Saint Anselm’s has had four abbatial elections in its history.
In 1927, when Saint Anselm became an independent autonomous house, that is, properly an “abbey,” it elected its first abbot, Father Bertrand Dolan. Before that, from its founding in 1889 until 1927, Saint Anselm’s was a dependent priory, dependent on its motherhouse, Saint Mary’s Abbey in Newark, NJ. The abbots there were the superiors for Saint Anselm’s: Abbot Hilary Pfraengle and Abbot Ernest Helmstetter. Abbot Hilary even lived here in New Hampshire for a time.
In 1963, after 36 years in office, Abbot Bertrand asked that a coadjutor abbot be appointed. The community proceeded to elect the prior, Father Gerald McCarthy, who as Abbot Gerald ruled the community until December of 1971. (Abbot Bertrand died in 1968.)
Abbot Gerald retired suddenly for health reasons just before Christmas in 1971, and thus the community was not able to proceed immediately with an election. So from December 23 until January 6, 1972 there was a period of interregnum when Saint Anselm Abbey had no abbot. The prior, Father Brendan Donnelly, O.S.B. was the Administrator of the Abbey for those two weeks. (Abbot Gerald despite having been very ill at the time of his resignation lived until the year 2000, when he died at the Abbey.)
In 1972, the former prior and then current Dean of the College, Father Joseph Gerry, was elected Saint Anselm’s third abbot. Abbot Joseph reigned as abbot until 1986 when he was appointed a bishop by Pope John Paul II.
This necessitated a fourth abbatial election. The 1986 election, held on March 4, once again saw the prior, this time Father Matthew Leavy, chosen as abbot. As his predecessor Abbot Joseph was shortly thereafter ordained a bishop, the now Bishop Joseph presided over the Blessing of Abbot Matthew on April 26, 1986.