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He entered the Religious Life as a Benedictine novice at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe in 1945 and was solemnly professed as a monk in that Order on September 29, 1949, at Solesmes Abbey in France. His theological studies for the Priesthood were done at the International Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo in Rome, Italy, and at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe.
He was ordained to the Priesthood on June 24, 1951, at Subiaco, Italy, by Bishop Lorenzo S. Salvi, O.S.B., Abbot Nullius of Subiaco Abbey. He pursued studies in music in Italy, France, and Germany, as well as at the Juilliard School of Music, New York, and Columbia University. From 1957 to 1963 he taught music at St. Vincent College.
During his musical career he has held memberships and offices in a number of prominent national and international societies and associations, has lectured widely in Europe and America, and is the author of several articles on music and the liturgy, as well as The Play of Daniel.
He was elected Coadjutor Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey on June 26, 1963, and received the Solemn Blessing of an Archabbot from Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1963. Following this, he became the Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of St. Vincent College. On May 8, 1964, he received a papal appointment as Consultor to the Commission for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council and was appointed a Member of that Commission in 1968.
He was elected Abbot Primate of the International Benedictine Confederation on September 29, 1967. At this time he also became Chancellor of the International Benedictine College of Sant'Anselmo, Rome, Italy. He was reelected to a second term as Abbot Primate in September, 1973. He served as a member of the Council of Superiors General from 1968 until 1977. He participated in the Synods of Bishops in 1969, 1971, 1973, and 1987. In 1968 he presided at the meeting of Monastic Superiors in Bangkok, at which Thomas Merton was one of the speakers. After Merton's tragic death, Father Rembert administered the last rites and had the body shipped back to the monastery of Gethsemani.
He was appointed Archbishop of Milwaukee by Pope Paul VI on September 20, 1977. He was ordained a Bishop on November 8, 1977, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, and on the same occasion was installed as Milwaukee's Ninth Archbishop by Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States. He is the Metropolitan of the Province of Milwaukee which includes the entire State of Wisconsin.
Archbishop Weakland was a member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin
Catholic Conference, past-Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops' ad hoc Committee on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S.
Economy which drafted the U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter on the Economy,
In 1999, he received a Ph.D. in musicology, with distinction, from Columbia University, New York. His dissertation studied the office antiphons of Ambrosian Chant. Having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, he retired as Archbishop of Milwaukee on May 24, 2002.