said his boys knew to advance to state meet in such a tough section; they would have to have to bring their “A” game.     

“The guys really came together as a team and posted their top average time of the season to finish third behind two of the state’s top ranked teams.  I really proud of their effort,” continued Calvert.
The top three teams from the sectional advance to the state meet. Senior Oscar Perez had the best meet of his career finishing 4th with a time of 17:18. Steven Mami finished 6th, Thomas Russell place 14th, Nate Giffin 15th Isaias Robles 20th and Will Sciaroni 25th.

                The Saints travel to Oakville Saturday, November 9 to compete for the AHSAA 1A-2A title.


Monday, November 4, 2013

5th Annual Oktoberfest 5k held at St. Bernard

St. Bernard recently hosted the 5th Annual Oktoberfest 5K with  36 schools  attending.  Over 758 runners completed the course which includes 46 in the Open 5K race.
The weather was a bit cloudy and a few sprinkles were felt during the early morning hours; but sunshine prevailed bringing the morning to just the right temperature for running.
The day ‘s festivities started with the annual open 5k with many local runners and several from out of town taking part.   The overall male winner was Coach Trent Dean of Cullman with a time of 18:06. Dr. Eric Fillinger of Cullman 2nd (also masters winner ) 19:15 and Matt Huddleston of Cullman was 3rd 19:42 SBP 8th grader Marshall Rosenhoover was 6th place (21:04).    Caley Dean (Trent’s wife) was the overall female winner (21:21) Caitlin Muncher was 2nd (21:28) and former SBP teacher Lisa Rawlings was 3rd   (22:03) Monica Muncher  from the Huntsville area was the female (over 40) masters winner (27:39)  St. Bernard Middle School Science teacher, Martha Wells was the 2nd place finisher among female masters runners (31:54).
In middle school competition the top five female runners were:  Zoe Evans of  Randolph School       (15:18.69); Adi Burns, of Florence High School (15:44.72); Eva Barck of St. Bernard Prep (15:50.18); Katherine Hunter of Randolph School (15:58.72); and Tiffany Lodge of Fairview High School (16:09.64).
Results of the female 3200 meter competition placed Randolph first; Cullman second, and Florence finished with  third place.
Top five male runners in the middle school division were:   Matthew Phillips of Randolph School (13:10.21); Luke Welborn of Randolph School (13:17.51); Tucker Franey of Cullman (13:17.94); Logan Murphree of Fairview (13:52.47); and Jon Danford of Arab (13:56.10).

Cullman took the top honors in the Middle School male division followed by St. Bernard Prep.  Randolph finished third.
In the high school 1A-3A female division, St. Bernard’s ladies took advantage of home trails taking five of the top ten finisher spots.  Logan Ayers of St. Bernard crossed the finish line first with a time of (19:58.53) followed by teammate Leahrose Mami (20:28.47); Autumn East of Coosa Christian (20:35.65); Bailey Steadman of Hatton (20:37:47); and Jaden Edge of St. Bernard (20:42.04).
St. Bernard placed first in the girls competition followed by  Hatton,  and Pisgah.
The top five runners in the 1A-3A male division were as follows:  Paul Richardson of Whitesburg Christian (17:14.48); Steven Mami of St. Bernard Prep (17:39.30); Brett Roden of Pisgah High School (17:57.26); John Smith of Pisgah (17:57.45) and Colt Montgomery of Hatton (18:00.85).
Hatton finished in first followed by  St. Bernard.  Pisgah took third place in the competition.
4A-6A Division Female  top five runners were:  Keira Larson of Buckhorn (19:54.92) followed by Lawrence County High School Runners Lexie Burfield (20:15.10); Duranna Thomas (20:28.63); Laura Bennett (20:28.63), and Maggie Graham (20:45.41).
Lawrence County finished the competition with first place in the female division followed by Pope John Paul II, and Arab High School.
The top five spots in the 4A-6A Division Male competition went to Grissom High Schools Anthony Wells (16:20.18) and Cameron Thomas (16:36.81).  Eshan King (16:39.08) of Randolph School took third;  followed by Caleb Lipsey  (16:44.25)of Lawrence County and Braxton Linder  (16:44.94)of Florence High School.
Lawrence County took first place in the overall competition.  Grissom claimed the second spot , and Buckhorn High School came in  third place.
“It was our largest Oktoberfest Invitational to date with 758 finishers in the seven races.  The competition was intense but good sportsmanship was exhibited by the runners and spectators alike. There were many positive comment made about the beauty of the campus, the organization of the event and the overall festive atmosphere.”  Coach Calvert said. 
School President, Fr. Joel Martin said each school should be very proud of their athletic representatives, and invites all runners to participate in the 2nd Annual Half Marathon on Saturday, March 8, 2014; and the  30th Annual Bloomin’ Festival 5K on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at St. Bernard.

