ShareThis Page

Monk achieves St. Vincent distinction

| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 11:46 p.m.

So much has changed, Father Flavian says.

St. Vincent is different. It's bigger. Busier.

Across the quad, construction workers are framing a new dormitory. He stood here in 1920, watching others build the hall it replaces.

Men mow the lawns. A small plane approaches the airport across the street.

"We're living in a different age," he says.

His age caused something of a stir this spring. Flavian Yelinko is 95 now. He has lived 89 days longer than any monk in the history of St. Vincent Seminary. Father Donald, a former mathematician, figured that out.

They held a dinner for him. He had prime rib.

The novitiates come to see him now. They ask how things used to be.

The roads were dirt, he tells them. The busiest went up to the cemetery. That, too, is much larger today.

"There were no automobiles then," he says. "And there was a fence all the way around the grounds."

Brother Jake had the only telephone. He was a porter, responsible for the lawns. When he worked outside, that phone rang unanswered.

"He was the only one who mowed the lawn," Father Flavian says. "You can imagine the wilderness here."

He arrived at age 14, drawn by a Benedictine who visited his home church in Palmerton. He was an altar boy then, the fourth of eight children. He yearned to be a missionary.

The Franciscans tried to recruit him. "They were ready to carry me out of there," he says, laughing.

But the Benedictine said very little.

"I said to him, 'I'm thinking of being a priest,'" he says.

"He said, 'That's very nice.' No fanfare at all. I thought this must be someplace special."

He had four years of preparatory school, and two more at the college. A year's tuition, with room and board, cost $350 then.

The priests were strict.

"All of us had to wear our habits. And we had to walk with our hands like this," he says, clasping his, hiding them under his robe.

"When we joined, we were told that we would not be allowed to go home until we were ordained," he says. "That was six years."

He asked for a leave when his father grew ill. He was allowed home only for the funeral.

His first job was in the library. The archabbot called him into what had been the college bookstore. Books had been dumped on the floor — too many for the shelves, which were painted to look like mahogany.

He organized them, then ordered tables and chairs. The Benedictine professors assigned readings from books on his wish list.

He tried to trade books with the Carnegie Library. "But they saw us as small potatoes."

Eventually they called back. They wanted a rare book, and he had two copies.

"Now the shoe's on the other foot," he says. He agreed to the loan, but only if the library made a $10,000 deposit, and only if the book came back with a police escort. The Carnegie agreed.

He retired in 1978, after pastoral assignments in Baltimore, Erie, Ohio and Virginia, and a year at St. Bruno Parish in South Greensburg. By then he'd substituted grape juice for the communion wine, which made him dizzy.

"I thought I would go out of my mind, for lack of something to do," he says. So he organized the seminary's archives. He also compiled a list of all the students who had attended.

"I loved it," he says. "I used to work seven days a week; nine, 10 hours a day."

Now his days are simpler. He walks the campus, hugging members of the college staff — the baker, a cashier, the post office clerk. He reads his newspaper, and he naps after "The Price is Right." He sips an occasional martini.

He's more careful with his faith.

"In your younger days, you act a little bit careless," he says. "As I got older, I went to office a bit more."

That brought him even closer to God.

"I feel sort of relaxed now," he says. "I'd be ready to die at any time. And at one time I wouldn't have been."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me