Blue Cloud Abbey

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On this day in 1996, Father Francis Suttmiller died at the abbey. He was born in Batesville, Indiana on November 5, 1927. He attended high school and college at St. Meinrad and entered the novitiate there in 1952. Assigned to Blue Cloud, Father Francis completed his theology courses under the tutelage of Father Louis Fuchs at Immaculate Conception Mission, Stephan. Father Francis was ordained a priest on May 22, 1954. His was the first ordination at Blue Cloud.

Following his ordination, he taught and prefected at St. Paul's Mission, Marty. During the summer months he attended the University of South Dakota and earned a master's degree in education. In later years, he was again stationed at Stephan as pastor and at the time of his death, he was the pastor of Annunciation Church in Revillo while residing at the abbey where he was our gardener, poultryman and groundskeeper. Soon after he was diagnosed as having cancer and only a couple months to live, Father Francis asked Abbot Thomas, who'd gone to the hospital to console him, "Have you got a pencil and a piece of paper? You'll want to write down all of my jobs for which you'll have to find replacements."

Twice in his monastic life, he was guest master. Any notions tour groups or visitors might have had regarding a solemn monk were quickly dispelled by Father Francis. "Brother Sebastian and Brother Micah are the only two guys I know who weave all day without being drunk." That was his line when he showed people the loom in the vestment department. "I can't take you into the cloister. Someone might be on his way to the showers and you'd tell everyone you'd seen a monk streaking." Another often repeated line.

Father Francis was an outdoors sportsman who incubated wild fowl in the house. Turkeys, geese, ducks and pheasants were hatched in his monastic cell. For many years, he was our beekeeper. He knew a lot about bees and tended to lecture on the subject when asked the simplest question, providing more information than most people required.

Although he cultivated a certain gruffness, Father Francis endeared himself to many people. He was a born story—teller who never had to be persuaded to tell his yarns, most of them involving a character named Uncle Hank. Father Francis was conservative by nature and seemed to pride himself for following the letter of the law even to the point of absurdity.

He was not confined to bed until the last week of his life. Up to then, he was able to visit with the many people who called on him and whose lives he had touched as a hunting or fishing companion, and as a monk and pastor and one who had heard countless 5th steps for recovering alcoholics.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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