Br. Joseph and the Grotto Movie premiered at St. Bernard Abbey

It was a dress-up affair on October 17, 2013 as St. Bernard Abbey, in conjunction with the City of Cullman Economic Development and Cullman Chamber of Commerce, rolled out the red carpet in the Abby Byre for filmmakers, actors, and sponsors of the newly-created documentary, Br. Joseph and the Grotto, featuring the life and times of St. Bernard Abbey monk, Br. Joseph Zoettl.

The documentary about Br. Joseph is an inspiring  true tale involving folk art, Alabama history, perseverance, and a life of devotion

In 1892, a young lad - 14 years of age from Landshut, Bavaria, braved the seas to America.   Br. Joseph Zoettl left his family to become part of monastic community life at St. Bernard Abbey.  

Br. Joseph had an affection for religious life not found in many countries today.   His talent for creating small pieces of work out of cement and cast off materials, to creating miniature shrines of churches and landmarks which are now on display in a four-acre garden park in Cullman, Alabama known as Ave Maria Grotto, has left a legacy of labor and love for many generations to come.
It was his talent that inspired siblings, Cliff Vaughn, documentary filmmaker at Red Clay Pictures in Nashville, Tennessee, and Carol Ann Vaughn Cross, a professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama to join forces bringing to life a documented story celebrating Br. Joseph’s life of perseverance, humility and dedication.

Vaughn grew up in Huntsville and had known about the Grotto all of his life, but it was when he heard Kate Campbell’s song, “Ave Maria Grotto,” that he felt this story had cinematic qualities, so he tucked it away in the back of his mind and more than ten years later decided the time was right.
Vaughn said, “My sister, Carol Ann, has a PhD. in History with a concentration in the American South, and we were very interested particularly because the story takes place in Alabama creating a strong interest for the film.  It has a religious and spiritual effect which speaks to people whether religious or not, and the work itself speaks of Br. Joseph’s talents as a folk artist.”

Vaughn and Cross spent many hours researching Br. Joseph’s life combing through the archives at St. Bernard Abbey and finding all kinds of interesting things pertaining to his work, Vaughn said.  “There were literally hundreds of postcards from everywhere that people had sent to Br. Joseph.”

“Br. Joseph was a man of perseverance, humility and had values that don’t get celebrated,” commented Vaughn. 
The filming of the documentary took place at the Abbey at St. Bernard – the powerhouse and the Ave Maria Grotto—and a horse farm in Franklin, Tennessee.  A couple of locations in Nashville were used as well.  The cast included seven members, with the younger Brother Joseph and older Brother Joseph being played by a father and son. 
“It was put together very well,” Abbot Cletus said.  “It was very interesting to note the changes in America when Br. Joseph came from Bavaria in 1892.   Br. Joseph lived to see history in the making from the invention of electricity, the Great Depression, World War I and II to living in the same state as the famous W.C. Handy and Helen Keller.”
Vaughn was beside himself with the excitement shared at St. Bernard and how receptive the community was to the film.  “Saint Bernard Abbey and the people of Cullman were most hospitable while we made "Brother Joseph and the Grotto," and last Thursday night's premiere at the Abbey Byre for the Arts was no exception. Everything was top-notch -- fitting for a celebration of Brother Joseph, who has given so much to our state.”
A reception was held before the premiere with passed appetizers being served by students of St. Bernard Prep School.  A local brewery, Straight to Ale, out of Huntsville premiered their new brew, dedicated to the memory of Br. Joseph and the Grotto, Brother Joseph’s Belgian Dubbel.  Music was provided by the Saint Bernard Prep School Jazz Band. 
Fr. Marcus Voss, Director of Development, opened the evening with a prayer and introduced Kate Campbell whose song inspired the idea for the movie.
Students at St. Bernard were treated to a private showing the following Friday.   

