By Danny Whirlow
In the wake of his retirement from the position of archabbot, Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., does not see himself as retired from being a monk. He keenly notes that Saint Benedict never mentions retirement in the Rule, but instead the older monks must continue to be good role models for the younger ones. “At Saint Vincent a monk is expected to work until he drops dead. I expect to do just that and so, I would appreciate a prayer once in a while,” he said.
Nowicki formally retired as archabbot on May 8, 2020 at the age of 75, the age when all abbots are required by Benedictine American-Cassinese Congregation to submit a resignation. Then it was up to the monastery to decide his successor. The election was supposed to be held on May 8, but it was delayed to June 22 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, over 160 monks from around the world were still able to take part in the process, elevating Fr. Martin Bartel, O.S.B., to lead the monastery.
Reflecting on the discernment process, Fr. Brian Boosel, O.S.B., described it as “a profoundly holy moment as well as a time of great joy and excitement.” And while he expressed excitement about the future with a new abbot, he noted that in May the monastic community held a special dinner to honor the contributions of Nowicki.
Elected in January of 1991, Nowicki made significant contributions to the greater Saint Vincent community, especially in the area of athletics. Over those thirty years, his fundraising brought about the building of the Resnick Pool and renovations of the Carey Center’s sports facilities, among other projects. Varsity sports proliferated under such efforts, with the most recent addition being the Women’s Bowling team.
Despite all this success on and off the field, Nowicki does not see himself as much of a fundraiser. “I've frequently asked alumni and friends who believe in the values and mission of Saint Vincent College to help students who need some financial support to attend college,” Nowicki said. “Every young person is entitled to a good education. Saint Vincent College provides that opportunity.”
Br. Cassian Edwards, O.S.B, though only a monk for five years, commended Nowicki for his leadership as archabbot. “[He] did great work in helping Saint Vincent to be a well-grounded and stable institution for those who come here to study and learn, as well as a haven of peace and prayer for those who come here for spiritual rest,” Edwards said. And yet Nowicki works as if his greatest contributions are still on the horizon. Now, he assists the Fred Rogers Scholars at the Rogers Center to “help children grow as confident, competent and caring human beings.”
Speaking more broadly, Nowicki hopes that Saint Vincent and its community will continue to uphold the mission of Christ by acknowledging responsibility for one another in striving for successful and meaningful lives. He encourages students to continue wearing their masks and practice social distancing, while also exercising “common sense—study, exercise, diet, sleep and pray.”