New Abbott at Trappist Monastery Fondly Remembers Life in St. Louis

By Jean M. Schildz, St. Louis Review Staff Writer

Abbot Elias Dietz, OCSO, and Father Edward Rice pause for a photo following Abbot Elias' abbatial blessing on June 15. The abbot, a St. Louis native, and Father Rice were classmates at Cardinal Glennon College.

You can still call him Ray, but most people now know him as Elias.

To his fellow monks, the former St. Louisan is Abbot Elias Dietz, OCSO, of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky.

The storied site is about a seven hours' drive southeast of St. Louis. It was home of acclaimed writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton. People of all faiths throughout the country continually flock there to make retreats.

Archdiocesan priest Monsignor Norbert Dietz is the uncle of Abbot Elias. The 48-year-old was installed as Gethsemani's head in June. He had been elected to the office by his fellow Cistercians in April for a six-year term. The abbatial blessing was given by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, June 15.

Attending the event was Father Edward M. Rice, director designate of the archdiocese's Office of Vocations, and former classmate of Abbot Elias.

"All the monks down there said he's the right man for the job today," Father Rice noted in an interview this week. "I think he'll really be faithful to the Trappist spirit," which is one of prayer and abandonment, he said.

The longtime friends attended Cardinal Glennon College together, graduating in 1982. Father Rice said that Raymond C. Dietz, as he was known at that time, was recognized even then for his "sharp intellect" and as being "very prayerful."

"He was always a good example for the other seminarians. It was no surprise when he went into the monastery, because he was so prayerful," Father Rice said.