Students in graduation

Solemn Vows to be Witnessed in Person Only by Newark Benedictines ... and God

The pealing bells of St. Mary’s Church will announce a momentous event for Newark Abbey on Saturday, March 21, at 10:30 a.m. when Brothers Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B. and Simon-Peter Clayton, O.S.B. ’08 profess their Solemn Vows to the Benedictine Community in Newark. The ceremony is closed to the public because of the pandemic, but we will tell their stories to bring you closer to the event and the monks.

On Saturday at 10:30 a.m, the Profession will be live-streamed so you can participate virtually and celebrate with us in this joyous day in the life of the Benedictines of Newark.


When the monks of Newark Abbey finished their dinner Monday, March 16, Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B. rang the bell signaling they needed to meet. There was an urgent matter before them.

Brothers Asiel Rodgriguez, O.S.B. and Simon Peter Clayton, O.S.B. ’08 are scheduled to make their Solemn Vows—their commitment to living and praying in this Benedictine Community for the rest of their lives—on Saturday, March 21.

But even as these two men have been preparing for this most consequential day in their young lives, the world outside the monastery has been turned upside down. The rapid and deadly spread of COVID-19 has brought much of world-wide human activity to a grinding halt.

The Abbot and his confreres had to decide what to do about the already diminished ceremony and celebration. The coronavirus had  put a stop to the celebration after the ceremony. Now, it seemed that St. Mary’s Church should be closed even to the friends and families of Br. Asiel and Br. Simon. They would have to make their vows in an empty church, in the presence of only their brother monks.

The discussion of what to do was long and difficult. Two monks professing Solemn Vows together for the first time since 1991 is a momentous event for Newark Abbey, a blessing to be sure! The older monks were acutely aware of the disappointment and sadness the younger monks would experience as their profession was sealed off from the larger community

It was a difficult discussion and an even more difficult decision.

“We have been preparing for this step emotionally and spiritually for a long time,” Br. Asiel said. “But the support and love shown to us by our brother monks is what gives us strength.”

Finally, the decision was reached—the two will profess their Solemn Vows of stability, fidelity to the monastic way of life and obedience to their Benedictine Community in the personal presence of only that community and God. But the love and support of many hundreds of family and friends all over the world will envelop them—on Saturday and forever.

Learn more about the monastic journeys of Brothers Asiel and Simon-Peter, whose stories were written by student reporters for The Benedict News: John Mollozzi ’21 and Sam Pineda ’21.

Br. Asiel Maria Rodriguez, O.S.B

Br. Simon-Peter Clayton, O.S.B. ’08


--Story by Noreen Connolly ’H11