Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
Advertisement
Press Photo by Linda Sailer Assumption Abbey librarian Brother Michael Taffe tries to read a few lines from a 1600’s book of spiritual readings printed in Greek and Latin out of the collection of rare books stored in the Abbey’s library on Feb. 1 in Richardton.

Treasury of theological knowledge: Assumption Abbey library’s collection at more than 80,000, including rare books

Email Sign up for Breaking News Alerts
progress Dickinson,North Dakota 58602 http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/field/image/0216%20abbey%20%28old%20books%205%29JPG.jpg?itok=J0RJxdy8
The Dickinson Press
(701) 225-4205 customer support
Treasury of theological knowledge: Assumption Abbey library’s collection at more than 80,000, including rare books
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

RICHARDTON — Assumption Abbey librarian Brother Michael Taffe reaches for a random book among the rare books stored in the Abbey’s library office.

Advertisement
Advertisement
0 Talk about it

The book is the writings of St. Ephrem, published in both Latin and Greek during the year 1682. He reaches for a second and third book of writings by early church fathers, each dating back to the 1600s and 1700s.

“We obviously have a huge theology collection,” Taffe said. “We have books on the Bible, the Psalms, studies on the Catholic church and other denominations.”

The rare books are among a collection of more than 80,000 the Abbey needed when the it sponsored a preparatory high school and junior college in Richardton.

Today, the library serves as a treasury of knowledge for study and leisure reading by the 25 monks and priests who live there and another 25 who are assigned elsewhere.

Reading has been one of the Rev. Warren Heidgen’s favorite hobbies since he transferred to Richardton from Holy Cross Abbey at Canyon City, Colo.

“Reading keeps me fresh,” he said while relaxing on the steps of the Abbey. “I’m enjoying it here in the sun and I’m addicted to my pipe.”

He appreciates having a library.

“It has more books than I can certainly ever read,” Heidgen said.

Abbot Rev. Brian Wangler first used the library when he attended Assumption Abbey Preparatory School and the Assumption Abbey College. He went on to join the monastery and became a priest in the 1960s.

Today, the library is used for study of monastic life and the monks’ recreational reading, Wangler said.

“We have visitors and guests sometimes, but we don’t really like to advertise,” he said. “We don’t have plans for any other uses.”

Taffe grew up in Graceville, Minn., attended college and started a career as a psychologist.

However, with the death of his grandmother and mother, Taffe questioned the purpose of his life. He enrolled in several retreats before deciding to pursue monastic life. He entered the Assumption Abbey in 2000.

“We are all called here by Christ, to find Christ in other monks,” he said. “Your first job is to discern if God is calling you, but you do other things at the same time.”

Taffe said the monastery is traced to the monks who moved to Richardton from Devils Lake in 1899. They opened Assumption Abbey Preparatory School and ministered to the Catholics of western North Dakota.

The monastery went through bankruptcy in 1924, but later reopened the high school and Assumption Abbey College, a two-year liberal arts school.

The schools flourished into the 1960s when the sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery were invited to move to Richardton to help with teaching. The preparatory school closed in 1968 and the junior college closed in 1971.

Meeting the needs of a diverse population of students, the library collection grew to include sciences, literature, philosophy, history, mathematics, art and music.

Taffe pointed to teachings by fathers of the church, books written by the desert monks of Egypt and Palestine, and writings of the saints.

“I’d say we have one of the best religious sections in the state,” he said.

The literature section includes books written in Spanish, French, German and Russian languages. Several classics are written in Greek with Latin translations on the side.

“My predecessor, Brother Aaron, loved war literature,” Taffe said. “So over the years, we bought a lot of books on the subject,” he said.

Other monks had interests in the Plains Indians, canon law, the Civil War and life of Theodore Roosevelt.

“We have books that are 400 years old,” he said. “From what I understand, we have one hand-written book in the museum. I’d say it’s one of the things that makes us unique.”

He said libraries sometimes cull their collections to make room for more current books.

“We don’t have to do that. We can have much older books,” he said. “It’s our connection to our monastic past. It’s our intellectual past that really grounds us.”

The public does not have access to the library because of security concerns. The monks, however, may browse at their leisure, he said.

If a tour of the library is granted, the double doors open into an era that has stood the test of time. A grand piano and sofas are at the left side to the entrance, while the resource books, globes, readers’ guide and card catalog are at the right.

Thousands of books line the shelves filled to the ceiling throughout three rooms.

As Taffe has time, he is replacing the card catalogue with an electronic database.

“I try to work three or four afternoons a week,” he said. “We’re taking our time. Really, we’re not in a rush.”

Taffe has no interest in expanding the library to include digital books.

He was given a Kindle reader as a gift, which he uses while exercising or traveling. However, a hard-bound copy is preferable to anything digital, he said.

“What happens in a couple hundred of years,” he said. “What happens when things change in 50 years?”

The monastery library has stood the test of time, and Taffe said he is certain it will continue to do so with its ever-growing collection of books.

“I’d say we have one of the best religious sections in the state,” he said.

The literature section includes books written in Spanish, French, German and Russian. Several classics are written in Greek with Latin translations on the side.

“My predecessor, Brother Aaron, loved war literature,” Taffe said. “So over the years, we bought a lot of books on the subject,” he said.

Other monks had interests in the Plains Indians, canon law, the Civil War and the life of Theodore Roosevelt.

“We have books that are 400 years old,” he said. “From what I understand, we have one handwritten book in the museum. I’d say it’s one of the things that makes us unique.”

He said libraries sometimes cull their collections to make room for more current books.

“We don’t have to do that. We can have much older books,” he said. “It’s our connection to our monastic past. It’s our intellectual past that really grounds us.”

The public does not have access to the library because of security concerns. The monks, however, may browse at their leisure, he said.

If a tour of the library is granted, the double doors open into an era that has stood the test of time. A grand piano and sofas are at the left side to the entrance, while the resource books, globes, readers’ guide and card catalog are at the right.

Thousands of books line the shelves filled to the ceiling throughout three rooms.

As Taffe has time, he is replacing the card catalogue with an electronic database.

“I try to work three or four afternoons a week,” he said. “We’re taking our time. Really, we’re not in a rush.”

Taffe has no interest in expanding the library to include digital books.

He was given a Kindle reader as a gift, which he uses while exercising or traveling. However, a hard-bound copy is preferable to anything digital, he said.

“What happens in a couple hundred of years,” he said. “What happens when things change in 50 years?”

The monastery library has stood the test of time, and Taffe said he is certain it will continue to do so with its ever-growing collection of books.

Advertisement
Linda Sailer
(701) 456-1209
Advertisement
Advertisement
randomness