Fr. James Kilzer, OSB

Mom was hardly out of high school, and a fresh convert, when she married my Dad, several years her senior. Taking over his parents’ farm place in southwest North Dakota, they raised cattle, chickens, garden, wheat, flax and fourteen kids. I was baptized just down the section-line trail a couple of miles, in a country church on a prairie hill, a church which would close when I was about age seven. After that, church was sixteen miles away, but we went every Sunday without fail. I would start my official education in a one-room schoolhouse, where half of the students were my siblings and cousins. This school closed, and my seventh grade had to be in town school.      Mom sometimes commented that, of her many children, I and two of my sisters seemed especially religious from quite young. When I was a junior in high school, and received the sacrament of Confirmation, I asked God to speak clearly and persistently enough to help me find my calling. Just out of high school in ’81, driving my sky blue 1969 Toyota Corona to Billings, MT, where I would live at my eldest brother’s house and start college on a tight budget, I gave God permission to always get my attention, even if through hardship, to keep me close to Him. I completed two years of college studies there—calculus, computer programming and some general courses, then took three years away from college. I worked as a food concessionaire on the summer carnival circuit, from Duluth, MN, to Yakima, WA, to Franklinton, LA. I traveled for a year as a tenor in the family-friendly entertainment troop Up With People, seeing much of the States, Canada and western Europe. Then I went back to college, this time at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, as a theology major.      What ever did I hope to do for a living, with a theology degree? I did not imagine myself as an academic type. Perhaps I could be a Director of Religious Education? But for that to pay well, I would need to move to a city of some size. I just was not sure. I followed my heart, taking this next step as enough to know for now. Franciscan U encouraged on-campus students to participate in small-group fellowships in their dorms, students supporting each other in friendly fashion, with at least a weekly meeting each Saturday evening. There we would read the Gospel text for the upcoming Sunday Mass, and share our joys and difficulties. In my final year at Franciscan U, I joined such a group tailored for priesthood-discernment, and we members prayed the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day on all weekdays. I had spent the prior summer in a parish ministry position in suburban Worcester, MA. This convinced me I was not cut out for the life of a diocesan priest. I desired more day-to-day fraternal support in my prayer and living for God. Thus, by the end of my final year at Franciscan U, I had made vocation visits to three religious orders, open to some little nudge saying, “Jump in.”      With a diploma in hand and my future quite unplanned, I bussed home about twenty-four hours’ ride to North Dakota, and just “happened” to get off at Richardton, spending an overnight at Assumption Abbey awaiting my parents coming to get me the next day. [Abbot Lawrence had been a classmate of my dad, way back, when they both boarded in Richardton and were high school freshmen at Assumption Abbey Prep.] I went home to my parents’ farm for some welcome rest, but soon returned to Assumption Abbey for a two week “live-in” visit, and returned again in September as a candidate to join Assumption Abbey.      I am now aged 50, and have been a monk of Assumption Abbey almost half my life. I always consider myself a monk first and priest second. But my monastic community did send me off for four years of seminary studies, and I have been ordained fifteen years now. As a monk-priest, I take my turn as a presider for Mass here in the monastery, and occasionally serve parishes in our region, going out on weekends to substitute for an absent pastor. As to my other work, I am occupied part-time in our business office, am oblate director, and get in a little blue collar maintenance work too. I enjoy the fraternal support of my fellow monks four times each day in church, being together at meal times, and so on. Each of my brother monks has unique talents and a contribution to make, not the least of which is good will and mutual support in our seeking God and serving God’s great plan.      I suppose I should be holier than I am by now. Shouldn’t we all be? I am still growing into my vocation as a monk. Might I have gotten to this point by a shorter route, discovering my calling sooner and pressing on with growing into monastic life? [After all, among my dad’s siblings were a monk and two nuns; two more Benedictine nuns among Dad’s cousins!] But I had to find my own way to this life, in God’s ever-patient and perfect timing. So it is for each of us. May you know the peace of being right where God wants you to be, for your own happiness and His greater glory. Amen.