While the energy of the premiere will be tough to duplicate, Vaughn looks forward to sharing the film in other venues.  shows other events already being lined up (Nov. 9 at Samford, Nov. 17 in Elba, Dec. 12 at Wallace State, and more to come!).


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Seniors honored at Dedication Mass

Twenty-seven seniors at St. Bernard Prep School were honored recently during a Dedication Mass in the Abbey Church.  The ceremony was concelebrated by Abbot Cletus Meagher, Chairman of the Board; Fr. Joel Martin, President; and Fr. Bede Marcy, School Chaplain. 
Addressing the senior class, Abbot Cletus said, “Our world needs godly men and women, people whose lives are based on principle, on the discipline of love and a wisdom that is from God.  You have been blessed with many of these gifts and talents.”
He further said, “Recognize those gifts, accept the responsibility that corresponds to the gift, and give thanks to God for such gifts.”
Following the homily, the members of the senior were given a Benedictine-cross medal as a sign of their commission to be leaders in the student body.  Students were encouraged to wear their Benedictine-  cross medals with pride to remind them of the privilege and dignity that is theirs to share in Christ.
Music for the mass was provided by Dr. Rebecca Whited. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

SBP Physical Science class “drops the ball”

Recently students in Betty Wallace’s physical science class dropped the ball for a good reason.  Wallace’s class took to the gazebo on the grounds of St. Bernard Prep to get a hands-on lesson in calculating the acceleration of an object.

Students were grouped into four groups of four.  Each group was armed with a secretary, board, timer, tape measure, ball, string and a recording sheet.“Instead of just using formulas in class, this experiment  gets them out of the classroom and gives them a better understanding of calculating acceleration,” Wallace said.
While one student dropped the ball, another timed how long it took to hit the board.  Students repeated this step six times to get an average time.  Then students measured the length of the drop with their string.
Once all measurements had been obtained, students headed back to the classroom to calculate the final speed.   
 “These kinds of assignments are fun,” Wallace said.  “Students tend to retain this for a long time.”





Friday, September 20, 2013

St. Bernard Prep Biology class takes the cake

Biology instructor, Shelly Perry, added a culinary twist to her Biology lab recently as students were placed into groups and created cell cakes.  In fact, some might describe her latest teaching style as, “taking the cake!”
Perry baked a round cake for each group and provided all of the essentials—utensils, frosting, decorating items--for creating a scientific model of a cell for discussion.  Students were also encouraged to bring their own decorating ingredients.
“This is a fun time for students to break away from traditional book learning; and it helps with building memory skills,” Perry said.
Students received grades for their cell cakes worth 50 points.  In teams, the students worked quickly, frosting their cake, some adding green dye if theirs was a plant cell.  Students then chose various pieces of candy to represent all the parts of a cell—nucleus, nucleolus, lysosome, membrane, etc.—placing the different candy pieces on the cakes to create models of either plant or animal cells. 
Taffy was a popular choice for depicting cell membranes, while cherry licorice was often chosen for golgi and green jelly beans were frequently used for mitochondrion.  One team broke the “candy barrier” by using bacon strips for endoplasmic reticulum.  Students really got creative when portraying the cell nucleus, with choices ranging from a giant Reeces cup to a large glob of cotton candy!  

Students were graded based on their knowledge of each organelle, not only identifying each part, but also describing the function.   Science instructors, Br. Charles Manning and Mrs. Betty Wallace assisted with the testing of each group.  This is probably the only science experiment the students will ever be tempted to eat!

St. Bernard Prep hosts college fair

St. Bernard Prep held a college fair on Wednesday, September 18 in the Dining Hall - Brahma Room,  hosting private and public colleges and universities throughout Alabama.

