Peace be with you! It is my joy as abbot to welcome you to St. Bernard Abbey's website.
Here, I hope you are able to discover a glimpse of the great legacy that is ours as monks of St. Bernard — a legacy that finds its origins in the mountains of central Italy where the story of Benedictine monasticism began some 1,400 years before the founders of this monastery first came to Alabama. Over the centuries, countless monks, consecrating themselves to seeking God through lives of prayer and work, have collectively given us the gift we cherish and live each day at St. Bernard.
This is a sacred place, where people come to direct themselves toward seeking and glorifying God in all things. Whether in the classroom, at the altar, or in the field, the monks of St. Bernard Abbey have prayed and worked in North Alabama for over 125 years.
It's our great pleasure to share our way of life with you!
Peace in Christ,
The Right Reverend Marcus J. Voss, O.S.B.
Tenth Abbot of St. Bernard Abbey
St. Bernard Abbey is a community of Benedictine monks, who, through lives of prayer and work, strive to seek God and glorify him in all things.
In the 1840s monks from Metten Abbey in Germany, a monastery founded c. 700 A.D., came to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life in the United States and to minister to the growing German-speaking immigrant population. St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, became the first foundation of the German monks, and in the 1870s monks from St. Vincent were sent to Alabama to serve the needs of German Catholics here. In 1891 those monks gathered to establish St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. One year later, a school was opened at the new abbey.
At overlapping intervals from 1892 to 1979 the monks operated a high school, junior college, four-year college, and seminary. The present St. Bernard Preparatory School, opened in 1984, is the recipient of this Catholic educational heritage.
In 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto, a religious devotional creation of Brother Joseph Zoetle, O.S.B., was dedicated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the abbey grounds. This garden walk-through of Brother Joseph’s miniature replicas of famous Old Testament and Christian buildings has welcomed visitors every day since. Most famous among the miniatures are the buildings of ancient Jerusalem, thus the creation’s popular name “Little Jerusalem."
In 1981 the monks opened the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center. This center welcomes religious retreat and pilgrim groups as well as abbey guests, school groups, and others.
Realizing one’s vocation in life, and responding to it, is a very important matter. For many of us, this has meant laying aside our own plans in order to embrace a far greater plan. In discerning the Lord's will for your life, we encourage you to spend time with Him in prayer; take upon your lips the words of the prophet Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10). Also, hear what the Lord may choose to communicate to you through others, especially those who know you best and those who know religious and priestly life well. If you find yourself with some interest in religious life, it may be the Lord leading you and calling out to you, even if His voice is subtle.
Over the last decade, St. Bernard has experienced an increase of vocations that makes it unique among most American Benedictine monasteries. Each year, young men are coming here to seek Christ in community with us, through lives of prayer and work. Perhaps you are discerning if the Lord may be calling you to religious life too. To learn more about a vocation to monastic life at St. Bernard or to get in touch with our Vocation Director, click the links below.