Category: The Printery House Story

Monastic Formation: Making a Monk

This article describes in brief the process of monastic formation that a man goes through to become a monk. This is how it happens at Conception Abbey. Other monasteries may have different procedures or terminology.

First Steps

Those just visiting the community may be termed “prospects” or “candidates.” Either term may be used interchangeably. Vocation guests may be allowed to eat with the monks or to sit with us in our choir stalls at prayer. They may also get opportunities to work with one or more of the monks.

After a period of discernment and communication with the vocation director, a man may decide to ask to test his vocation within the community. After completing an application process and being accepted by the vocations committee, he may come to live with us. At this point we call him a postulant. He has “postulated” himself as a potential member of the community.

Becoming a Novice

If the postulant and the community discern that it is God’s will, he may next proceed to a more formal period of monastic formation or training as a “novice.” According to church law, the “novitiate” or period of being a novice must last at least one year. So if you enter novitiate in August, you could, God willing, profess vows a year and a day later, the following August.

Simple Vows

A new monk first professes vows that will last for three years. During this time, he is a “junior” monk. He receives a new name at profession and is called “Brother.”

Supporting Those in Monastic Formation

Young men in the process of discernment and monastic formation need lots of prayers. Please pray for our novices. Pray, too, that God will send us more good men to seek God in the monastic life. If you know someone making vows, send a card.

Understanding Religious Profession

Two monks making vows at their religious profession

Religious Profession – What is it?

First, I’d like to clarify the meaning of the term “religious profession.” It refers to an event, not a job. The reference is to making or “professing” vows as a way of committing to a religious community. This usually occurs in a formal ceremony. It may also include the giving of a new name. Think of it like marriage. The couple professes vows in a public ceremony. Then their family and friends recognize them as in a way being different people. They will celebrate the anniversary of this event as long as they both live.

The Vows

The most common vows for Catholic religious are chastity, poverty, and obedience. However, as Benedictine monks, our explicit vows are a bit different. We profess obedience to the abbot, stability in the community,
and fidelity to the monastic way of life. The way of life includes chastity and personal poverty by implication (and according to our Constitution).

More Definitions

As further clarification, “religious” is used as a noun to refer to someone who has made the religious vows. “Profession” is used in this context as a noun referring to the event. To be explicit one could say “profession of vows.” In most uses, however, “profession” implies the vows just like “marrying” does.

Profession vs. Ordination

Furthermore, religious profession is not the same as ordination. In fact, we consider them two separate yet compatible vocations. Men as well as women profess religious vows. Men who do this are “brothers.” Professed women are “sisters.” If a male religious is also ordained a priest, the usual form of address is “Father” instead. Priests usually have pastoral and sacramental ministries. Brothers and sisters, on the other hand, are devoted to non-sacramental work and prayer. Both are vital to the life of the Church.

Scripture Sources and Inclusive Language

Why does The Printery House use the NRSV for its Scripture quotations?

Holy BiblePeople sometimes ask us why we use Scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV). This question often comes from Catholics, who are more familiar with the New American Bible. The New American Bible texts are more familiar to most U.S. Catholics because that is the version we hear proclaimed at Mass. However, the NRSV text is also approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for use by Catholics in private (non-liturgical) settings. (See The primary reason we choose to use the NRSV is because both Catholics and Protestants accept it.

Principles of Translation

Here is some information from the preface to the New Revised Standard Version:

Version History:

  • King James Version, 1611
  • American Standard Version, 1901, based on earlier revisions of KJV
  • Revised Standard Version, 1952
  • New Revised Standard Version, 1989

“…the Revised Standard Version gained the distinction of being officially authorized for use by all major Christian churches: Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox.”

The translators of the NRSV include men and women, Protestants and Catholics. The group also includes “an Eastern Orthodox member, and a Jewish member who serves in the Old Testament section.”*

Making Choices

Our goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible. Although we use the Catholic Edition of the NRSV, we generally avoid quoting from books which Protestants do not accept as canonical Scripture. This would include the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, and parts of the books of Esther and Daniel. For a good summary the differences between Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Bibles, see the Christian Bible Reference Site. (

Inclusive Language?

