Abbot Neal Roth re-elected to third term as abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey

June 11, 2013

LACEY, Wash. – Abbot Neal Roth, O.S.B., will serve his third term as abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey following an election recently held by his fellow monks at the Benedictine monastery.

abbotneal His re-election to an eight-year term means Roth is positioned to achieve the longest tenure as abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey, located on the Lacey campus of Saint Martin’s University. Former Abbot Raphael Heider, O.S.B., was in the position for 21 years – from 1943 to 1964 – less than a year longer than Roth, to date.

The bells of the Abbey rang out at 10:51 a.m. Friday, May 31, to mark the close of the abbatial election that began at 10 a.m. When an abbot turns 75, as Roth will in July, he is required to formally resign but remains eligible for re-election.

Roth was elected Saint Martin’s eighth abbot in May 1993, and won his first re-election in May 2003.

“One of the things I have been very happy about during my time as abbot is that the Abbey has established a much closer relationship with the University,” says Roth, when asked to reflect on his 20-year tenure, during which he aimed to be present for, and supportive of, many University-based functions. And although the number of monks at the Abbey is not what it was in years past, the monks retain a very visible presence on campus, whether as teachers in the classrooms of Saint Martin’s University, as University staff members, or as members on the University Board of Trustees, he says.

In addition, the Abbey remains committed to providing financial support to the University for various projects, according to the abbot. Most recently, the Abbey financed two years’ worth of campus improvements that included the newly remodeled, pedestrian-focused courtyard the Abbey and University share, and which was dedicated in April.

“The University is the principal mission of the Abbey and the Abbey remains the University’s principal supporter,” Roth says. “I am very optimistic about the future of the University because of where the University is today.”

The abbot says he is pleased with the direction Saint Martin’s President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D., has been leading the University since becoming president in 2009. “Dr. Heynderickx understands finance, which is of great benefit to us, and he’s been careful about selecting staff who are supportive of our mission. He has really demonstrated commitment to our Catholic and Benedictine identity, and that has been better manifested this year than I’ve ever seen before.”

As examples of that commitment, Roth points to the establishment this past year of the Benedictine Institute, as well as the Benedictine Scholars, a group of accomplished students specially selected to help carry out a University-wide effort to understand, strengthen and articulate the centuries-old Catholic, Benedictine values of Saint Martin’s.

As for the future of the Abbey, a concerted effort is being made to enhance vocations to the monastery, Roth says. “Our community is small, now, and we are really focusing on increasing our vocations.”

To that end, the abbot created the Abbey’s Vocations Team in 2010. Composed primarily of younger monks at Saint Martin’s, the team is charged with examining various ways of welcoming and encouraging young people to learn more about Benedictine monastic life.

Roth says his main role as abbot remains serving as the spiritual father of the monastic community, and to assist the monks in their spiritual growth, despite other demands that include his many administrative duties.

As abbot, Roth serves as chancellor of Saint Martin’s University, serving on all committees except the Audit Committee, as well as being charged with appointing the positions of corporate secretary and University treasurer. Roth is also the Abbey’s major superior, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Abbey and the Saint Martin’s Abbey Corporation, as well as directing the Abbey’s senior council and the board of directors.

Before his years as abbot, Roth served in a variety of positions at the Abbey, including subprior, novice master, prior, guest master, oblate director, a member of the senior council and corporate secretary.

Roth received a Master of Divinity degree at Mt. Angel Seminary, in Mt. Angel, Ore., and a Master of Education with an emphasis in English at the University of Portland.

He entered Saint Martin’s Abbey as a candidate in June 1957, where his early responsibilities included working in the gardens and attending to the chickens. After college graduation, he joined the faculty at the former Saint Martin’s High School, teaching English, journalism and drama, and also served as a dorm prefect.

When he returned from seminary, Roth moved to Saint Martin’s College, teaching English and education. During the 1980s, he was associate pastor, then pastor, at Sacred Heart Church in Lacey, tending to a congregation of approximately 2,000 families.

In his spare time, the abbot loves to cook, bake bread, read, go bird watching, record family events with snapshots and take walks.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

For additional information:

Abbot Neal Roth, O.S.B.
Abbot, Saint Martin’s Abbey

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager