Rt. Rev. Gabriel Verkamp
Ferdinand Distinguished Citizens
RT REV GABRIEL VERKAMP
Rt Rev Gabriel Verkamp OSB, Ferdinand Historical Society's 9th Distinguished Citizen placed in Kundek Corner at Ferdinand Library in 2006. He also is listed as "A Pillar in St. Meinrad, Indiana Archabbey History."
Robert Henry Verkamp was born May 18, 1900 in Ferdinand to Bernard and Theresa (Auffart) Verkamp. He was the oldest of a family of 5 children. He received his primary and secondary education in schools in Ferdinand and Huntingburg area. He went to St. Meinrad Seminary in 1919, received the name of Father Gabriel Verkamp on entrance to the Monastery in 1922 and professed temporary vows in 1923. In 1924, he began studies at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome, Italy. For 8 years he pursued philosophical and theological studies in Rome, being granted separate doctorates in Philosophy and Theology during these years of study. He professed his solemn vows in 1923 at Maria Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland, the Mother Abbey of St. Meinrad and was ordained in 1929 at Monte Cassino Abbey in Italy.
The summers of 1925 to 1932 which he spent at Einsiedeln were passed in preparing his thesis in Philosophy and Theology or in transcribing the early letters from monks of Einsiedeln sent in 1853 to found St. Meinrad. He diligently typed out these early letters, written in old German script, so that St. Meinrad might have a clear record of the difficulties encountered by the monks of Einsiedeln in establishing this abbey in the New World.
These replaced copies of the letters that were destroyed in the fire in 1887. He thus began rebuilding the Archabbey's Archives. He established solid friendships among the monks of Einsiedeln and brought back to St. Meinrad a great love and respect for the Abbey of Maria Einsiedeln.
In 1932 he began teaching in St. Meinrad's Seminary schools. In 1933-35 in additions to his teaching, he was pastor of the small parish of St. John Chrysostom in New Boston, Indiana. In 1937 he was appointed vice-rector of the Major Seminary while continuing to teach. In 1942 Abbot Ignatius appointed Fr. Gabriel as pastor of St. Meinrad Parish. In 1943 he was appointed Pastor of St. Benedict's Parish in Evansville, Indiana - a 20 year appointment.
Even as pastor at St. Benedict's he continued on a weekly basis teaching at St. Meinrad. When in 1963 he was recalled to St. Meinrad the people of the parish felt deeply their loss of a selfless pastor and a fine administrator.
Made Prior in 1963, Fr. Gabriel put his finely tuned pastoral skills and his prudence at the service of Archabbot Bonaventure and the monks.
On June 3, 1966 he was elected by his conferees as 6th abbot, 3rd Archabbot of St. Meinrad and he was blessed on August 24th. He began his then 13 years of service in the office of Abbot. He always took very seriously the scripture advice quoted by St. Benedict. "Do everything with counsel and you will not be sorry afterwards." He was considered a kind and loving "Father" who guided the community through the difficult changes of the post Vatican II era.
During his years as abbot, Archabbot Gabriel saw to the independence of St. Charles Priory (now "Prince of Peace Abbey" at that time a Dependent Priory in California). He took continuing interest in San Bento Priory (Peru) South America and in its early years, was an active member of the Conference of Major Superiors of men. He was for some years a member of the Council of Swiss-American Congregation and aided monasteries of St. Meinrad's congregation by being a visitor.
He oversaw the 1968 stage of the renovation in the Archabbey Church and St. Benet Hall in 1969.
In 1978 Archabbot Gabriel resigned. He noted in a letter to the monks: I call attention to the word resign -- I believe that we should serve the Lord, according to our capacity, as long as He allows us. Since I have been blessed with good health, I hope to continue to serve the community and the Church in whatever capacity the new Abbot may determine." He was appointed one of associate Pastors of his beloved St. Benedict's on July 5, 1978. In 1981 his poor eyesight and declining health brought him back to the Archabbey where he died on February 4, 1989.