In creating the NRSV translation, the principle followed was “As literal as possible, as free as necessary.”* The translators paraphrased only rarely. They did so mainly for the sake of inclusive language. That is, they often shifted passages using “he” or “him” in reference to human beings into the plural. A good example is Psalm 1:1: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…” (NRSV). In other translations this verse is rendered in the original singular: “Blessed indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked…” (from The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter © 2010, Conception Abbey/The Grail, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive agent. All rights reserved.). The translators of the NRSV used inclusive paraphrases wherever they felt it did not obscure “the historic structure and literary character of the original.”*

God and Pronouns

On the issue of using gender-neutral language when referring to God, we do acknowledge current Catholic Church teaching on the general principle that God has no gender:

“In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 370; see Is 49:14-15; Is 66: 13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4- 19).

However, we also recognize the difficulty of creating an appropriate language for God. Our concern is to remain faithful to our mission and to our Church while reaching as many people as possible. Because of this, we prefer translations which have been approved for Catholic use. These tend to be translations which respect the grammar and style of the original languages. This includes the traditional use of masculine pronouns to refer to God. We choose to quote the Scriptures as given in the NRSV because it is commonly accepted among mainline Christian denominations. We do realize that this will not please everyone. The English language continues to evolve. If a newer, more inclusive translation becomes widely accepted, we may consider adopting it.


For the present, we will continue to use the NRSV. If you would like us to produce a card for you with a Scripture quotation from a different translation of the Bible, we will be happy to do so. You would, however, need to pay our customization fee. We must also be able to obtain permission from the copyright owner to reproduce the copyrighted material for sale. If your request involves custom calligraphy, the fee will be greater.


* Unless otherwise indicated, quotations above are from the preface to the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN.

Br. David is a monk of Conception Abbey and webmaster for The Printery House.

A History of The Printery House

The Printery House began as a print shop serving the in-house printing needs of the Benedictine monastery and its school at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri. At least as early as 1933 the monastery had a hand-fed bed press and in 1936 had a Babcock press. The first record we have of a monk assigned to the work was Fr. Alfred Meyer in 1935, who in the Latin fashion typical of Catholic institutions of the time was assigned as “Typographus” (type setter). Fr. Malachy Riley held this position from 1939 to 1942.

The beginning of Conception Abbey’s publishing apostolate was probably the decision to publish Altar & Home, a modest monthly paper whose goal as part of the larger liturgical movement of the time was to help readers to bring the fruits of the Catholic liturgy into their homes in a practical way. Altar & Home was published from 1934 to 1960 and was largely the endeavor of the clericate. These young monks who were studying to become priests wrote the articles, created the artwork, prepared the mailings and did the bookkeeping.

In 1941 the print shop moved into the basement of a new addition to the carpenter shop at the Abbey. The publishing of a popular liturgical monthly for the home along with the ongoing desire to promote the Liturgical Movement spawned various other liturgy-oriented publications from time to time. A 1954 order form lists these publications: 1 book, 9 booklets, 4 leaflets, Altar Chart and antependia, Holy Week record, Stational Church map, and 3 assortments of stationery.

The Liturgical Movement quite aptly embraced the promotion of good liturgical music and art. This was reflected in Altar & Home Press undertaking to promote liturgical art in Christmas and other greeting cards. Under the leadership of Fr. Daniel Schuster from 1950 to 1956, Altar & Home began to publish liturgical and Christian greeting cards under the name Conception Abbey Press. One of the first artists of Conception Abbey cards was Sister Leonarda Longen of Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD. In 1953 twenty Christmas cards were offered. In the fall of 1954 the offerings included 27 Christmas cards and 40 occasional greeting cards. The publishing of greeting cards was beginning to make a significant impact in determining the future direction of Conception Abbey Press.

In about 1954 the Press set up its offices and shipping department in a former parish hall just north of the Abbey church. The printing equipment remained in the addition to the carpenter shop. In 1957 Fr. Alphonse Sitzmann was appointed general manager. He would remain in that position until 1984.

From December 1960 to May 1963 Altar & Home was changed into a Liturgical Pocket Missal, a kind of missalette combined with a magazine section containing several liturgical articles. This was a joint project with Bernard Benziger and Frank Kacmarcik. The contents, editorial responsibility and some of the artwork were provided by Conception monks and the printing and marketing were the responsibility of Benziger. The format was smaller than the usual missalettes and designed to be put into the pocket and taken home. For whatever reason, the promise of the venture was not realized.

The purchase of a Harris offset press in 1962 initiated large-scale offset printing. As the years rolled by the publishing of liturgical materials declined and the publishing of Christian greeting cards increased until the latter became the major thrust of our offering. By 1964 the number of greeting cards had increased to 211.

