Abbot Neal to retire after 27 years of service
Mary Seiner, Staff Writer
Abbot Neal sent out a campus-wide email on March 2 announcing his intent to retire effective March 31, 2020. After 27 years of dedicated service to Saint Martin’s Abbey and campus community, Abbot Neal says that he will miss collaborating with the university’s board members on projects towards constructing a more sustainable, practical, and welcoming campus. However, he is most excited about enjoying freedom away from his many abbot duties, wherein he can focus on both his family and himself in the years to come.
Abbot Neal’s younger years leading up to his current station were very “full.” The Abbey’s motto of “Ora et Labora” (prayer and work), kept him engaged with those at Saint Martin’s as it transitioned from high school to college, and later to university, especially due to the “Labora” value. There being no shortage of work within Saint Martin’s throughout the years, the Abbey grew gardens and raised chickens, a herd of Holstein cattle, and pigs, during Abbot Neal’s novitiate with Fr. Kilian Malvey.
Abbot Neal later became the abbot’s secretary, then worked at Saint Martin’s college library as a Librarian’s Assistant while attending college courses. It took him six years to earn his bachelor’s degree since he worked full-time while at Saint Martin’s. His duties regularly changed from being a high school faculty member to joining the seminary for priesthood studies, and then to college teaching in both the Education and English departments. He had several abbey appointments, such as guest master, novice master, junior master, sub prior, prior (twice), pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in Lacey for 10 years, and finally, abbot.
In the meantime, he will be setting aside time to visit his family, and is looking forward to the possibilities that will unfold during his retirement. He will be officially out of office when a new superior is either elected or appointed, which will likely be in June. Following that, he plans on staying with his youngest sister and her husband for at least a month in Montana, where he will enjoy nature at its finest. Following his time in Montana, he will take a short break in Oregon, and from there, will travel to Petersburg, Alaska to live in a parish for roughly six months. Upon his return, he will be involved with the university in some capacity.
Myki Dee Kim, a senior Business major, says that she will remember his kindness and personability––he always has the community’s best interests at heart. Kim recalls asking Abbot Neal if he would bless a confirmation gift for her future brother-in-law. “Without fail,” Kim said, “he answered my call, and performed a special blessing in the Abbey church over the rosary. For that, I am grateful to have called him Abbot for my four years here.”
“He’s the type of leader that you can feel comfortable around, and I’m sure that stability and dependability will be sorely missed,” said Sarah Zepeda, a junior English major and one of Saint Martin’s recipients of the Abbot Scholarship. Zepeda is eager to find out what the Abbey will accomplish following a change in leadership, and said, “While I’m sure everything will turn out fine, I do believe Abbot Neal will be missed.”
Abbot Neal imparts a final message to Saint Martin’s campus community in the wake of his retirement: “I am very proud of our faculty, staff, and all who work so hard to provide a quality education for our students. Never forget that you are an important aspect of Saint Martin’s University. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. You are appreciated.”