Brother Paul Wessinger

In keeping with monastic tradition, our community reads aloud each departed Brother’s obituary on the anniversary of his death, during Compline. In the words of our Rule, “In Christ we are still one with our departed brothers and we express this communion through regular prayer for them and by recalling their lives on the anniversaries of their deaths. We believe that they pray for us and that we will be reunited when Christ gathers all creation to himself, so that God may be all in all.” (Ch. 48). Below is Br. Paul’s obituary.

Brother Paul Wessinger, a member and former Superior of our American Congregation, died on 22 May 2009 at Somerville in the ninety-fifth year of his life and the sixty-fifth year of his religious profession and the day before the sixty-ninth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Born in 1915, Brother Paul came from a prominent Oregon family. A graduate of Harvard College and The General Theological Seminary he was ordained deacon in 1939 and priest the following year. He came to our community at the Monastery in Cambridge in 1940 and was Professed on 15 July 1945.

For a number of years he volunteered as an orderly at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He was there on the night of the Coconut Grove nightclub fire in 1942 and assisted with treating many of the casualties. In 1965 he participated in one of the Selma Freedom Marches along with other religious leaders from Massachusetts.

For all his life Paul had close contacts with the Roman Catholic Church. This led him to withdraw from our community a few years after his profession and consider testing his vocation in Roman Catholic Benedictine community. After several months exploring Roman Catholic communities he returned to the Episcopal Church and for a time served in parishes in the Diocese of Oregon. Paul returned to our community in 1953.

During the days of the Second Vatican Council, Paul was instrumental in beginning the Arlington Conferences which brought together Episcopal and Roman Catholic religious for a week of shared prayer and conversation. This Conference gave birth to a number of experiments in ecumenical monastic living. Following a brief time in one such community, Paul was invited by the Sisters of the Love of God to act as Warden and Chaplain at Bede House in Kent. This was a transformative experience for Paul as he was able to read widely in French theology and spirituality, experiment liturgically and garden, passions which were to remain with him for the rest of his life.

In 1972 Paul returned to the Monastery and was elected Superior. This was a significant time for the community as many changes were made in our life: a chapter vote was given to the initially professed, the guest house was opened to women and our worship was brought into line with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Paul was also one of the early advocates of the ordination of women. At the end of his time as Superior in 1983, Paul moved to our new branch house in North Carolina. He returned to live at the Monastery in 1994. A noted spiritual director and confessor Paul influenced the lives of countless people within the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and beyond.

He died quietly at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor where he was being cared for in the last years of his life. He is buried along with other members of our community, in our cemetery at Foxborough.