The Norbertines, also known as the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré or Premonstratensians, are a Catholic religious order of canons regular founded by Saint Norbert in the northern French village of Prémontré in 1121. Vowing themselves to a life of ongoing conversion, Norbert and his followers made a further commitment to work for that same kind of renewal in the larger Christian community. Soon Norbertine houses spread throughout medieval Europe. Shortly after Norbert’s death in 1134, the Abbey of Berne was founded in the Netherlands. For centuries to come, the Abbey would minister in nearby parishes and eventually send forth missionaries to spread the Gospel and share Norbert’s vision of the importance of continuing renewal.
The New World
In 1893, Father Bernard Pennings and two other Norbertines from Berne Abbey came to the United States to minister to Belgian immigrants in Northern Wisconsin. Blessed with American vocations, DePere became the site of the first Norbertine Abbey in the new world. In 1925, Bernard Pennings became the first abbot.
The Delaware Valley
In 1932, Abbot Pennings sent a handful of Norbertines to open Archmere Academy, a college preparatory school for boys in Claymont, Delaware. Two years later, in 1934, the Norbertines were asked to open an archdiocesan high school for boys in South Philadelphia. Originally called Southeast Catholic, the name was later changed to Saint John Neumann High School.
Responding to the vocations coming especially from these two schools, the community started a novitiate-seminary in 1954 at the Cassatt Estate in Daylesford. In 1956, the community was further invited to open and staff the newly founded Saint Norbert Parish in Paoli. In 1963, the Norbertine Community moved from the Cassatt Estate to Pinebrook, its present site, a 130 acre farm in Paoli. Thanks to the generous support of many friends, the Abbey Church and Residence buildings were completed in 1966 with the blessing of the Abbey Church in August of 1967.
In 2004, the Abbey opened its renovated Spirituality Center, which provides people of all ages, religions and backgrounds a place to deepen their sense of personal and communal spirituality.