Abbot Emeritus Roger Corpus
Born: Peru, Illinois, July 14, 1930
Professed: July 11, 1951
Ordained: June 2, 1957
Elected as abbot: June 8, 1990
Re-elected as abbot: March 2, 1998
Resigned: June 1, 2003
Died: May 24, 2015
Right Reverend Roger (Francis) Corpus, priest and retired abbot of Saint Bede Abbey, was found dead in his room at the abbey Sunday morning, May 24, having died peacefully in his sleep. He was 84.
Abbot Roger was born in Peru Illinois on July 14, 1930, to Francis and Honorine Corpus, and was named Francis after his father. He had one sister, Charlene, and he remained very close with her and her family throughout his life. He attended grade school at St. Joseph’s parish school, followed by high school and junior college at Saint Bede. He entered the monastic community in 1950 and professed vows on July 11, 1951, taking the name Roger. Two years later, he earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and then returned to St. Bede for four years of theology studies. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William Cousins on June 2, 1957.
From 1957 to 1990 he taught English, photography and film making at St. Bede Academy and earned a master’s degree in communication arts from the University of Notre Dame during summer sessions. As a teacher he was known as being patient and gentle, but also demanding. Former students often spoke of his influence in helping them “see with a photographer’s eye” and to view films as more than mere entertainment. In addition to teaching, Father Roger also served the Academy for periods as infirmarian, prefect of the boarding school, and moderator of the Mothers’ Club.
In 1981 he was made prior of St. Bede Abbey, serving from 1981 to 1985. In 1986 he took part in a month-long monastic renewal program at Collegio Sant’Anselmo in Rome, and was then re-assigned as prior from 1987 to 1990. On June 8, 1990, he was elected the sixth abbot of St. Bede, and was re-elected in 1998. During his tenure, development efforts for abbey and academy were integrated and revitalized.
When he resigned as abbot in 2003, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky appointed him administrator of St. Mary’s Parish in El Paso, and he was named pastor two years later. Despite having very limited experience in pastoral administration, he was successful in creating a strong parish community. Parishioners were especially grateful for his ministry to the sick and for his comfort and compassion during times of struggle or tragedy. He served at St. Mary’s until his retirement to Saint Bede in 2014, but kept in regular contact with many of his former parishioners.
Abbot Roger exemplified St. Benedict’s injunction that the abbot must instruct his disciples more by deeds than by words, not only in his dedication to his religious duties but in his willingness to engage in manual labor. Even as abbot he could be seen at work in housekeeping and painting projects. After his resignation as abbot he served as a wise and humble counselor to Abbots Claude and Philip, and took an active part in community life while serving in the parish and in his retirement. He continued to be interested in contemporary films, and was an enthusiastic participant in abbey movie nights and the discussions at lunch and recreation that followed. As he aged Abbot Roger suffered from significant joint pains, digestive problems and heart ailments which he bore with his customary patience and quiet dignity. Abbot Roger was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his sister Charlene (Roland) Bekeleski, and by his monastic brethren.
His body will be received at the St. Bede Abbey Church on May 26 at 4:00 p.m., and visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. with a prayer vigil at 5:15 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the church by Rt. Rev. Philip Davey, OSB, with interment in the abbey cemetery.