Abbot Justin Brown, left, and former rector and newly-elected Abbot Gregory Boquet.

Saint Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, U.S.A., is celebrating two milestones in its history: the election of former Abbot Justin Brown as abbot president of the Swiss-American Congregation on 25 June and the election of Father Gregory Boquet, former rector of Saint Joseph Seminary College, as the sixth abbot of the monastery on 14 July.

The two abbots attended Saint Joseph Seminary College together in 1976 and became friends. Abbot Gregory made first profession to the monastery in 1983; Abbot Justin first professed in 1984. Similarly, Abbot Gregory was ordained in 1988 and Abbot Justin in 1990.

After the resignation of Abbot Patrick Regan in 2001, Abbot Justin was elected the fifth abbot of Saint Joseph. Almost immediately afterward, he faced his first crisis, a fire in the monastery that necessitated an extensive, year-long renovation of the building. A few years later, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged buildings and leveled many of the trees on the farm, threatening a source of income for the abbey. Then, in 2016, the Abbey suffered a major flood that caused $30 million in damages to all 31 buildings on the property.

Through the grace of God and under Abbot Justin’s leadership, the abbey not only weathered these catastrophes, but began new business initiatives to meet the challenge. Abbey Woodworks, which overcame a lawsuit argued successfully in the United States Supreme Court, gained the right to produce and sell caskets and urns; Abbey Cemetery offers plots and columbariums for perpetual care; Abbey Art Works hosts art retreats and ongoing lessons by renowned artists; and MonkSoap, Abbee Honey, MonkSweets and MonkCandles, artisanal products hand-crafted by monks and volunteers, are sold in the Abbey Gift Shop.

After these 22 challenging and fruitful years, on 31 May, Abbot Justin announced that he would resign his post. A few weeks later, during the General Chapter held at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Illinois, he was elected Abbot President of the Swiss-American Congregation.

Abbot Gregory Boquet served as rector of the seminary college for 25 years. During his tenure there, he oversaw the doubling of enrollment; the renovations of two dorms and an auditorium; the construction of a three-story, state-of-the-art library; the installation and expansion of digital equipment and infrastructure; the renovation of the administration building after a fire; and the restoration of the entire seminary physical plant after the flood of 2016.

In addition, in June, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, reaffirmed the accreditation of Saint Joseph Seminary College to award the baccalaureate degree with no further reporting necessary. This means that the college received a perfect score from the association that legitimizes the programs of degree-granting higher education institutions. It is an extremely difficult goal to achieve.

The record of the accomplishments of these two friends bodes very well not only for Saint Joseph Abbey, but for the Swiss-American Congregation. We pray that God will continue to grant them the wisdom and support they need to flourish equally well in their new roles.