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Fr. James Kilzer, OSB

Mom was hardly out of high school, and a fresh convert, when she married my Dad, several years her senior. Taking over his parents’ farm place in southwest North Dakota, they raised cattle, chickens, garden, wheat, flax and fourteen kids. I was baptized just down the section-line trail a couple of miles, in a country church on a prairie hill, a church which would close when I was about age seven. After that, church was sixteen miles away, but we went every Sunday without fail. I would start my official education in a one-room schoolhouse, where half of the students were my siblings and cousins. This school closed, and my seventh grade had to be in town school.      Mom sometimes commented that, of her many children, I and two of my sisters seemed especially religious from quite young. When I was a junior in high school, and received the sacrament of Confirmation, I asked God to speak clearly and persistently enough to help me find my calling. Just out of high school in ’81, driving my sky blue 1969 Toyota Corona to Billings, MT, where I would live at my eldest brother’s house and start college on a tight budget, I gave God permission to always get my attention, even if through hardship, to keep me close to Him. I completed two years of college studies there—calculus, computer programming and some general courses, then took three years away from college. I worked as a food concessionaire on the summer carnival circuit, from Duluth, MN, to Yakima, WA, to Franklinton, LA. I traveled for a year as a tenor in the family- friendly entertainment troop Up With People, seeing much of the States, Canada and western Europe. Then I went back to college, this time at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, as a theology major.      What ever did I hope to do for a living, with a theology degree? I did not imagine myself as an academic type. Perhaps I could be a Director of Religious Education? But for that to pay well, I would need to move to a city of some size. I just was not sure. I followed my heart, taking this next step as enough to know for now. Franciscan U encouraged on-campus students to participate in small-group fellowships in their dorms, students supporting each other in friendly fashion, with at least a weekly meeting each Saturday evening. There we would read the Gospel text for the upcoming Sunday Mass, and share our joys and difficulties. In my final year at Franciscan U, I joined such a group tailored for priesthood- discernment, and we members prayed the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day on all weekdays. I had spent the prior summer in a parish ministry position in suburban Worcester, MA. This convinced me I was not cut out for the life of a diocesan priest. I desired more day-to-day fraternal support in my prayer and living for God. Thus, by the end of my final year at Franciscan U, I had made vocation visits to three religious orders, open to some little nudge saying, “Jump in.”      With a diploma in hand and my future quite unplanned, I bussed home about twenty-four hours’ ride to North Dakota, and just “happened” to get off at Richardton, spending an overnight at Assumption Abbey awaiting my parents coming to get me the next day. [Abbot Lawrence had been a classmate of my dad, way back, when they both boarded in Richardton and were high school freshmen at Assumption Abbey Prep.] I went home to my parents’ farm for some welcome rest, but soon returned to Assumption Abbey for a two week “live-in” visit, and returned again in September as a candidate to join Assumption Abbey.      I am now aged 50, and have been a monk of Assumption Abbey almost half my life. I always consider myself a monk first and priest second. But my monastic community did send me off for four years of seminary studies, and I have been ordained fifteen years now. As a monk-priest, I take my turn as a presider for Mass here in the monastery, and occasionally serve parishes in our region, going out on weekends to substitute for an absent pastor. As to my other work, I am occupied part-time in our business office, am oblate director, and get in a little blue collar maintenance work too. I enjoy the fraternal support of my fellow monks four times each day in church, being together at meal times, and so on. Each of my brother monks has unique talents and a contribution to make, not the least of which is good will and mutual support in our seeking God and serving God’s great plan.      I suppose I should be holier than I am by now. Shouldn’t we all be? I am still growing into my vocation as a monk. Might I have gotten to this point by a shorter route, discovering my calling sooner and pressing on with growing into monastic life? [After all, among my dad’s siblings were a monk and two nuns; two more Benedictine nuns among Dad’s cousins!] But I had to find my own way to this life, in God’s ever- patient and perfect timing. So it is for each of us. May you know the peace of being right where God wants you to be, for your own happiness and His greater glory. Amen.
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601