Editor’s note: the following is the first of a two-part story which was recently published in The Catholic Missourian.
by Jay Nies, editor
If Benedictine Father Pachomius Meade ever wondered what it would be like to be a dad, he’s about to step into a similar role.
The Palmyra native and former associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia is the newly-appointed vice rector and dean of students at Conception Seminary College in northwestern Missouri.
“I have the dual role of being an administrator and a spiritual father to these men who come here to discern a priestly calling,” he stated.
“Like a father, there is a caring aspect, where you meet with them and try to form them and model what it means to be a priest, a man of integrity, a man of virtue, a man of holiness,” he said.
Fr. Pachomius is one of three monks under age 40 who are stepping into leadership positions at Conception Seminary College, a ministry of Conception Abbey in northwestern Missouri.
As dean of students, he will help seminarians recognize and work to overcome any obstacles to priestly discernment, be they spiritual, academic, emotional or practical.
As vice rector, he will stand in for the rector whenever necessary and will handle many day-to-day operations at the seminary.
He will live in community with seminarians who are discerning and preparing to move on to the next phase of their formation.
“I want to see these men succeed as Catholic men and certainly as priests if that is what God is calling them to,” he stated.
Toward that end, Fr. Pachomius must serve as a gatekeeper for the Church.
Holding the men accountable and giving objective feedback can be difficult, “because you’d like to just be a teddy bear,” he said. “But sometimes you have to just be a bear.”
They key is to maintain “a kind of firm integrity.”
“This is the way it has to be for the good of God’s people and for the good of their souls,” he said.
Show and tell
As chaplain to the seniors, Fr. Pachomius will spend much of his time with the fourth-year seminarians at Conception.
He will meet separately with them every two weeks to discuss their progress.
He will live on their floor of the residence hall and will share meals and fellowship with them.
“Interacting with the men, you can see how they interact with their peers,” he said. “That is indispensable to the job.”
He will also serve as a mentor.
“How I live is as important as what I observe in how they are living,” he said. “What in my modeling and Priesthood and my Christian manhood is a worthy example for them? I need to be able to offer that to them.”
He believes that if Conception Seminary College does its job well, a man who graduates from there is “comfortable in his own skin, knows who he is, knows how to interact with people — men, women, children and families — and interacts with them freely.”
A Conception graduate must also be a man of prayer, immediately recognizable by his bearing and how he spends his time, “but without giving pious platitudes every five seconds.”
“He is a man who genuinely cares about other people and cares about their ultimate destiny, which is salvation,” the priestly monk continued.
“He is as at-home with his own peers and friends as he would be with ordinary people,” he said. “And he cares enough about people and about their salvation that other things will be secondary to that.”
“We want him to be a man who could be readily identified as good and competent — whether as a priest or a husband and father or in charge of a business,” he said.
Prayer and work
Benedictines are monks or nuns who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, combining a life of community, contemplation and apostolic service.
Fr. Pachomius, baptized as Matthew Meade, entered Benedictine monastic life at Conception in 2001, professed final vows in 2005 and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2009.
He discovered the Benedictines while considering whether he was being called to Priesthood for the Jefferson City diocese.
He asked for the religious name Pachomius, in honor of the fourth-century Christian monk who drew men and women together into monastic communities bound by a codified rule for living.
He has studied the ancient art of Christian iconography and has painted many icons in that centuries-old style.
Several of his icons now adorn the Conception Abbey.
He painted an iconic tryptic for the sanctuary of St. Joseph Church in Palmyra, where he grew up going to Mass with his family and serving at the altar.
“Genuine and good”
Years ago, one of Fr. Pachomius’s friends spoke to Cardinal John Foley, now deceased, who was head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.
Cardinal Foley said he was pleased to get the first version of the Vatican’s website up and running.
Fr. Pachomius’s friend replied, “Are you kidding? It’s a disaster!”
“I know,” Cardinal Foley acknowledged. “But it’s up and running, and it’s genuine and it’s good. And sometimes, that’s enough to give us a start.”
Fr. Pachomius believes that’s a great analogy for forming college seminarians into Catholic adults and good candidates for Priesthood.
“We’re starting with what is genuine and good,” he stated, “and the Lord perfects what we’re setting out to accomplish.”