Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons

Rev. mus. Bernard H. Pennings, O. Praem.

Pennings
Birth: June 9, 1861

Death: March 17, 1955

House: St. Norbert Abbey

Our brother Bernard Pennings was born In Gemert, Holland in 1861.  After attending the gymnasium (gim-NA-zi-um) in Gemert, he entered the Order in 1879 and was solemnly professed in 1884.

In 1889, Bernard was made circator,(sir-CA-tor) professor of philosophy and theology, and master of novices at the abbey.

On November 1, 1893, he left Holland for the United States as founding-superior to the American mission, along with confreres Lambert Broens (BRUNS) and Servatius Heesakkers(HE-sake-ers). They embarked at Rotterdam on the S.S. Veendam and arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on November 13, the Feast of All Saints of the Order.  Father Pennings immediately set forth with his confreres for his first mission in Delwich, on the Belgian Peninsula.

On September 28, 1898, Bernard established the first Norbertine foundation in the United States at the National Shrine of St. Joseph in DePere.  On October tenth of that year, three inquisitive youths formed by Pennings, became the beginnings of St. Norbert College.

A papal brief, dated November 5, 1902, officially separated the United States foundation from Berne Abbey, and Bernard was named the first prior.  St. Norbert Priory was raised to the status of an abbey in 1925, with Bernard being blessed as abbot on May 27th.

Abbot Pennings opened Monona Priory Novitiate in Madison, on the golden anniversary of his vestition, October 26, 1929.  On October 12, 1932, he founded Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware.  And on June 6, 1934, the golden jubilee of his solemn profession, Abbot Pennings, by papal decree, was vested with the cappa magna and founded Southeast Catholic in Philadelphia.  On June 19, 1936, the golden jubilee of his ordination, he was granted the privilege of wearing the purple biretta.

A Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, was granted to him by Marquette University, on May 12, 1937. In September of 1941, he solemnly opened Central Catholic High School in Green Bay.

The “Cross of Officer of the Order of Leopold II” medal was bestowed on Abbot Pennings by Baron Silvercruys, the Belgian Ambassador to the United States, from the Prince Royal of Belgium, in recognition of his many years of service to the Church, on his 90th birthday in 1951.

The feet of this honorable, faithful, dedicated founder-leader ceased shuffling, and this quiet, challenging and affirming voice, ceased speaking Thursday, March 17,  1955, the day the Lord called him home.  No more scotch would pass his lips; no more cigar smoke wreath his head. He was 93.

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