Archabbot Justin DuVall

Community: Saint Meinrad

Date of Birth:07/07/1951

First Profession: 08/24/1974

Date of Death: 10/05/2021

In the morning of October 5, 2021, Father Justin DuVall, OSB, monk and priest of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, died peacefully in the Lord in our infirmary, after a brief but intense struggle with pancreatic and liver cancer. Father Justin was a jubilarian of profession and priesthood and served the Saint Meinrad monastic community as abbot for 11½ years.

Father Justin was born in Toledo, Ohio, on July 7, 1951, to Arnold Bernard and Mary Jane DuVall and was given the name Timothy Martin at his baptism. Mrs. DuVall died when Justin was 3, and he entered into the care of his father and stepmother, Nancy Luttenberger. After completing his elementary education at Regina Coeli in Toledo, he attended Holy Spirit High School Seminary in that city.

Enrolling in our College Seminary in 1969, he graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French. Invested as a novice in the summer of 1973, he professed his simple vows on August 24, 1974, and his solemn vows that same day three years later. He received a Master of Divinity from our School of Theology in the spring of 1978, and he was ordained to the priesthood by the Most Rev. George J. Biskup, Archbishop of Indianapolis, on April 30, 1978.

Following his ordination, Father Justin earned a Master of Arts degree in library science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, during which time he assisted at the University’s Newman Center. In 1979 he was appointed assistant librarian in the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Library, a position he held fulltime for five years, and then part time for the next 11 years.

Other assignments in his early post-ordination years included liturgical master of ceremonies, assistant novice/junior master, and chairman of the monastery’s Liturgical Advisory Committee. In 1984 he was appointed prior by Archabbot Timothy Sweeney and held those responsibilities until Abbot Timothy’s resignation in the summer of 1995.

During those years, his other responsibilities included serving as a member of the Archabbey Council and the Archabbey Strategic Planning Committee, and as a commuting chaplain for the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand.

While serving as prior, he was able to arrange and take part in a unique sabbatical: a three-month residence at Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA, a Quaker center for adult education, at which he studied the similarities and differences between the decision-making processes of the Religious Society of Friends and the monks of St. Benedict.

In 1995, following the election of Archabbot Lambert Reilly, Father Justin was appointed an associate dean of our School of Theology. The following year, he was named the provost and vice rector of our School of Theology, a responsibility he held for the next 8½ years until his election as archabbot.

On December 31, 2004, Father Justin was elected the ninth abbot and sixth archabbot of Saint Meinrad. He chose the words of greeting from the Letters to Timothy, “grace, mercy, peace,” as his abbatial motto. On the solemnity of St. Meinrad, January 21, 2005, he received the abbatial blessing from his confrere, the Most Reverend Daniel M. Buechlein, OSB, archbishop of Indianapolis.

During his tenure as abbot, Archabbot Justin oversaw several significant building projects, including the final stage of construction of a new Guest House and Retreat Center and the renovation of St. Gregory Hall, St. Bede Hall, Newman Hall, and the St. Martin Center. More recently, he oversaw extensive renovations to the infrastructure of the “new” (1982) monastery, which included an addition to the infirmary and the installation of a geothermal heating/cooling system. He also led the final 18 months of the Archabbey’s largest-ever campaign, which raised nearly $43 million for renovations, endowment, and operating expenses

Following his resignation as abbot, he undertook a five-year term as vice-rector at Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. He returned to the monastery in May of 2021 to assume the responsibility as the community’s novice/junior master. Father Justin eagerly embraced this new assignment. His diagnosis of pancreatic and liver cancer in early August came as a complete surprise to all. He maintained a peaceful and hopeful attitude throughout the ensuing weeks while, unfortunately, his cancer rapidly became more aggressive.

With Father Justin’s positions of trust and responsibility came an abiding sense of Benedictine balance and “moderation in all things.” In his work in our School as vice rector, he had a reputation as “a monk’s monk” and, prophetically, anticipated his future role as abbot who must, according to the Rule of Benedict, “vary with circumstances” (Rule, chapter 2) and negotiate different personalities and temperaments.

Later, as the shepherd of the monastic community, he brought with him “a treasury of knowledge” from which he brought out “what is new and what is old” (Rule, c. 64), while serving as an example of dedication to the Eucharist and the Divine Office. A well-trained Latinist, he maintained an historian’s fascination with the Church’s liturgy for his entire life. At the time of his death, he was serving on the “text committee” of a larger group involved in the revision of the Office Books of our archabbey.