Admissions Officers from the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Birmingham Southern, University of Alabama – Birmingham, University of Alabama- Huntsville, Jacksonville State, University of Montevallo, Berry College, Spring Hill College, and University of North Alabama were on hand to inform students and parents of the academic and campus life at each school. 
Students and parents explored each school and asked many questions pertaining to admissions, available majors, campus organizations, campus security, scholarships, and financial aid.  St. Bernard encourages parents to attend and participate as well as the high school juniors and seniors, since oftentimes, they think of questions that students overlook.  A few underclassmen could also be seen among the crowd Wednesday night; as one freshman put it, “it’s never too early to make college plans.”
Guidance Counselor, Mary Mayo said the schools were well received.  “Our students and parents found the fair very informative.  They collected a lot of good information and were able to find several differences in each college.”
Mayo stresses to her students to make sure they inquire about application deadlines for scholarships. 
Mayo said, “Deadlines vary from school to school, and are approaching very quickly.  Make sure to check your particular colleges for application and scholarship deadlines.”
St. Bernard Prep is a co-educational day and boarding school for grades 7-12.  For more information visit or call 256-739-6682.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cancer survivor survives again

Brain  cancer survivor, Michael McBride had good intentions of ‘Riding for a Cure’ from Hopkins, Kentucky to Panama City, Florida  in eight days. However, after experiencing another near death accident, he is forced to add a few more days to his schedule.    
McBride, who began his ride on September 5, had already made plans to rest for the evening in Cullman through a website called  He had been in contact with another member of the biking community, Dorenda Doyle, who had made arrangements for McBride to spend an evening at the Retreat Center at St. Bernard Abbey.
Doyle received a call from McBride on Friday afternoon stating he was in Hartselle and would be in Cullman in about an hour.  However the next call received was one stating he had been involved in a hit and run.
“I got a call from Michael saying that he had been hit by a vehicle on Hwy 31, just outside Falkville.  We immediately called 911, and headed that way,” Doyle said.
By the time the Doyle’s got to him, police were on the scene.  McBride was visibly shaken and had a bloody ankle, but refused medical treatment stating he had spent enough time in and out of hospitals.
“I have a glioblastoma brain tumor, and have been a cancer survivor for six years.   I am riding my bicycle with the American Cancer Society to help children that unfortunately have been diagnosed with cancer too,” McBride said. 
Some may think McBride has more lives than a cat, but he is grateful to be alive.  “I have survived a fall from a roof, a new heart valve,  being electrocuted, having brain cancer, an automobile accident, and being hit on a bicycle; however, God has a plan, and I must carry on this mission,” McBride said.
The vehicle struck the trailer that McBride was towing with his bicycle, destroying it, and throwing him from his bike.  The accident occurred at dusk on Friday evening, just outside of Falkville.  Although Michael identified the car as a Camry, he refuses to give any further details, “because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. “   Although the driver hit brake lights a few times, after the collision, he/she left the scene of the accident without checking on McBride.

Upon arrival at St. Bernard, McBride finds a different story – one  of compassion and hope.  The Retreat Center provided a wonderful place to rest and recover from what could have been a bad situation.  Guest staying at the center heard about the evenings tragic events, and placed monetary gifts  in his room.  But the giving didn’t stop there.  Once employees at the local Wal Mart  heard about the accident, they immediately pitched in and purchased a new bike trailer for him.
McBride was joined by his wife Melissa on Sunday afternoon at St. Bernard.  They were both very thankful and flattered by the kindness of the Cullman Community and especially the Doyle’s and Br. Brendan Seipel at St. Bernard.  McBride will now continue his bike journey, to complete his mission to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, with his wife following behind him.
“My family and I appreciate all of the support and comfort received on our brief stay at St. Bernard.  We love the Lord with all of our heart and know this would not be possible without HIM!”
Anyone wishing to support McBride may do so by   Donations may also be sent to Michael McBride, Ride for a Cure, American Cancer Society, 952 Fairview Avenue. Suite 4, Bowling Green, KY  42101.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Eucharistic Procession Held at St. Bernard

On Wednesday, August 28th, St. Bernard Preparatory School Students joined in a Eucharistic Procession, in which the Blessed Sacrament was carried to and reserved in the Swisher Classroom Building Chapel.

