Kevin Robert Seasoltz, OSB
1930 - 2013
Robert attended Sacred Heart parochial school (1936-1944) and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School (1944-1948), both in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Continuing his education, he matriculated at St. Mary’s College, Baltimore, Maryland, and earned a B.A. in 1952. He completed his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1956 at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., with a concentration in liturgical studies. That same year, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, at Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
After ordination, his interest in liturgical studies next took him to Rome, Italy, where he was awarded the Licentiate in Canon Law with specialization in liturgical law in 1958 at the Lateran University.
On his return to his home diocese, Father Robert was first assigned as associate pastor at St. Joseph parish, Bellwood, Pennsylvania, from 1958 to 1959. During the same time he taught religion at Altoona Catholic High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He also served on the marriage tribunal for the Diocese of Altoona in 1959.
Sensing an attraction to the monastic life he had come into contact with during his studies in Washington, D.C., Father Robert entered the novitiate of St. Anselm’s Abbey there. He made his first profession at St. Anselm’s in November of 1960, taking the monastic name of Kevin. In 1963 Father Kevin made his final profession.
His formal education as a canon lawyer came to a close in 1962, when he earned a Doctorate in Canon Law (liturgical law) at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. However, in later years, he also did postdoctoral studies in liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana.
In 1962, Father Kevin joined the faculty of the School of Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. In 1969 he was awarded tenure at this institution where he continued to teach until 1987. During this same era, beginning in the spring and summer of 1974, Father Kevin was a Fellow at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, adjacent to the campus of Saint John’s University. Two years later he was invited to teach in the Saint John’s Summer School of Theology as adjunct. He did this until 1988. From his many years of summer teaching at Saint John’s, Father Kevin became very well acquainted with our community, and in 1987 he transferred his monastic stability to Saint John’s Abbey. He continued teaching in the Saint John’s School of Theology, and in 1988 he joined the faculty as a tenured professor. He taught until 2008, when he retired and was named professor emeritus of theology. He also had an extended teaching career as a visiting professor at such schools as LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California; and Mount Angel Seminary, Mount Angel, Oregon.
Father Kevin occupied other important positions at Saint John’s. In 1988 he was appointed rector of Saint John’s Seminary in Collegeville, overseeing the education and formation of priesthood candidates until 1992. Of international ecclesiastical significance was his work as editor of Worship magazine, a premier publication of Saint John’s Abbey. He fulfilled this office with his usual quiet competence until serious illness befell him in 2013. He felt a keen sense of engagement with Worship, and he worked closely with Brother Frank Kacmarcik (1920-2004), a claustral oblate of Saint John’s Abbey, who designed the covers for Worship for many years.
In addition to his editorial contributions to Worship, Father Kevin’s academic writings included many erudite articles as well as the authoring and editing of several books. Liturgy, aesthetics, church architecture, ministry, the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), spirituality, religious life, and Canon Law were all areas of his research and writing, often joined with a pastoral sense of deep insight and wisdom. A sampling of some of his most recent book titles clearly reveals the breadth of his theological scholarship: A Sense of the Sacred: Theological Foundations of Christian Architecture and Art (Continuum, 2005); God’s Gift Giving: In Christ and through the Spirit (Continuum, 2007); A Virtuous Church: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Liturgy for the 21st Century (Orbis, 2012).
Father Kevin was eagerly sought out as a retreat director and speaker on divine topics for clergy and religious. He was popular among religious communities of sisters both in the United States and abroad, especially in the British Isles. His presentations were always marked by impeccable preparation, careful reasoning, and serious delivery. As a homilist he spoke with seriousness and quiet drama, bringing the word of God into contact with literature, story-telling, and the stuff of daily human experience.
His awards included the Michael Mathis Award in 2001 from the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy, the Baraka Award in 2005 from the North American Academy of Liturgy, and the Frederick R. McManus Award in 2009 from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.
Father Kevin died on April 27, 2013, in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by Dr. John Seasoltz, (brother), Sue Seasoltz, (niece) and Rebecca Bakanowski, (niece) and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends celebrated a Eucharistic Mass of Christian Burial for Father Kevin on May 2, 3:30 p.m., in Saint John’s Abbey Church, Collegeville.
Tribute prepared by Abbot John Klassen, OSB, Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota.
Excerpt from the funeral homily for Father Kevin Robert Seasoltz, OSB
Abbot John Klassen, OSB
May 2, 2013
One of Father Kevin’s great gifts, among many, was his ability to read, study, and synthesize ideas and insights from across a wide range of fields: liturgical studies, canon law, history, anthropology, art, architecture, and literature. In his teaching, conferences, books, articles, and homilies, he would regularly engage with material across that intellectual horizon. Kevin was unusually attuned to beauty in all of its forms, especially the visual. There is no question that the long friendships with Father Michael Marx and Brother Frank Kacmarcik were hugely formative. …
We may think of liturgical scholarship as being done with dusty collections of texts, carefully observing the nuances of rites and words. But as always the field has a human element, the network of relationships, who is on the outs with whom, who is moving where, and so forth. While Kevin was a well-known professional, both nationally and internationally, he could trade stories with the best of them!
The last fifteen years have been very difficult for Father Kevin. He had always had a positive relationship with the young, in teaching and mentoring, and by the mid-1990s the young were changing and some were looking for something he couldn’t offer. With the publication of Liturgiam authenticam, and its revised principles for translation of liturgical texts, Father Kevin and many other liturgical scholars felt that that the vision of liturgy and life that inspired the creation of Sacrosanctum concilium at the Second Vatican Council was being abandoned.
Though intellectually Father Kevin knew that history moves, that the pendulum must swing, on an emotional level these changes were heartrending. For Kevin and many others in liturgical studies, it felt like their life’s work was being ravaged. That grief, that frustration sometimes poked its head out with students who challenged him, in homilies, or in conversation. It was a huge challenge to trust that the pendulum will swing back and that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church through all of it. The Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to be a linear thinker or actor.
Father Kevin often said that a monastic life well lived should prepare one to die. If this comment is taken in a reductionist sense, it could sound like a symptom of untreated depression. But Kevin intended it in the sense of really understanding and owning the reality of death for each one of us, not in a general sense, but personally, and living into the dying and rising of Jesus. We need people around us who show us how to live the Gospel. We also need people around us who show us how to die as faith-filled, hope-filled Christians. Father Kevin surely did this for us. …
As we give thanks for the gift of Father Kevin’s worship, work, and life with us, we do so in the sacrament that meant so much to him. We bless the Lord of righteousness and acknowledge God as a God of life, as a source of forgiveness and resurrection. May all of us join Father Kevin in that great heavenly liturgy in the New Jerusalem.