Monk Dedicates Himself to Everything He Does

Crossing the congregation's foreheads, Bro. August Schaefer along with Abbot Michael Liebl '67 and Abbot Raphael distribute ashes on Feb 14.  Bro. August spends a great deal of time in prayer each day.

Crossing the congregation's foreheads, Bro. August Schaefer along with Abbot Michael Liebl '67 and Abbot Raphael distribute ashes on Feb 14. Bro. August spends a great deal of time in prayer each day.

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Bro. August Schaefer’s communal nature can be traced back to his rural roots. He grew up on the family farm just north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I do have fond memories of the time spent working on the farmnot so much the particular things that I did, but the fact that I was working with my parents and brothers and sister. We were all working together. Everyone contributed to the success of the farm,” he said.

Growing up, Bro. August never intended on becoming a monk, and it wasn’t until college when he began to rethink his life. He started going to mass everyday where he enjoyed praying with the community, and he soon became accustomed to the extra time spent with God.

Dean Paul Hotovy has noticed that commitment to faith. He sees Bro. August reading and journaling often before the monks’ daily mass.

After graduating from Mount Marty College, Bro. August took time for work and travel, and even then he gravitated towards community, a value which eventually lead him to become a monk.

“While I was living in California, I worked for a company who provided American working skills to Chinese-American immigrants…I was in a unique position because I worked with both the Americans and the Chinese,” he said.

His interactions with the Chinese-American immigrants were limited, however, meeting with them only when manufacturing problems arose.

“I realized I didn’t know any of them very well,” Bro. August said.

Wanting to further involve himself in the community, he began sharing more of his time with them, he said, developing deeper relationships and making connections he hadn’t before.

When he returned to the midwest, he reached out to Fr. John Hagemann, Mount Michael’s Director of Vocations at the time, a position Bro. August now holds. Shortly after moving onto campus, he took first vows and began teaching students, dedicating himself to both his work, his studies, and his role as Vocations Director.

“I traveled a little for work in Kansas City, taking a mission trip to Guatemala, but I’ve done much more traveling since I’ve joined the monastery. It’s odd taking a vow of stability yet having the ability to travel to different parts of the country and world for my work as Vocation Director,” he said.

Bro. August even sees his role as Vocations Director as communal because he is responsible for recruiting, supporting, and determining the vocations of those wanting to enter into monastic life.

“The vocations don’t come from me, they come from God. It’s my job is to sift through the vocations. Everyone has a calling, but not everyone is called into brotherhood or priesthood, and not everyone is called to a life at Mount Michael,” he said.

While Bro. August enjoys the role of Vocations Director, he says that teaching Theology has always been particularly rewarding.

“I love teaching people new things. I love it when they finally get something they weren’t getting before, and you can just see it, physically. You can see it in their eyes, and they sit up straighter. It’s that ah-ha moment. I love that,” he said.

Working with seniors on their vocations excites Bro. August. He wants them to be prepared for their lives to come and help them better understand who God is calling them to be.

For Bro. August, teaching is more than just about memorizing facts, it’s about helping students grow in their faith.

In fact, Bro. August’s work with students goes beyond the classroom. He helped Blake Worsham ‘18 convert to Catholicism during his freshman year.

“When I was in the process of being confirmed, we would review a different Saint everyday, and Bro. August would always tell jokes and was always having fun,” Worsham said.

Teaching is not without its challenges, however.

“I like to keep things relevant and new, that’s always a challenge. And the administrative aspect of teaching is tough for me. I try to make homework less of a chore,” he explained.

Another challenge is breaking through the barrier that sometimes separates students and their faith. Bro. August says one of the best ways for students to deepen their faith is to find more time for God.

“Schedule time for God. You’re in a relationship, and that relationship goes nowhere if you don’t ever talk. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, only regular, and stick to those times you schedule,” he said.

Bro. August’s time at Mount Michael is merely a snapshot of his dedication to service and community.

“Bro. August is very dedicated. You know if you ask him to do something, he’s going to get it done and done well. But, you know there’s going to be laughter involved…He brings laughter to everything, that’s just his touch, that’s who he is,” fellow Theology teacher Sr. Carol Jean Vandenhemel said.

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