After a year that can only be described as different from all we have yet experienced, a day of great joy, is again coming into view for the monastic community at Newark Abbey, giving us another glimpse into God’s grace and love.
This Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 5 PM, The Most Reverend Manuel A. Cruz, will ordain one of our young monks, Br. Asiel M. Rodriguez to the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Abbey Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
The ordination will be live-streamed at:
This year the complexity of the COVID-19 situation has caused all of us, monks and lay faithful, to look to and intensify our interior lives with the Lord in new ways. This has been no different for Br. Asiel, as he has prepared to be ordained to the priesthood. This past March, Br. Asiel along with his classmate Br. Simon-Peter Clayton made their solemn profession of monastic vows, a liturgical rite which is one of great joy, yet this year it was marked with the disappointment of being closed to most of the loved ones who would ordinarily be present to celebrate this milestone in their monastic lives. The community along with Br. Asiel, persevered in faith during the lockdown in New Jesey and during the intervening months from March until another joyful and light-filled event - Br. Asiel’s Diaconal ordination. Yet the ordination had to be rescheduled a few times, in an effort to avoid endangering anyone. But, on July 11th the Feast of St. Benedict (the patron of western monasticism who has always been and a beacon of light and the Gospel), Br. Asiel was ordained as a deacon. In this ordination he was sent to minister as one who serves the people of God by the proclamation of the Gospel and distribution of alms. In October, the monastery celebrated another light moment – the first profession of Br. Robert as a junior monk, and on the 14th of November, Br. Francis professed his solemn vows. Now, after much planning, and yet again the need to reschedule his ordination (with the announcement of a new 10-day lock-down). Br. Asiel is about to embark upon the culminating moment of a decade of study, prayer, and spiritual preparation.
In Br. Asiel’s journey as a Christian, and in his journey to the service of the Altar, there has always been a need to transcend adversity. This is indeed the call of all Christians. From the time of his childhood in Cuba, Br. Asiel has always faced adversity, whether it has been standing up for his right to believe in and worship God while growing up under a communist regime, or the uncertainty of coming to America at 14 years old, or of leaving his family again to live in another city, or in leaving to study and minister in a foreign country, or simply in the search for stability in his religious vocation.
In the midst of all of the trying experiences of his personal journey, Asiel has had to keep his eyes on the Lord, and place himself in the loving embrace of the Blessed Mother, Mary. He believes that although he may not always see the Lord working, that Jesus is there working and carrying him in his prayer life. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find Br. Asiel sitting in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, or praying the rosary in the early hours of the morning, or pouring over the Gospel, or studying the Psalms. He has found comfort and guidance by being in ongoing conversation and reflection on the ministry of the priest with Abbot Melvin, as he has prepared over the past year for his ordination day. He often finds time for humor with others in the community, and it is not unknown for him to send a morning inspirational message to the men in formation - encouraging them to fall in love with their good works in the monastery, or just to send a humorous meme to make them laugh. And everyone in the monastery has become familiar with his down-right comical facial expressions which his students also know and appreciate.
While 2020 has been a crucible for so many in their faith, yet it is, as with all crucibles, that there is a purging of the less necessary aspects of our lives which get in the way of our being able to be in relationship with Christ and to transmit Christ’s love to others. Spiritual crucibles help to strengthen and perfect what already exists under the surface. We pray that all of us will be drawn out of the crucible we are now in – by the hand of the Lord as renewed and strengthened believers – together as a people with Christ at the center of our lives, whether lay people, religious, or priests.
So now, let us rejoice in the Lord, who is our joy, our life, and our salvation. The upcoming ordination, will be the opportunity to raise up our prayers to the Lord in thanksgiving for the many graces he has afforded us as a community, and we invite you to join us Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 5 PM via livestream for the ordination of Br. Asiel:
For more about Br. Asiel and his journey to the priesthood, see the article by Ron Jandoli, at:
We ask you to pray for Br. Asiel as he continues to offers his life not just for the service of the monastic community but now also for the service of the whole Church in the priesthood, and please continue to pray for the priests of the monastic community, the young monks here who are in formation and studying for the priesthood, as well as for continued vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and the monastic life.