Beginning in the Abbey Church with Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Rev. Bede Marcy, O.S.B. preached about proclaiming the role of Christ in the everyday activities of our studies, sports, and relationships. Then, with seven Knights of the Altar assisting, the Blessed Sacrament was carried around the quadrangle and to the classroom building.
During the procession,  a schola of St. Bernard students led by Rev. Joel Martin, O.S.B. sang the Litany of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Arriving at the classroom building, the Blessed Sacrament was placed on an Altar of Repose, festively prepared for this occasion by the High School Ladies of the Altar.
St. Bernard students packed  the first floor hallway and sang the Tantum Ergo as the Blessed Sacrament was incensed. After a brief period of adoration, final benediction was given and the Eucharist was reposed in the school chapel as the students sang Holy God.

Fr. Bede said the procession was a very powerful and moving liturgy for the students, and they have already begun to inquire about plans for the next procession!

Friday, August 30, 2013

St. Bernard students tour Europe with Alabama Ambassadors of Music

Two St. Bernard Prep School students accepted the invitation from the Alabama Ambassadors of Music to join other students from around the state for a musical tour of Europe.

The Alabama Ambassadors is a group of staff and students from Alabama high school/college bands and choirs.  Every other summer students are invited to make a wonderful 16 day trip to Europe to represent the State of Alabama as Ambassadors of Music.  On June 6-21, 2013, eighty students from the state joined Band Director Harry McAfee of Birmingham and Choral Director Laura Doss of Cullman for a life-changing experience abroad.

St. Bernard students Daniel  Coccia and Kimie Garcia joined the Alabama Ambassadors and performed at various locations: parks, churches and other venues throughout England, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

Dan, tenor sax in hand, and Kimie with her alto voice prepared for their journey by spending several days in rehearsal at Bumpus Middle School in Birmingham.  Music for the tour included classic band tunes, Sousa, Spanish and Austrian March tunes, medleys of the Beatles and Frank Sinatra, American River Songs based on American folk tunes, Dixieland Jazz  and a Dixieland Concerto.

Tour director Harry McAfee said he has conducted three European trips and was pleased to have St. Bernard represented.

Both Dan and Kimie described the experience as a trip of a lifetime, as well as their first time to travel internationally.  Although each admitted to being a bit frightened at London’s Heathrow Airport by the sound of so many unfamiliar languages, both managed to overcome the anxiety once custom officials made them feel welcomed.

Travelling on a bus from the airport to the hotel, Dan admitted to having his first culture shock encounter.  Grinning, he said, “The first thing I noticed that was different from the states was,  “The bathrooms.”  “They shower differently,” he chuckled.  “The hot water lasts only a short time.  I found out quickly; get yourself wet, turn off the water, lather yourself up, and rinse.”

Kimie was mesmerized by the beauty of the country, and found charm in London accents, culture and hospitality; while at the same time sharing Dan’s fascination  with the  classic London taxis. 

“We were fed well on the trip,” Kimie said.  From their favorite fish and chips in London to gelato in Italy, the St. Bernard students enjoyed four course meals three times a day!

McAfee said, “We had three days to learn the music, then travel; and after that three days off, so I got a bit nervous, but was proud of  the group’s performance.“

A total of five concerts were held and they were very well received.  Europeans like spiritual folk songs and Jazz tunes that are strictly American, and tend to follow the summer schedule of musicians from the states.  Just before Alabama performed, there was Oklahoma. 

Kimie and Dan described singing and playing on the tour as an amazing experience.  Each complimented tour directors McAfee and Doss by stating the band was very skilled and the program of music well thought out.

 Spending time abroad allowed students to experience art museums in London, visit the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, and tour many historic places often studied in school. 

“Seeing the actual ‘Mona Lisa’ was something I will never forget, and having our photo taken with her is a memory that will last a lifetime,” said Kimie.  “It was much smaller than I thought it would be, but more beautiful than I could have imagined.”

Now back in school, students have expressed their appreciation to their St. Bernard director Mr. Lester Harris for his recommendation to tour with the Alabama Ambassadors, and to their parents for affording them the educational opportunity.  When asked if they would like to do it again; without hesitation both replied, “YES.”

