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Abbot Hugh R. Anderson, O.S.B., eighth abbot of St. Procopius Abbey, died at Edward Hospital on Wednesday, November 1, 2023.
Richard Anderson was a proud native of the small farming community of Ohio, Illinois, where he was born on January 30, 1938. After graduating from the local public high school, he accepted his parents’ “suggestion” that he attend a Catholic college. He came to St. Procopius, accordingly, as a pre-veterinary student. During his freshman year, he suffered a broken leg. Recovering in the school infirmary, he would often sit outside near the cannery entrance. To that establishment would Brother Raphael Kozel bring produce from his garden daily. Sometimes the monk would stop by to chat with the young man, and Richard sensed a sort of holiness that inspired him to consider the monastic life.
After his sophomore year, he entered the monastic novitiate and professed vows on June 24, 1959. Over the next years, while taking philosophy and theology classes at St. Procopius Seminary, he held such positions as socius of novices, prefect in Jaeger Hall, assistant in the registrar’s office at the college, and instructor of Latin and religion at St. Procopius Academy.
Father Hugh was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Martin McNamara at St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral on May 22, 1965. He then served several years as the college’s director of admissions. During 1969-1970, he studied at Indiana University in Bloomington, and there he obtained a Master of Science degree in educational administration. Returning to Lisle, he was appointed the first assistant principal of the rapidly developing Benet Academy. In his twelve years of assistance to the principal, Father Ronald Rigovsky, Father Hugh’s agreeable personality, homespun humor, and more than a dash of prudent wisdom did much to set the school on the road to success. He was also the master of juniors at the Abbey from 1973-1978.
Desire for a change of pace led him to accept the position of assistant pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Lisle, in 1982. There too he was a much-liked figure, known for his ability to adapt his sermons to the level of the grade-schoolers hearing them.
On April 9, 1985, somewhat to his amazement, the monastic community chose him as the eighth abbot of St. Procopius, succeeding Abbot Valentine Skluzacek. He was the first of the community’s leaders not to have known the patriarchal Abbot Procopius Neuzil, long the guiding force of the monastery. In his new role, Abbot Hugh labored to help his confreres continue the post-conciliar renewal as well as adapt to the growth of its educational work at a time when vocations to the monastery were diminishing.
Respected by the other monasteries in the American-Cassinese Congregation, Abbot Hugh was elected to the President’s Council of that body from 1989-1998. Following the completion of his 65th year and consequent resignation as abbot at the end of 2002, he gratefully accepted a year of sabbatical, during which he resided at St. Louis Abbey. Returning to Lisle, he willingly accepted Abbot Dismas Kalcic’s request to lead campus ministry at Benedictine University, and he also took over the direction of the Abbey’s garden, where he could indulge his life-long love of farming. The 2004 Congregational General Chapter, held at St. Procopius Abbey, elected him again to the President’s Council. His service on that body meant that, when Abbot President Timothy Kelly’s health collapsed in early 2010, Abbot Hugh was obliged to fill in on an interim basis.
The General Chapter that summer prevailed upon him to accept a six-year term as Abbot President. He combined this work from 2012 with becoming President of Benet Academy. With his departure from that role in 2015 and the completion of his term as Abbot President in 2016, Abbot Hugh was happy to devote his time and energy to the garden, along with service to the campus ministry program at the Academy.
Though a variety of aches and pains troubled him as he moved into his mid-eighties, he remained active in his assignment and in community life. To fix a troubled knee, he underwent knee replacement surgery that was successful. However, due to lung problems, he developed pneumonia that weakened his condition and he died peacefully in the presence of his confreres, Abbot Austin Murphy and Fr. Becket Franks.
His monastic community, a nephew, Dr. Richard Anderson, and a cousin, Mary Clare Spratt, survive him. In memoriam, a candle burns brightly at the abbot’s table in the monastic refectory in his honor.
The Abbot and Monks will receive his body on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 7:00 p.m., at Vespers. The Community will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at 10:30 a.m., with interment in the abbey cemetery on the campus of Benedictine University.
Please remember Abbot Hugh in your prayers.