Benedictine Abbot Emeritus Gerald Benkert, the founding abbot of Marmion Abbey in Aurora, Ill., died May 16. He was 102 and is believed to have been the oldest Benedictine abbot in the world.
Abbot Benkert was born in Louisville in 1909 to Constantine and Pauline Benkert and he attended Holy Name School. He came from a family of religious, having had two uncles who were monks at St. Meinrad Archabbey and a great uncle who was abbot of St. Meinrad, Abbot Athanasius Schmitt.
Young Francis Benkert followed in their footsteps and attended seminary at St. Meinrad in 1923. He entered the novitiate there in 1928 and took the name Gerald when he made his first profession of vows in 1929.
Abbot Benkert and two of his fellow novices would later become co-founders of Marmion Abbey. He became the first abbot of Marmion Abbey in 1947, after having served as the rector of the Minor Seminary at St. Meinrad.
He served as abbot for 22 years, overseeing the construction of the present monastery and of the resident campus of Marmion Military Academy.
He resigned at age 60 to become a teacher and spiritual director at the Priory and Seminary of San José in Guatemala. He served there until 2002 when he returned to Marmion Abbey. At age 100 in 2009, he published his book, Memoirs of the Founding Abbot of Marmion Abbey.
The abbot died just before the 78th anniversary of his presbyteral ordination on May 22.
Abbot Benkert is survived by the members of his monastic community and many nieces and nephews.
The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on May 22. Burial was in the Abbey Cemetery.