Dan and Kimie are juniors at St. Bernard Prep School.  Dan is the son of Dr. & Mrs. Chris Coccia; and Kimie is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luis Garcia of Cullman.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Presto earns Eagle Scout

Johnathon Presto, son of Philip and Karen Presto, was recognized at a Court of Honor on August 3, 2013 for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.  Johnathon is a member of Troop 321 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Cullman.  Johnathon’s Eagle Project included the removal of an old, wooden stairwell to the basement of the Church, and erecting a metal framed stairwell with a full sized door.  Johnathon is a 2013 graduate of St. Bernard Prep School.  He is the grandson of Herbert and Jo Schaffer and Jo and the late Paul Presto, all of Cullman.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Saint Bernard Prep begins new school year

Students from across the globe became residents or commuting students at St. Bernard Preparatory School in Cullman this past weekend.
President, Fr. Joel Martin said the school enrollment for 2013-14 remained basically the same with an increase of only one student over the ending enrollment of the previous year.  Twenty six of those students are international from six different countries.

Having travelled to four different countries in the past nine months, Fr. Joel said that his trips have been successful in recruiting students to Alabama and especially St. Bernard.  “There is a great deal of interest on the part of students to study here.  The students understand English is the language of the world for business, and they see American Universities as the best in the world and want to be well prepared for this experience.”
In the resident program at St. Bernard, there are 49 students enrolled, 21 girls and 28 boys.   There are seven boarding students in the Middle School and 42 in the high school.
Middle School principal, William Calvert was pleased with the numbers but added he has four spaces open for additional students.  “All of our Middle School students came to class in uniforms and were ready for the first day of school,” Calvert said.  “It’s a great indication of their willingness to get started on the right track. 

Calvert added that the seventh grade enrichment program would include a study of the seven habits of successful people in addition to study skills and current events.
On the high school level, Counselor Mary Mayo, also reported that the first day had gone very smoothly.  Mayo said she had to make a few schedule changes, and, in general the students were adjusting to the rhythm of academic life.
St. Bernard Prep is operated by the Benedictine Monks of St. Bernard Abbey.  For more information contact the school at or (256)739-6682.  Applications for the first semester will be accepted through Labor Day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

St. Bernard implements ESL Camp

Two international students from China are getting a jump start on American culture in preparation for the upcoming school year.  Kedi Mo and Travis Cai are currently enrolled in this Summer’s newly-created ESL camp at St. Bernard Prep School in Cullman.  The camp is a two-week program designed with a focus on improving English skills in speaking, listening, writing, reading and analysis.

Br. Linus Klucsarits, OSB, who teaches ESL at St. Bernard said this is the start-up of what he hopes to see continue to grow and become more popular with other nationalities around the world. 

Kedi and Travis are from China and are proficient in speaking the English language.   Their culture has prepared them well for studies in the United States as both prepare to study in the U.S.

Getting settled in was a smooth process as students found their home and got their banking completed and cell phones working.  “The people at Wells Fargo and AT&T were very patient and kind in helping students get their accounts activated in Cullman,” Br. Linus continued.

American culture is a focus of the language process.  “The students and I have enjoyed becoming familiar with the Southeast through documentaries, books and travel,” Br. Linus said. 

Student studies have included trips to the Helen Keller Museum, Space and Rocket Center, the Civil Rights Center, as well as a trip to Atlanta to watch a Braves game, explore the world of Coca Cola, and visit the Georgia Aquarium.

To conclude their final weeks, St. Bernard has partnered with the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL for the students to attend Space Camp.

“This has been a great experience for all of us,” Br. Linus continued.   “We are hoping to grow next year by adding more diversity to the camp.  It works best if they can process in their own language and then go back to work through it in English. 

St. Bernard Prep School is a private co-educational boarding and day school for students in grades 7-12.  For more information visit or like their page at



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

St. Bernard graduate finalist for AF Award

Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. -- A member of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Lt. Robert Lee, has been selected as a finalist for the Air Force Association's Gill Robb Wilson Award. 

