Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan

St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan, is not located in the Diocese of Northern Indiana, but the histories of the two are closely intertwined. In 1939, during the episcopate of Bishop Campbell Gray, two Benedictine monks, Dom Paul Severance and Dom Leo Patterson, took up residence at the bishop's invitation in Valparaiso, Indiana. They were given charge of three diocesan missions: St. Andrew's, Valparaiso; St. Stephen's, Hobart; and St. Augustine's, Gary. The bishop believed their coming had been God's response to fourteen years of earnest prayer, since these missions had been difficult to administer due to the severe shortage of priests in the Depression years.

In 1935, Severance, an American Episcopalian, and a group of others went to Nashdom Abbey at Burham, Buckinghamshire, England, for training by Anglican monks in the Benedictine life. Once their training was completed, Severance became a life-professed monk himself and returned to the United States in search of a permanent place for an Anglican-affiliated Benedictine house. He had investigated Rye Beach, New Hampshire, without success. Canon Vivan Peterson of St. James Church, Cleveland, introduced him to Bishop Gray, and Gray was happy to provide the monks with housing in exchange for their taking charge of three missions in the Calumet area. The Anglo-Catholic liturgical life of the diocese made it a perfect fit for a Benedictine house.

Arriving in Valparaiso during Easter week, 1939, the monks rented a house and converted the dining room into a small chapel. They called it St. Gregory's House, and in time, Bishop Gray was invited to be its Episcopal Visitor. Two other monks made their solemn profession there on 29 June 1941, but the later outbreak of World War II forced a cutback in the number of men. By 1942, only two monks, Severance and Don Francis Hilary Bacon, an artist, remained. The three missions were greatly enriched by their service.

In 1946, the abbot of Nashdom House determined that the monks needed to leave parish ministry. "It proved ... too soon to be involved in this kind of work," writes Simon Burley. "The community had not developed any stability or a life of its own and needed first to concentrate on that. In time the bishop [Mallett] saw this and effectively pushed the monks out to get on with developing the Religious life itself."

Severance and Bacon with other monks moved to a rural area near Three Rivers, Michigan, where they purchased an old farmhouse and converted it into St. Gregory's Priory, a space barely large enough for the monks to perform their duties. Bishop Mallett gave them his blessing and remained their Episcopal Visitor. He was there to bless the cornerstone of the first building they erected, a chapel, on 20 October 1950. His successor, Bishop Walter Klein, would bless the cornerstone of a second building in 1967. Severance suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1947 and died in 1949, dealing a severe blow to its early development. During the priory's first thirty years, it remained under the close pastoral care of Nashdom Abbey. Dom Gregory Dix arrived from there in February 1947 to take charge of the priory, raise additional funds for the construction of new buildings, and see to it that Severance received proper nursing care.

In 1969, the priory had grown sufficiently in size and independence to become officially known St. Gregory's Abbey. Accordingly, its prior, Dom Benedict Reid, was installed as its first abbot. Bishop Klein, as Episcopal Visitor, presided at the ceremony and celebrated the Eucharist. Many visitors attended the installation, including Bishop Richard Emrich of Michigan. Reid, who had a colorful career as an author, speaker, and pastoral mentor, resigned in 1989 and was succeeded by Abbot Andrew Marr, the present abbot.

Over the years many bishops, congregations, and other church members from Northern Indiana have made retreats at St. Gregory's, and in turn, Abbot Reid and Abbot Marr have visited the diocese to preach and conduct workshops.


Simon Burley, A Tactful God: Gregory Dix, Priest, Monk, Scholar (England: Gracewing, 1995).


This page references: