Eighteen years after founding a new Benedictine community in Italy, US Father Cassian Folsom has stepped down as prior of the Benedictine monastic community in Norcia, the hometown of St. Benedict.

“The earthquakes of the past several months have presented us with incredible challenges, which require vigorous, creative leadership,” the 61-year-old Folsom said.

“While I am in good health at the moment, I do not have the strength or energy necessary to meet these challenges.”

Italy has notably been hit by several earthquakes in October causing devastation and terror at the very heart of the country.

The earthquake that took place on October 30 is believed to have been the strongest to hit Italy in the last 40 years, with a magnitude of 6.5 according to Italy’s national geophysical and volcanology institute.

Although none were killed, many were wounded and the historic town was left with little more than rubble and ruins, placing on the shoulders of its religious and political leaders the heavy burden of leading the town forward.

Folsom, a native of Massachusetts, submitted his resignation to the abbot primate of the Benedictine order, Abbot Gregory Polan, who appointed U.S. Father Benedict Nivakoff, 37, as prior. Nivakoff had been novice master of the community and had served as subprior at various times since 2006.

The Monks of Norcia have 16 members and were entrusted with the care of the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia in 2000. The basilica was destroyed in the earthquake on October 30.

Since 2012 the monks also have been brewing beer, Birra Nursia, in Norcia.