A masterful preacher who was as incisive in his speech as in his written words, Father Justin was also a compassionate listener, especially for those who were facing difficulties in our way of life. He worked tirelessly to be loved rather than feared, as Benedict enjoins the abbot to do in service to the community. Father Justin was occasionally heard to quote Pope St. John XXIII’s famous motto as a window into his own leadership: “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.” In this regard, Father Justin was the quintessential model of discretion, so that “the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from” (Rule, c. 64).

Father Justin also possessed a very keen and lively sense of humor, often surprising his friends with entertaining reflections about the world at large. He would regale his confreres with alternating deadpan expressions of dry wit on the one hand, while mimicking remarkable vocal and facial impersonations on the other. He especially enjoyed political satire and was assiduous in his absorption of contemporary affairs and social justice issues; he was a man fascinated by information and scoured the news from multiple sources every day. Rarely, would anyone catch him uninformed about life on the Hill or the ever-changing world in which we live.

In a conference he gave to the community shortly after he was elected abbot, Father Justin said that “Saint Meinrad is everything to me.” Perhaps that was because Father Justin was everything to Saint Meinrad. The “monk’s monk” now awaits the day of the Lord at rest in Christ’s loving embrace amongst the confreres he served so well.

The Office of the Dead will be prayed at 7 p.m. Central Time on Friday, October 8, in the Archabbey Church. The Funeral Liturgy will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 9, in the Archabbey Church. Burial will follow in the Archabbey Cemetery. For the repose of his soul, three Masses will be offered by each monk of the Archabbey. The customary suffrages are recommended to all monks of our Congregation.

Tim DuVall arrived here as a college freshman in the fall of 1969, studying for the Diocese of Toledo. Among his classmates and friends he was simply known as “Du,” short for DuVall. “Du” remained his nickname throughout college and, for some of his lifelong friends, still does until this day. But since Tim was a class behind me, and since we lived in separate dorms that year, it would be a couple years later before he and I really got to know each other.

That opportunity came during the Summer Institute that our College sponsored annually during those years. I was already in the monastery at the time, but Tim had not yet entered. So, that particular summer I was composing quite a bit of music for use in the Abbey Church. And it was in that context that my friendship with Tim unexpectedly began—and just as unexpectedly quickly deepened.

Let me set the scene. I would be working at my desk, with my guitar in my lap, with pencil and paper on the desk—coming up with melodies and chords and writing them down. One day Tim just came in and sat there quietly next to me, watching and listening as I worked. As I recall, very few words were exchanged. So, since he didn’t seem too interested in talking, I just kept composing and notating—but now with a mostly silent audience of one. To my surprise, Tim kept coming back several more times to do basically the same thing over and over again. He seemed fascinated by the creative process, he was attentively listening, and he was being supportive all at the same time. And even though very few words were exchanged, I could sense that a significant relationship was starting to develop. And it turns out that I was right.

I suspect that the first experiences of all who knew Father Justin—especially all who have been privileged to call him friend—are quite similar in nature: there was probably a quiet, even unexpected beginning; there was attentive listening on his part; there was almost always a wickedly funny sense of humor just beneath the surface; and then there was an almost imperceptible movement to deeply loyal friendship. That was his trademark. And that remains an essential part of his legacy.

Just as there was typically a quiet beginning to his personal relationships, that same dynamic was also at play in his relationship with the monastic community. To have known Tim DuVall on the day he became a novice in 1973, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the future that lay ahead of him in terms of his service to the community. He was never a person to push himself into the spotlight. Quite the opposite. He was quiet and somewhat reserved in public settings. He wasn’t stingy with himself, but he often waited to be invited.

And “invited” he certainly was, over and over again during his 48 years in the community. Initially it was his superiors who recognized the gifts that he brought to the table. He was formally trained as a librarian, but that training and that work ultimately became just a footnote to the other works he would eventually be asked to undertake for the community.

After his return from library studies, he was appointed the Socius for the novices and juniors. In this role he would learn the art of being a companion and a formator for those in initial formation. Some years later he was appointed the principal Master of Ceremonies, which was an ideal job for someone of his personal gifts and personality. He himself would not be in the spotlight—indeed, he was almost invisible in the job—but he would be in a position to quietly assure that the community’s worship would be carried out with reverence and with beauty.

