St. Michael's Abbey (Orange County, California)

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Faith mass.jpg
Daily Mass at the Abbey
Monastery information
OrderOrder of Premontre (O.Praem.)
Mother houseSt. Michael's Abbey, Csorna, Hungary (Founded 1180)[1]
Dedicated toSaint Michael the Archangel and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
DioceseDiocese of Orange in California
Founder(s)Rt. Rev. Ladislaus Parker, O.Praem. (19 Dec 1915 - 3 Jan 2010);[2]
Location27977 Silverado Canyon Road, Silverado, CA, 92676[3]
Coordinates33.6822471618652 / -117.620788574219[3]
Public accessYes[3]

Saint Michael's Abbey is a monastery of Roman Catholic Canons Regular[4] of the Order of Premontre in Silverado, Orange County, California.[5] The members of the community combine a monastic-style life with the active ministry of ordained priests.[6] In January 2021, at the start of the 900th anniversary year of the founding of the Norbertine Order, St. Michael's Abbey moved from its original location on El Toro Road to its new location - 327 acres on Silverado Canyon Road in Silverado, California.


Shield of St. Michael's Abbey
Statue of St. Michael at the Abbey
Canons in the Choir
Liturgical Procession

Upon the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, St. Michael's founding Abbot, Ladislaus Parker, O.Praem. (19 Dec 1915 - 3 Jan 2010),[2] decided "to hold steadfast to all that was good in the old and not to shy away either from that which is new."[1] Confreres wear the traditional white habit of the Premonstratensian Order.[7] The Abbey is well known for its use of Latin Chant,[8] of which four albums have been released.[9]


Confreres of the Abbey serve in five dioceses in Southern California: Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.[7] Priests of the Abbey serve in high schools, parishes, offer retreats and spiritual direction.[7]

Activities of the Abbey also include local parish ministry.[10] An annual summer camp gives local youth a chance to experience the religious life of the monastery.[11]

St. Michael's is an affiliate of the Institute on Religious Life.[7] Roughly half of the nearly 70 members live at the monastery itself with the rest living in dependent houses.[4]


St. Michael's Abbey accepts members who are between the ages of 18 and 29. The initial four years are spent in the monastery, studying the required novitiate courses followed by a three-year cycle in Thomistic philosophy, after which the brothers are sent to study at St Philip's Seminary in Toronto, Canada, under the direction of the fathers of the Toronto Oratory. Upon completion of the three-year course in theology the students are granted the masters in theology degree. During this period or immediately after there is required a one-year apostolic experience usually at the Abbey's Preparatory School. Following solemn profession all are required to have one year in Rome while living at the Norbertine Generalate and pursuing courses in pastoral theology at the Angelicum, the pontifical university under the direction of the Dominican Order. The association between the Abbey and the Angelicum dates back to 1973. At the conclusion of this formation the brothers may then be ordained as deacons and then priests before beginning to serve in the various ministries of the Order.[7]


Hungarian Origins[edit]

The Abbey was founded in 1961 by seven priests[12] from the Norbertine Abbey of St. Michael in Csorna, Hungary,[13] whose roots go back to the 12th century.[4] The founders originally left Hungary to avoid oppression soon after Communist officials nationalized Catholic schools in 1948.[6][12] On the night of July 11, 1950, word came to the abbey in Csorna that the police would arrive the next day to arrest the confreres and suppress the community. That night, seven priests left, in two groups, to hike across country to the Austrian border. Several of the confreres, arriving in New York in 1952, were welcomed by the Abbey of St. Norbert in De Pere, Wisconsin, with whom they worked for several years, saving money to begin their own monastery.[1]

Foundation in California[edit]

At the invitation of Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles, they first moved to Santa Ana, California in 1957 and taught at Mater Dei High School,[12] establishing a monastic community the next year.[4] The founding abbot was the Rt. Rev. Ladislaus Parker, O.Praem.[4] In 1960 the Norbertine Fathers purchased the current site from Jack Cook, the founder of nearby Cook's Corner.[14] St. Michael's opened a junior seminary in 1962, which evolved into the present day St. Michael's Preparatory School. The status of Abbey was conferred on St. Michael's in 1984.[1]

Recent History[edit]

The current abbot is The Rt. Rev. Eugene J. Hayes, O.Praem., J.C.D., S.T.L.[15] He was elected for a life-time term as abbot with a mandatory retirement age of 75 years on June 27, 1995 and received the abbatial blessing on September 15, 1995.

More recently, plans have developed for an expansion project to develop a new site, due in part to geological instability at the current Abbey.[9] In the early part of 2018, the building campaign attained its goal of $120 million. The groundbreaking for the new abbey took place at the site of 327 acres in Silverado Canyon on March 18, 2018.[16] As construction approaches completion the date for the dedication of the new abbey church has been set for May 4, 2021.

Bethlehem Priory[edit]

In 1997 the abbey founded a convent of Norbertine nuns in Tehachapi, California.[17] On January 29, 2011, the sisters community in Tehachapi was incorporated into the worldwide Norbertine Order. In a ceremony at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Fresno, the first nine sisters made their solemn profession as members of the newly established Canonry of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph, in the hands of the Norbertine Abbot General, Most Reverend Thomas Handgratinger. Their total membership is 20 sisters, the majority of whom are still in stages of formation before perpetual vows. In that same ceremony the abbot of St. Michael's Abbey, Abbot Eugene, was named the father abbot of the Sisters' Canonry and as such serves as the sisters' external superior.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d EWTN, 17 Nov. 2009.
  2. ^ a b Obituary, 7 Jan 2010.
  3. ^ a b c MassTimes, 16 Nov. 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e OC Register, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  5. ^ LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  6. ^ a b LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  7. ^ a b c d e Institute on Religious Life, 17 Nov. 2009.
  8. ^ LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  9. ^ a b OC Register, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  10. ^ LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  11. ^ LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  12. ^ a b c LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  13. ^ LA Times, Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  14. ^ BikerWear, 2 Jan 2010.
  15. ^ "COMMUNITY MEMBERS". St. Michael's Abbey. Retrieved June 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "The New Abbey". St. Michael's Abbey. Retrieved June 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ >"A Life of Prayer in the Tehachapis". Los Angeles Times. Either Times Mirror Company or Tribune Company. July 1, 2000. Retrieved June 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°40′49″N 117°37′08″W / 33.680380°N 117.618952°W / 33.680380; -117.618952