The AFA presents this award--named for Gill Robb Wilson, an American pilot, minister, military advocate, writer and the first director of the Civil Air Patrol--for the most outstanding contribution to national defense in the field of arts and letters, covering a wide range of activity such as writing, speaking and media relations.  

Lee earned his nomination because of his numerous writing and speaking accomplishments last year in the area of cyber security, but does not take full credit.  

"My nomination is not a singular achievement by me," said Lee, "but is more a representation of a lot of work by a lot of great people, starting with my chain of command and including my Wing Public Affairs Office. I'm very thankful for the team I get to serve with." 

Last year, Lee published papers on advanced cyber threats and direction of the cyberspace domain in four magazines; presented speeches at conferences in five different countries creating international alliances on battling cyber threats; and penned nine newspaper articles and six magazine stories on cyber security. Lee also devoted off-duty time to teaching free classes on cyber defense to more than 100 on-base personnel. 

"We are all extremely proud of Lt Lee for being recognized at the Air Force level for his contributions," said Lt. Col. Maurizio Calabrese, Lee's squadron commander. "His selection as a finalist is well deserved, and he is a shining example of how our newest generation  of  Airmen are the driving force in maintaining America's advantage in the cyberspace domain." 

Lee plans to continue his efforts on educating people about cyber defense in the foreseeable future.

"I will use this nomination as another piece of motivation to continue speaking and writing on the important topic of cyberspace and how we approach national security in that domain," noted Lee.

The Air Force had just three nominees for the award, putting Lee among an elite group of people.

"I'm honored to be considered for this award" said Lee, "especially with competition such as the Air Force Band and 22d Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office.

The Air Force Association is a non-profit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation.

Lt. Lee  is currently an Adjunct Professor at Utica College in their graduate-level Cybersecurity distance program and is publishing a book titled "SCADA and Me" in September.    He  is the son of Cullman residents James and Mary Lee.  Lee  is a  2006 graduate of Saint Bernard Prep School in Cullman.  In 2012 he obtained his Bachelor of Science  from the United States Air Force Academy , and in 2013 received his Master of Science from Utica College.

Monday, July 8, 2013


St. Bernard again held its 4-day Alumni Celebration June 27-30, welcoming approximately 300 of its alumni and family members back for the annual reunion.  Although many alumni return every year, this year St. Bernard honored the classes of 1943, 1948, 1953, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973, 1978, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2008.  


A Golf Reception held in the Brahma Room was the first event; golfers and friends gathered to receive their team assignments and had the opportunity to meet other players.  Traditionally, teams “bid on a monk” at this reception, raising funds for the school by vying for monks to become members of their team. 

Registration was handled in the Conference Center of Boniface Hall, manned by Carol and Chris Rooney (C’63).  St. Bernard memorabilia and yearbooks were on display.


Alumnus Fred Frye (C’55), coordinated the Golf Scramble.  Fifty-four golfers took to the greens at Chesley Oaks Golf Course to participate in the St. Bernard Scramble on Friday, June 28.    The overall winning team, with a score of 57, consisted of members of the class of 1972, Harry Davies, Carl Kuchler, Bill McCann, and Tom Martin.  Tom Dallett, Joe Franey, and Jim Lewis took second overall awards.  The first place College team was the Class of 1957 which included Jim Smith, Richard Calvin, Jerry Sullivan, and Carol Rooney, as well as Fr. Jacob Amos.  The winning Prep School team was made up of Wade Knight, John Arndt, Josh Arndt, and Keith Messick.  Fred Frye donated all prizes, including an original artwork by Joe Jahraus for each winner.   Jahraus is an award-winning artist who was Hallmark’s Creative Director.  A delicious lunch of BBQ, potato salad, slaw, baked beans and cookies prepared by Carey Craig of Chesley Oaks, and was served in the Clubhouse where awards were presented. 

Festivities continued for reunion participants on Friday evening with a Barn Hoedown held in the new Performing Arts Center, the Abbey Byre.  Julie Butts welcomed each attendee with a souvenir bandana.  Classmates and their families renewed acquaintances while feasting on hoedown-themed hor d’oeuvres  provided by Chef Allie Foster (C’2005) and crew.  Mini BBQ sandwiches, BLTs, Shrimp Cocktail, Polenta & Mushrooms, and Strawberry Shortcake were on the menu.  Current students of St. Bernard Prep served the alumni, while Mark Pudles and Buster Ross, both parents of current students, volunteered to serve libations; Mark and Buster also volunteered for Saturday’s festivities as well.


