The name “St. Meinrad” is familiar to southern Indiana residents, whether referring to the unincorporated Spencer County town, its Catholic Parish or one of only two archabbeys in the United States (there are 11 worldwide), which just happens to be named Saint Meinrad.
All three were named in honor of their patron saint.
St. Meinrad Parish plans to celebrate Saint Meinrad (the man, the saint, the hermit) on his feast day (Sunday, January 19) with an 8:30 a.m. (CST) Mass, followed by a parish social and complimentary breakfast in the St. Meinrad Community Center.
The feast day celebration will include a media display of local, regional and international service and outreach initiatives by Historic St. Boniface Catholic Church and St. Meinrad Catholic Church in Spencer County, and activities and door prizes sponsored by the parish Heritage, Fundraising and Marketing Commission.
Fr. Anthony Vinson, OSB, pastor, will give the feast-day homily on the life of St. Meinrad, a hermit and martyr, and the gift of radical hospitality.
But here’s a little taste for those who may not be able to attend.
Meinrad was born in 797 into the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern. Educated at the Benedictine abbey school of Reichenau, an island in Lake Constance, there he became a monk and was ordained.
Around 829 he established a hermitage on the slopes of Etzel Pass, taking very little with him except for a statue of the Virgin Mary which he had been given by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich. In 835 he retreated still further — to a hermitage in the forest — the site of what is today Einsiedeln, Switzerland.
Meinrad was often presented with gifts that he gave to the poor and was known for his extraordinary charity and hospitality (probably why Saint Meinrad is known as the Martyr of Hospitality).
He was killed in 861 by two robbers who wanted the treasures pilgrims had left at the shrine.
Over the next 80 years, the hermitage was occupied by a succession of hermits. One of them, Eberhard, had been Provost of Strasburg. He erected Einsiedeln Abbey on the site and became its first abbot. Meinrad had originally been buried at Reichenau, but his relics were returned to Einsiedel in 1029.
So how did a Swiss monk become the patron saint of a southern Indiana village?
Saint Meinrad Abbey (now archabbey) was founded by monks from Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland on March 21, 1854. Seven years later St. Meinrad Parish (in St. Meinrad, Indiana) was founded on January 21, 1861, the 1,000th anniversary of Meinrad’s death. Eight days after the parish founding, a new German Catholic settlement was established as the town of St. Meinrad.
Now back to the celebration.
The public is welcome to the event on January 19. Groups of six or more are asked to RSVP by Wednesday, January 15. To RSVP or for more information, call the parish office at (812) 357-5533 or visit www.smcatholic.church/contact-us.