The Monastery of the Ascension is a community of about a dozen Benedictine monks which has been in Southern Idaho since 1965. We live a life of prayer, work and reading accordng to the Rule of St. Benedict and try to serve the Catholic Church and the people of southern Idaho through various ministries which include parochial work, retreats, teaching and scholarship, ecumenical activities, counseling and spiritual direction, and social service.
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The Benedictines

St. Benedict lived in central Italy around 480-537. He studied for a while in Rome, but found the student life there unappealing and left to live as a hermit, aided by a monk named Romanus who supplied him with food. He was invited to be abbot of a monastery, but the monks tried to kill him with poisoned wine, and he had to leave another monastery when a jealous local priest sent him poisoned bread, which was disposed of by a friendly crow. Throughout these years he grew in holiness and discretion. He established a monastery at Monte Cassino. He wrote a Rule for Monks which Pope Gregory the Great, his biography, described as lucid and discerning. His Rule drew on earlier rules, particular one called the Rule of the Master, which was much longer than the Rule Benedict that wrote. The Rule of St. Benedict spread slowly; for several centuries it was often used in conjunction with other rules. The Carolingian Rulers (ca. 800) encouraged the use of Benedict’s Rule by monasteries in their territories. For the next 300 years it was the monastic Rule. During these centuries Benedictine monasteries were pre-eminent centers of culture, theology and evangelization. Sts. Bede, Boniface, Anselm, and Hildegard are outstanding representatives of the vitality of Benedictines at this time.

New religious orders spread rapidly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They had centralized organizational structures and were usually founded for very specific purposes. Benedictine monasteries were independent and the order had no special mission other than to be a welcoming, prayerful Christian community. In the 14th century monasteries were organized into regional congregations, as they still are today.

Monasteries shared in the currents of renewal and reform in the Church during the fifteenth century. Although perhaps half the monasteries in Europe were closed at the Reformation, Benedictine monasticism continued to thrive in Catholic countries. Monasteries in German lands were centers of Baroque culture, and in France monks of the Maurist Congregation pioneered the techniques of modern historical scholarship.

At the French Revolution and during the decade after it, most monasteries in Europe were closed. Only some in Austria and the Catholic parts of Switzerland survived. From that remnant the order again flourished during the 19th century. The monastery of Engelberg in Switzerland founded Mount Angel Abbey in 1882, and monks from there founded the monastery of the Ascension in 1965.

Almost all religious order have experienced declining numbers since 1965. The Monastery of the Ascension has actually grown during this period, but currently the community is aging, though there seems to be more interest in monastic life now, and we welcomed a new member in 2016. After 1500 years Benedictines have become good at surviving change.

Our Monastic Community

The phone and fax number for the monastery is 208-324-2377. When callers reach that number they are asked for an extension number. Here are some key phone numbers, including all the monks:

  • Fr. Ezekiel Lotz, OSB 251
  • Prior Boniface 207
  • Fr. Hugh 202 (cell: 208-761-9389)
  • Fr. Kenneth 205
  • Fr. Andrew 206
  • Br. Tobiah 208
  • Fr. Norbert 210
  • Br. Sylvester 213
  • Br. Selby 215
  • Fr. Meinrad 203
  • John Wasko 219
  • Fr. John Koelsch 264
  • Br. John Ugolik 204
  • Kitchen (LuAnn Stites-Kraft) 212
  • Business Office 256
  • Fr. Ezekiel Lotz

    Fr. Ezekiel Lotz arrived at Ascension Monastery during the summer of 2011 on assignment from its founding house of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. He transferred his stability to Ascension and became a permanent member of the Idaho community in September of 2013. He assists regularly in the kitchen as a cook, is a cantor and organist for the daily community liturgies, and helps oversee the care of the elderly and infirm confreres in the community. He has served as a retreat master and speaker at the monastery ministry center as well as in parishes in the southern deanery and for the Bishop’s staff and diocesan clergy in Boise. In 2005 Fr. Ezekiel was awarded a D. Phil. degree from the University of Oxford with a specialization in the history of late medieval monasticism, contemplative life and paraliturgical practices shared between Carthusian monks and the laity of Burgundy and Flanders.

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    Fr. Kenneth Hein, OSB

    Just before Thanksgiving, 2003, the monastic community welcomed Fr. Kenneth Hein into their midst. Fr. Kenneth came to the Monastery of the Ascension in November, 2003, from Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City, Colorado, which is closing because of lack of personnel and vocations. He is a native of the Intermountain West and wished to be part of a Benedictine Community in this region.
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    Fr. Boniface Lautz, OSB

    Prior to 1987 I lived most of my life in western Oregon. I joined the monastic community at Mt. Angel in 1954 and after ordination in 1960 pursued additional studies in theology at the University of Ottawa, Canada.
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    Fr. Hugh Feiss, OSB

    I was born in Lakeview, OR, and lived in Baker and Grant counties before moving to Eugene, where I attended grade school. I entered Mt. Angel Abbey in 1960 and was ordained to priestly service in 1966. I did most of my subsequent graduate work in philosophy and theology at The Catholic University of America and Sant' Anselmo in Rome. I taught humanities, philosophy and theology for 30 years at Mt. Angel Seminary, and directed the abbey library at Mt. Angel for 10 years, before coming to Ascension Priory in 1996. Here the time not devoted to liturgy and other community activities, I spend teaching, writing and doing pastoral work, which along with my friends are my great loves in this world. During the school year I am chaplain at St. John's Catholic Student Center at Idaho State University in Pocatello, ID. I coordinate the monastery's oblate program and the Road Scholar Programs offered in the monastery's retreat house/ministry center. My academic interests center on medieval religious thought and practice, monastic history, and theology about Christ and creation. I am very interested in ornithology and natural history generally.
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    Fr. Andrew Baumgartner, OSB