At the age of 32, Father Justin was appointed the Prior of the monastery. This meant that he would become the immediate superior of all the senior monks for their day-to-day needs and activities. When I learned of his appointment, I said to him, “Now you’re going to have to be fair with the people you don’t like.” His immediate response was, “Mmm, even harder—I’ll have to be fair with the people I do like.” I remember that moment as if it happened yesterday. It was one of those moments when the question could have been asked of him that was asked of Jesus, “Where did he get such wisdom”—and at such an early age? But Father Justin was indeed gifted throughout his life with an abundance of wisdom.

During his eleven years as Prior, he worked quietly in the background to help maintain the good order of the community’s life. Not only did he possess excellent organizational skills, but he was also very adept at dealing personally with each monk. He may not have realized it at the time, but his service as Prior was just a warm-up for the leadership role that would eventually be entrusted to him by the community. But that was still down the road a ways.

So, after leaving the office of Prior, he was assigned to take up residence in our seminary. As brilliant and well-read as he was, he never thought of himself as an academic or a scholar. Nevertheless, over to the seminary he went, where he would eventually serve as Vice Rector. He was a bit of an unknown quantity when he first arrived over in the seminary, but it wasn’t long before faculty, staff and seminarians all came to see and appreciate his many quiet gifts and talents. And typically, but not surprisingly, he formed numerous lifelong friendships over in the seminary as a result.

Then came December 31, 2004. On that morning, Father Justin entered the Chapter Room with all the other senior monks to elect a new abbot. He had heard the chatter that it would most likely be him who was elected, but he was still clinging to the hope that someone else would be chosen. But that was not to be. The monastic community, that had already witnessed his style of leadership over many years, now wanted more. After the vote was tallied, and it was clear that he had been elected, the Abbot President, as part of the ritual, asked him if he would accept the election as abbot. Father Justin’s somewhat halting answer was, “With the help of God, I accept.” He certainly didn’t seek the job. But the job sought—and found—him.

Abbot Justin’s election took place in the morning, and all of the details relating to the election were pretty much wrapped up by noon. In his typical way, he was mindful of those monks in the infirmary who had participated in the election, but from their infirmary rooms. To enable their participation, a “runner” had been assigned to carry their ballots from the infirmary to the Chapter Room. So, as the new abbot, he stopped in to visit the infirmary monks early that afternoon. Afterwards he delighted in recounting this exchange with one of the monks in the infirmary: “Oh, Father Abbot. Congratulations! You’re a good man. You’re not the one I was expecting, but you’re a good man.” Abbot Justin’s takeaway from that encounter was, as he said, that one should never believe his own press!

Over the next 11½ years Abbot Justin would show himself to be that “good man” who did not believe his own press. He was singularly unimpressed with his own importance. As an abbot, he had the rank of prelate, which meant that he was now a high-ranking member of the clergy. But he never ever called attention to his rank, or traded on it. He was much more focused on being the father of the community, the kind of abbot that Saint Benedict envisioned. A man of few words—which, by the way, were always well chosen and wise—he followed Saint Benedict’s mandate to “point out all that is good and holy more by example than by words.” Likewise he strove to heed Benedict’s caution that “the abbot must always remember what he is and remember what he is called, aware that more will be expected of a man to whom more has been entrusted.”

As a newly elected abbot, Abbot Justin had the opportunity to choose a motto for his coat of arms. The moment I first heard what he had chosen as his motto, I knew that it was exactly the right one for him. His motto consisted of three words: Grace. Mercy. Peace. This motto not only described him as a person, but charted the course for his service as abbot.

He carried out his office with a grace that was both humble and unpretentious, whether in his dealings with confreres, coworkers or benefactors. Many of us here tonight experienced his mercy in his personal dealings with us, especially when he needed to correct us or urge us to change our ways. And as a community we enjoyed a period of peace during his time as abbot, not because there weren’t difficult challenges, but because his prayerfulness, his steadiness and his faithfulness helped him to remain peaceful, thus enabling us to do the same. Grace, mercy and peace are infectious virtues, and they permeated our house during his time as abbot.

When Father Justin returned earlier this year from his five-year assignment as Vice Rector at Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, we were more than ready to receive him back. Father Abbot Kurt had a new assignment waiting for him, namely, the position of Novice/Junior Master. The community, for its part, wasted no time and promptly elected Father Justin to serve on the Abbot’s Council. But, as we learned to our great sadness just a little over a month ago, our hope for him to grow much older in our midst and to share his gentle wisdom with us for many years to come was not in God’s plan for him or for us.