Bright and early on Saturday morning, about two dozen alumni plus other friends and family gathered at the trailhead of The Trails of Saint Bernard, to brave a 5K Run/Walk, coordinated by Roger Blaylock.  Meanwhile, less awake guests were treated to a breakfast in the school Dining Hall, presented by Chef Allie and crew.  Alumni and families strolled around the campus to get reacquainted with their alma mater and to revisit favorite school haunts.  Many former students were found in the Administration building, looking at the class photos, which date back to 1890s.  Numerous stories were told of campus antics and escapades. 

Mid-morning, a large number of alumni gathered at the new Abbey Byre for the Arts (renovated Barn) to take part in the Rededication and Blessing of this new performing arts center.  Abbot Cletus Meagher invited everyone to join in the blessing of the “new” facility. 

Fr. Marcus Voss followed the blessing with the Annual Town Hall meeting in which he thanked attendees for their loyal support and told about all the accomplishments St. Bernard students and monks have achieved in the past year, as well as the progress the Abbey has made in capital improvements.  He presented a number of materials, including the new Capital Campaign for St. Bernard, and the Prep School Viewbook.  

Abbot Cletus continued the meeting with a presentation on the status of The Clairvaux Society, St. Bernard’s planned estate gift program, and an update on The Columbarium.  A short documentary trailer of “Brother Joseph and the Grotto” was presented and all were invited to return on October 17, 2013 for the Film Premiere of the documentary to be held here at St. Bernard in the Abbey Byre.  Materials on each project were made available to the alumni. 

After lunch in the Dining Hall, several alumni took advantage of St. Bernard’s many athletic facilities including an Alumni Soccer Game and a Tennis match on the Robert Blevins Courts.  There were no takers on the Softball game that Robert Bucella tried to organize—“too hot!”  Late in the afternoon the alumni attended the Alumni Vigil Mass held in the Abbey Church.

The culmination of the reunion was held on Saturday evening with a plated dinner of roast beef with all the accouterments .  Joyce Nix oversaw all the table d├ęcor which included an elegant theme of black/white with fine china and gorgeous blue hydrangeas.  Alumni and guests were served by current students of St. Bernard Prep School.  Guests were entertained by a special tribute slide show to the classes of 1969-1979, created by alumnus John J. King, college class of 1973.

The prep school class of 2003 opened their time capsule, revealing old pictures, posters, class assignments, and other memorabilia; the capsule was resealed with additional items, to be opened at a future reunion in 2023. 

The highlight of the evening was a special presentation of The Abbot Benedict Menges Medal for Outstanding Service that was awarded to Miles Maxted, Business Manager of St. Bernard Abbey.  Abbot Cletus Meagher also presented Miles with a beautiful cross in addition to the certificate, given “in recognition of his many accomplishments, commitment, and dedicated service in financial management and in the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of St. Bernard Abbey and Preparatory School.”

Special thanks and recognitions were shared with several class coordinators, including Bob “Stewart” Keighery for the Class of HS 1958, and John Wojcik for the college classes of the late 1960s.   In addition, Dr. John King, coordinator for all the 1970 classes, and Fred Frye, Golf Scramble Coordinator, were each given a Certificate of Appreciation for all their work and dedication to making the Reunion a success.

The evening drew to a close with a photo taken of each class(es) by Dorenda Doyle.  All pictures from the Reunion Weekend can be found either at the Facebook or the FlickR links on the website.


Sunday morning found many alumni saying their fair wells  and making promises to “meet again next year.”  An Omelet bar was presented in the Dining Hall by Chef Allie’s crew, followed by Mass with the monastic community in the St. Bernard Abbey Church.

Fr. Marcus Voss, Director of Development at St. Bernard said, “I always look forward to this weekend.  It is a great time to have our alumni back on campus, to visit with them and catch up with what is taking place in their lives.”