The current building occupied by The Printery House was built in 1965. This building allowed the scattered operations of Conception Abbey Press to be consolidated under one roof and provided space for growth.

In 1966, Conception Abbey Press began offering products from the Terra Sancta Guild, the first products in our catalog not produced in-house. Argus posters followed in 1969, and Maria Laach products in 1976. During the same span, we also added equipment to augment our production capabilities, including a hot stamping Heidelberg foil press in 1966 and a 2-color Harris offset press in 1967. In 1968 we produced our first desk calendar.

In 1973 Conception Abbey Press changed its name to The Printery House to avoid confusion with Abbey Press, which was operated by St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. The first marketing material produced with the name “The Printery House” was in 1974. For a time, marketing materials were produced using both names, The Printery House and Conception Abbey Press. 1974 was also the year of our first wall calendar. The first wholesale Christmas catalog produced in 1974 with the name “The Printery House” included this introduction:

We, the Benedictine Monks of Conception Abbey, offer Christmas cards to a very particular sort of person. In choosing our designs and colors and texts, in printing and folding and boxing the cards, in packing and shipping, we keep this person in mind.

The person we have in mind is one who, first of all, realizes that Christmas is a Christian feast, a religious celebration. It is a day that demands a religious, Christian expression.

Next, this person is one who is a contemporary man; someone who wishes to express himself according to his time through an art that is simple, forceful and virile.

In this selection of Christmas cards we present to you designs by some of America’s outstanding religious artists so that you may be able to greet your friends and relatives in the most Christian way possible during this holy and sacred season—the age old message of the Christ Child, the hope of joy and peace, of love and goodness.

In 1981 The Printery House purchased its first computer, a Hewlett-Packard 3000 mainframe which filled a good-sized room. The following year we purchased a small Hamada offset press to handle one-color jobs, especially imprinting. In 1984, Br. Patrick Caveglia was appointed general manager. That year we offered 45 Christmas cards, 487 other greeting cards, and 10 Christmas postcards.

In 1988, the year we published our first Spanish-language Christmas cards, the number of greeting cards offered was 468. June of 1989 saw the arrival of a Solna 4-color sheet-fed offset press. Br. Michael Marcotte was appointed Assistant Art Director in the fall of 1992.

In 1995, The Printery House hired its first non-monk general manager, and also a non-monk marketing director. Br. Michael Marcotte was appointed Director of Pre-Press. That same year, we introduced our toll-free phone number for retail customers. In 1996 we introduced our line of contemporary icons. By 1997, all printing was done on offset presses. In 1998, the HP mainframe was replaced by a PC computer network. The following year, Br. Joseph Cecchetti was appointed Director of Pre-press, and Br. Michael Marcotte was appointed Art Director.

In March of 2000, the first Printery House website became operational, and Br. William Buchholz was appointed as general manager. Summer of 2001 saw the introduction of our first 5” x 7” everyday cards. In 2002 we discontinued the use of film in our Pre-press department, making all printing plates directly from computer. Christmas of 2003 marked the introduction of our first 5.5” x 8” Christmas cards.

In 2004, Fr. Peter Ullrich was appointed Director of the Printery House, and internet sales reached 25% of all orders. In 2007, we launched a separate website for wholesale accounts. That year, the number of cards offered was 543. That same year, we introduced the first icon by a Conception Abbey monk, the Divine Mercy by Fr. Pachomius Meade.

In 2008, The Printery House acquired its first digital press, a Hewlett-Packard Indigo. That same year, we started marketing via email. In June of 2013 Fr. Adam Ryan became general manager of The Printery House. Under his direction, the Printery House modernized and expanded its product line considerably. In 2014 we started offering images on acrylic blocks. In 2016 we sold our aging offset presses and replaced the Indigo with a Xerox digital press which includes a finisher. That same year Fr. Guerric Letter took over as general manager. In 2017 we purchased a Duplo automated cutting machine and a Thermotype foil press.

In 2018 we purchased an inserter which inserts cards into envelopes. Our database now includes well over 100,000 names of current and past customers. We send around 10 catalogs per year to various segments of our mailing list.

The mission of The Printery House is to proclaim the Gospel and share the Christian faith through the creation and distribution of printed products and contemporary religious art.

VIsit our website at to request a catalog or to order our products.

(prepared by Fr. Norbert Schappler, October 1988; updated August 2001 and May 2007. Edited and expanded by Br. David Wilding in April 2018.)