Instead we are here this evening to remember Father Justin and to celebrate his legacy in this community—and to accompany him on his final journey from this life into the next. We do so with heavy hearts and tear-filled eyes. Yet even so, this can be our finest and best gift to him—to pray that this good and holy monk may now be granted the fullness of Grace and Mercy and Peace.


Father Tobias Colgan, OSB

8 October 2021

Homily at the Funeral Mass for Father Abbot Justin DuVall, OSB

As we heard in our first reading: The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. . . . . Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, . . . .

These words of wisdom from the Book of Wisdom seem spot on today. Yes, with his characteristic humility, Father Justin would certainly disavow any comment about him having become perfect in a short while. But I’m suggesting that as we knew him, on that too-short road to perfection Justin came pretty damn close.

He became prior of our monastery when he was 32. That is indeed a young age to take on such a responsibility. But his 11-year tenure as prior was only one position Justin held in which he showed the wisdom and the experience we ordinarily associate with the attainment of old age.

Justin twice served as vice-rector of a seminary: 8 years here on the hill; more recently, 5 years at Bruté in Indianapolis. In both communities, he testified what it meant to remain in Christ. Never was there a doubt he lived as a branch firmly attached to Christ the vine. Never was there a doubt he was a branch bearing much fruit in season and out.

In between those two times of his being rector, our monastic community elected him abbot. Truth be told, on that last day of the year 2004, the day of his election, few of us—monks, co-workers, students—were surprised. By then, Justin was 53 and he had long since earned our love and our respect. For us monks Abbot Justin for 11½ years did indeed hold the place of Christ in our house.

With so many distinguished assignments “in such a short while,” it would be interesting to speculate how Father Justin would have lived out his retirement. But neither God nor Justin’s abbot wanted him to retire just yet. I can’t speak for God, but I was so looking forward to what Justin would have to offer to the formation of our juniors and novices. As we know, sadly, he had only begun this new work when God set aside my plans for Justin and issued him his own. This final appointment—he knew it would be his last assignment—he accepted as obediently and graciously as he had all the others.

Father Justin announced to the monastic community he had pancreatic cancer on September 3. He did it his way: calmly, directly, and with equal measures of hope and acceptance. For a short while it appeared as though he might have some time—perhaps a half year or so—to be with us. But that was not to be.

Justin and I shared 47 years of life together in this house. As the years went by, one thing I noticed time and again was how many of our confreres, when filled out that little form, “when I die,” asked that, when their time of death came, Justin would be the one to give the remembrance at their Office of the Dead or the homily at their funeral Mass.

Offering the remembrance or the funeral homily of a monk is not something that automatically falls to the prior or the abbot, and so those requests themselves are telling tributes. They meant that many monks—monks older, monks having lived in the monastery longer than he—entrusted him with “summing up their lives” as they were presented to the public one last time. And why they wanted him was no mystery. Having heard many of his remembrances and homilies, I was always moved by those qualities we’ve been talking about: his dry wit, his warm compassion, his keen understanding of people, and his kind regard of them.

For about a week now, thinking about all those remembrances and funeral homilies of confreres I heard him give, I’ve wondered what he might have preached to us today. In going through his files this past week, I think I’ve a pretty good idea.

In his files I came across a short essay—a remembrance, if you will—that Justin wrote. This was about his stepmother Nancy, on the occasion of her death in 1991. Some of us know that Justin’s birthmother died when he was 3 and so it was his father and especially Nancy who raised him. In his remembrance of her, Justin wrote this:

When I was 3 years old, I was robbed of one mother, and was too young to know what I had lost. But God in his kindness gave me another chance, one that lasted 35 years. Watching this mom slowly fade during the last few years helped me to see that her death was right, and not a cheat. It was time to go. Death is not the last enemy to be kept away at any cost. My mother’s final gift was to strengthen my faith in the Risen Jesus. The present life, with all its goodness and beauty, is only the beginning; and death, while sad, also ends sadness. 

I add just a few more words that Justin might have offered us today. They are found in the so-called “Book of Quotes” kept at Bishop Bruté College Seminary and regularly updated by the seminary community there. Bradley Gehlhausen, an alumnus of Bruté and now a first-year theologian with us, retrieved this quote and offered it to us. These words, from a homily of Father Justin sometime last year, he now offers to us:

God willing we will die as we have lived: men of prayer and men of Christ himself.

When it comes to words to remember him by, Father Justin couldn’t have said it better himself.

 +Kurt Stasiak, OSB

9 October 2021

Wisdom 4, 7-13

1 Peter 1, 3-9                                                                                       

John 15, 5-8