The Era of the Abbey Nullius        by Martin Brodner, O.S.B.
    Fr. Michael Ott, O.S.B., of St. John's Abbey was elected abbot upon the sudden death of Abbot Bruno in June 1919. In his first sermon in St. Peter's Church on October 12, 1919, he spoke of the urgent need of a boarding school for high school students of the Colony. The people were generous in the fund-raising drive, and St. Peter's College was completed and opened for thirty-six students in November 1921.
    By this time there were about 24 active parishes and mission in the Colony which was part of the diocese of Prince Albert. Bishop Albert Pascal favored the idea that the abbey be raised to the status of an Abbey-Nullius or Abbacy, in which the abbot would assume the responsibilites of a bishop except for the ordination of priests. Rome granted this indult in 1921, and Abbot Michael Ott assumed the title of Abbot Ordinary. The Abbacy continued as such until 1998 when the diocesan borders of Saskatchewan were changed and our abbacy became part of the diocese of Saskatoon.
    It was in 1922 under Abbot Michael Ott's leadership that the Carmel Hill became the pilgrimage site in honour of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Michael was also given permission to invite students from St. John's Abbey to join St. Peter's Abbey as monks. The result marked the greatest increase of monks from 15 to 46 between 1919 and 1926, when Abbot Michael resigned because of illness.
    Fr. Severin Gertken, another monk and chemistry professor at St. John's Abbey, was elected to succeed Abbot Michael and came to Canada in February 1927. He remained abbot for thirty-three years during which time--1927to 1960--the number of monks increased to 67. These were years of consolidation. The college enrolment increased to over 200 students.
    The debt from building the college remained a burden through the drop in the stock market in 1929 and through the years of the 1930's. Plans for extending the college facilities could finally be made in the early 1950's. A college fund raising campaign for $250,000 was undertaken in 1958. With that, building began to spring up in the following order: Elizabethan Sister's Convent in 1957; connecting linke to college (now the college library) in 1958; gym, boy's residence and main entrance 1959-1960; and the abbey in 1962-1963. The arena was added in 1965.
    Abbot Severin worked hard to enhance Mount Carmel and obtained Molaro of Saskatoon to do the fine stone work. First came the stone chapel, then the statue on top of the Mount. Finally the stations of the cross were added in the 1930's. Repair work and lightning arrestors were added after lightning damaged the base of the Marian statue in 1951.
    We must not overlook the tremendous help which the faithful of the Colony gave in all these undertakings. Abbot Severin died suddenly on March 10, 1960 at the age of 79. Fr. Jerome Weber, born in Muenster, was elected on April 6 of the same year.
    Fr. Jerome Weber was abbot-ordinary for thirty years until he reached the mandatory age of retirement of 75 in 1990. His term of office occurred during on the major adjustments of the Church both locally and in the world. First, he was a member of Vatican Council II (1962-1965). The years after the Council ushered in a great exodus of priests and religious in the entire church, and hit our abbacy also. From 1966 to 1972 the number of monks declined from 64 to 50.
    During his term of office, many high schools were springing up in the abbacy so that the residential high school enrolment at St. Peter's College dipped down to 58 forcing the abbey to close the high school in 1972. University classes, begun in 1926, had continued to grow with night classes beginning at that time. The college also became co-educational. In the early 1990's the college was able to teach a second year of university clases, which brough the enrolment to over two hundred.
    Vocations from the abbacy, however, dried up completely. The next abbot, Peter Novecosky, O.S.B., from Burr Saskatchewan, who joined the community in 1963, was from the last group of abbacy vocations. He was elected to succeed Abbot Jerome on July 23, 1990.
    Abbot Peter Novecosky's term as Abbot has continued with more major adjustments. The chief change came in 1998 when the abbey-nullius ceased to be and was joined to the Saskatoon diocese. This was in connection with the changing of the diocesan boundaries which also brought about the closing of the Gravelbourg diocese because of the declining number of people in it.
    Meanwhile the farm apostolate has continued as a means of support for the community. However, the number of monks kept on decreasing, levelling off at the present to about thirty monks with about half of them over 70.
    St. Peter's College has become well established in the past decade. It is fully accredited to offer the first two years of university. Especially noteworth is the creation of the Centre for Rural Studies and Enrichment.