An Abbot Has Been Elected

Posted by on Jan 10, 2009 | No Comments

On the morning of January 10, 2009, Father Denis Quinkert was chosen by the monks of Blue Cloud Abbey to be their fifth abbot. He had also been their third abbot, having held that position from 1986 until 1991. An oblate of our community, Pastor Mark Strobel, commented, “The abbey now has its own Grover Cleveland who was the 22nd and 25th President of the United States, and you’ve made modern monastic history.” This is true. No abbot who has been out of office for a period of time nowadays has ever been elected again. It has occurred among Benedictine women that former prioresses have been elected. With diminishing vocations in so many of our houses, this will perhaps become a more common practice among Benedictine men as well.

A year ago, Father Denis was named Prior of Blue Cloud Abbey as a replacement for Father Prior George Lyon who was critically ill. Upon Abbot Thomas Hillenbrand’s resignation on January l of this year, Prior Denis became administrator of the abbey until he was elected abbot.

Our former Abbot Thomas has dropped the use of the abbatial title and has gone back into rank at the place where he was before his election. For the next year, he will be on sabbatical. Part of the time will be spent with monks at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Australia. Upon his return to Blue Cloud, Father Thomas will no doubt go back to work in our carpenter shop.

Abbot Denis was born in New Albany, Indiana on July 7, 1936. He attended St. Placid Hall, a secondary school for brotherhood candidates at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. Upon graduating from there in 1954, he came to Blue Cloud Abbey, the St. Meinrad foundation that was then four years old. He professed vows in 1956. As a Benedictine Brother, Abbot Denis worked on the abbey farm, helped with the construction of the monastery and farm buildings, and was later assigned as a prefect at two of the schools our community staffed on Indian reservations. Several years later, he began studies for the priesthood at Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts.

Abbot Denis Quinkert, OSB

As a priest of the community, Father Denis was pastor at Ft. Totten, North Dakota and at Wagner, Waubay, Grenville, and Milbank in South Dakota. He also served as a chaplain to the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery and the students of Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota.

Abbot Denis was expeditiously elected on the first ballot. There had been the possibility that we could have voted all day. Eleven monks in Guatemala were
also voting. Ten of them had sent their first ballots along with Father Prior Basil Dilger, the superior at Resurrection Priory. If there had been no election on the first ballot, the Guatemalans would have cast all further votes by e-mail. Father Bernardine Ness devised a system whereby each of them would use a numerical code in order to safeguard privacy.