Abbey prepares to bury two monks slain in shooting

Friday, June 14, 2002

CONCEPTION, Mo. -- Printing presses churned out memorial programs and chairs were placed inside the basilica as a northwest Missouri abbey prepared Thursday for the throng of mourners expected to bid farewell to two slain monks.

Investigators continued their probe of gunman Lloyd Jeffress' background with hopes of determining what fueled Monday's attack at the Roman Catholic abbey.

It could be several days before a final determination on the motive of Jeffress, 71, is ready, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Sheldon Lyon said Thursday.

As investigators searched for answers, the abbey prepared for today's funeral for the Rev. Philip Schuster and Brother Damian Larson. Both men were well-known: Schuster, 85, of Pilot Grove, Mo., had spent 51 years at the abbey, and Larson, 64, of Wichita, Kan., had been there 32 years.

Pews inside the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception accommodate about 200 people.

Another 250 wood chairs were set up in anticipation of large crowds at both services, and the abbey's onsite printing facility produced the programs.

"The monks are keeping busy, and that's probably therapeutic," said Dan Madden, abbey spokesman. "It's the work of hospitality that's keeping them busy. They're preparing to greet the visitors."

Death is the moment that Schuster and Larson have been anticipating all their monastic life, Madden said, adding that the Rule of St. Benedict urges the faithful monk to "keep death daily before one's eyes."

"There's a confidence that comes from their faith," Madden said. "They're ready for death because it's what their lives are about."

The Rev. Albert Bruecken, monastic vocation director and science professor at the seminary, was selected to deliver the eulogies for both men during Thursday's service, Madden said.

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