WILMINGTON — The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, more commonly known as the Norbertine Fathers, are celebrating their 900th anniversary in 2021, and that included a Mass at a church where one of their members serves.
The members of the Immaculate Conception Priory in Middletown joined at St. Peter Cathedral on June 7 for an afternoon Mass attended by a few dozen people. Father Christopher M. Markellos, O.Praem., is a parochial vicar at the cathedral.
Father James B. Herring, O.Praem., the prior of the Middletown community, said the primary purpose of the community was “to come together to live in unity, in our houses, and to be of one mind and one heart on the way to God.” That is the first statement of the rule of St. Augustine, and it was chosen by St. Norbert 900 years ago to guide his community’s way of life.
The Norbertine order started with 30 priests, but now includes more than 1,300 men and women who are priests, nuns, brothers, deacons and novices in abbeys, priories and convents. In the United States, there are five independent canonries of men, including the one in Middletown. Another is in Daylesford, Pa., in Chester County.
“That this order of women and men continues in the religious life and in the tradition established by St. Norbert and his early followers is a testament to his faith in Jesus Christ, and a testament to so many before me, living that faith by word and example,” Father Herring said.
According to the website of St. Norbert Abbey, the order was founded “as a means to reform the clergy, bring the monastic life (according to the Rule of St. Augustine) to clerics.” Abbeys can be found on five continents with members living lives of both action and contemplation.
The world comes to know Jesus through the words and works of all of us, he continued. St. Paul exhorts us not to conform to the present age, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds “that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good, pleasing and perfect.”
St. Norbert was a charismatic preacher. The Norbertines have influenced countless faithful throughout the world, he said, by their work locally.
He read a letter from Pope Francis to the Norbertines’ abbot general. The pontiff said the abbeys have been influential in caring for the poor and maintaining contacts with people from all social classes. This helps keep his inspiration alive.
“Your founder lived in many and different environments, but in every circumstance he let himself be guided by the Gospel,” the pope wrote, according to Father Herring.
The Holy Father imparted a special apostolic blessing to all members of the Norbertines and those affiliated with the order.