Filipino Abbey and College Thank Saint John's Abbey
By Father Daniel Durken, OSB, abbey publicist, St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, December, 1999.
The Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat and San Beda College in Manila, Philippines, have recently expressed their "profound gratitude to Saint John's Abbey ...for generously assisting them during the darkest years of their history."
In response to a plea in 1940 to help the struggling Manila monastery and its school to stabilize its operation during a severe economic crisis, the Vatican appointed Abbot Alcuin Deutsch OSB, fifth abbot of Saint John's, the apostolic administrator of that community. Abbot Alcuin sent two monks of Saint Johns, Fathers Boniface Axtman, OSB, and Owen Tekippe OSB, and a monk of St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, Father Alfred Koestner OSB, to Manila to teach in the Benedictine college. Fr. Boniface was appointed the first and only American rector of the school.
Shortly after their arrival the Japanese army occupied the Philippines and the three monks were imprisoned with more than 2000 Americans and Europeans in a concentration camp from May 1942 to February 1945. After the rescue of the prisoners by American paratroopers and Filipino guerillas, the three monks returned to Manila and resumed their work at the college until their return to the United States several years later to take up new assignments for their respective home communities.
A commemorative plaque posthumously honoring "generous and devoted service" of these three Benedictines was given to Abbot Timothy Kelly OSB, abbot of Saint John's, on the occasion of the recent visit of the present rector of San Beda College, Father Bernardo Perez, OSB. The creation and presentation of the plaque is a part of the approaching centennial celebration of San Beda College.
San Beda College was founded in 1901 by Spanish Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Montserrat who had come to the Philippines in 1895 to work as missionaries. The college currently has more than 6,000 students in its five departments, namely, a grade school, a high school, a college of arts and sciences, a law school which ranks as one of the top three law schools of the Philippines, and a graduate school offering the master's degree in liturgy.