    I entered the monastery at Mt. Angel in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1960. Meeting and working with people from different backgrounds and professions have enriched my life. I have many interests ranging from music and mathematics to sports and wilderness experience.
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    Fr. Meinrad Schallberger, OSB

    Fr. Meinrad was born April 3, 1937, in Mt. Angel, OR. His father, an immigrant from Switzerland, had gone first to St. Gertrude's in Cottonwood, but then went to Mount Angel Abbey where he worked at their printing press. Fr. Meinard was professed a monk at that abbey on September 8, 1958, and ordained a priest on May 7, 1964.
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    Br. Tobiah Urrutia, OSB

    I was born in 1941, and monastic life is a second vocation for me. I entered the monastery after many years in secular life. I have been married and have one son. I thought as a teenager I might have a vocation, but never really went for it. I work in the business office and on the grounds.
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    Father Norbert Novak, OSB

    I am currently guestmaster at the Monastery of the Ascension. I came here in 1997. I had joined Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1964. I studied theology at Mt. Angel Seminary, in Rome at Sant' Anselmo during the Second Vatican Council, and at St. Paul's in Ottawa, Canada.
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    Br. Sylvester Sonnen, OSB

    Br. Sylvester was born in Greencreek, ID, on March 13,1945. He is one of 8 children. He became a monk in 1966, and is the only member of the Monastery of the Ascension to have been connected with it from its beginnings.
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    Br. Selby Coffman, O.S.B.

    I came to monastic living recently and in mid-life. I made my final monatsic vows in 2004. I grew up in North Carolina and Kentucky, then graduated from Oberlin College, OH, in 1973. I coordinate Centering Prayer retreats at the monastery.
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    Monks in Formation

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    John Ugolik

    John was born in rural Poland in 1954. His mother brought the family to the United States in 1964. They moved to a Polish neighborhood in Chicago, and John entered the fifth grade at a parochial school taught by bilingual Polish nuns. To learn English, he became an avid reader. He was an altar boy and went on to graduate second in a class of 140 at Holy Trinity High School. He then attended De Paul University and for a while studied X-ray technology there.

    John then worked to support his family while attending Northeastern Illinois University, where he studied computer science. When he graduated he worked in mainframe computer technology. When his skills in mainframe computers were becoming obsolete, he took some theology courses and became a secular Franciscan. He returned to Northeastern Illinois University and became certified as a mathematics teacher. He taught at inner city schools in Las Vegas and Chicago, but found the work unsatisfying.

    He then spent two years as a volunteer at Holy Trinity Trappist Abbey in Utah prior to coming to the Monastery of the Ascension. He likes reading, music, woodworking and gardening, and learning new things. He made profession on July 10, 2016.

    Permanant Volenteers

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    John Wasko

    John was born in California in 1970. His family moved to Filer, ID, in 1974. After graduating from Filer High School he studied electronics in Phoenix and Boise for two years. He worked in grocery stores in Ketchum and Twin Falls. After a collision with a semi-truck in 2000, he recuperated for a year and then studied computer software and repair at the College of Southern Idaho, but his back required several fusions and he couldn't work anymore. He spent the next decade helping his parents and his elderly uncle, and being very involved at Immaculate Conception Parish in Buhl, ID, where he did maintenance, served as Eucharistic minister to the sick and was a photographer for parish events. In recent years he has spent more time volunteering at the monastery. His interests include computers, maintenance, and photography.

    Deceased Community Members

    [IMAGE] Fr. Simeon Van de Voord, O.S.B.

    Fr. Simeon was born July 27, 1927, and named Wilber Paul. He served in the army for two years after high school and then attended De Paul University where he obtained a degree in business. He entered Mt. Angel Seminary in 1953, graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1956, and entered Mount Angel Abbey where he was received the name Simeon. He was ordained a priest in 1961. He earned a MA in speech from the University of Washington in 1966. Fr. Simeon taught in the schools operated by Mount Angel Abbey from 1961 to 1967 and 1972 to 1980. He was appointed prior of the Monastery of the Ascension from 1967 to 1972, and from 1980 to 1987. Thereafter he served in several parishes in the diocese of Boise, and was serving at chaplain at St. Paul's Catholic Student Center at the time of his death on January 9, 2007.

    [IMAGE] Br. Jose Echanove, O.S.B.

    Br. Jose Francisco Echanove died unexpectedly on July 12, 2013. He was born on December 22, 1946, in the Basque Country of Spain. After completing high school in his home town and compulsory military service, he worked in a restaurant near his home and on the family farm. In 1974 he came to America to cook for a sheepherding crew in Hagerman, ID for three years. Then he worked for nine years for the Tupperware factory in Jerome. He was professed as a monk of the monastery in 1990. He became an American citizen in 2002.

    Br. Jose was a man of many talents. He worked most of his monastic life in the monastery kitchen. He sewed and knitted. Fluent in Spanish and Basque, Br. Jose volunteered for many years at he local Catholic Churches, advising people of immigration issues. He was outgoing and friendly and maintained close ties with his family in Spain.

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    Fr. Eugene Esch, OSB

    Fr. Eugene was born in 1928. He grew up in Mt. Angel, OR, and entered Mount Angel Abbey in 1949. After completing his studies for the priesthood, he was ordained in 1954. He studied and taught mathematics before coming to the Monastery of the Ascension in 1971. He was part of the move of the monastery from Twin Falls to the current location. After that he served as chaplain to the sisters in Mesa, ID, and as parish priest in Glenns Ferry, ID. He was a dedicated gardener. Fr. Eugene passed away March 2nd, 2017.

    The Monastery Of The Ascension
    541 East-100 South
    Jerome, ID 83338
    208-324-2377

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