Brother Francis Peters, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: January 30, 1923
Professed: March 21, 1944
Died: September 17, 2009


George Francis Peters was born on January 30, 1923, of George and Clothilde (Brouillard) Peters in Monticello, Minnesota. His father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and his mother was a homemaker. He was an only child and attended the local public school and graduated from Monticello High School in 1942.

George came to Saint John's on July 1, 1942, and immediately he began working in the greenhouse as well as working in the business office for the abbey and university. George entered the novitiate on March 20, 1943, and received the name of Francis. After the novitiate he made his first vows as a Benedictine monk on the feast of Saint Benedict, March 21, 1944. Then he began a career of working in the duplicating and print shop operating the multilith machine for 28 years.

Over many years, the longtime love of Brother Francis was working on the abbey grounds and in the greenhouse where he was director for two years from 1960-1962. His love of floral beauty continued throughout his life. Summer after summer, in the private monastic garden located between the quadrangle building and Lake Sagatagan, he planted and protected a colorful assortment of roses, geraniums, impatiens, salvia, lilies, ivy, ferns, coleus, and dusty miller. He waged persistent battle against marauding squirrels, rabbits, and deer that preferred the tender shoots of his flowers.

While Brother Francis had no formal horticultural training, he had lots of experience, study, and inherent talent: "I fill up the flower bed and put a border around it. I don't fuss with arrangements. I just do it." Our late botanist, Father Gunther Rolfson, OSB (1917-2004), noted Francis's talent and asked him to take care of the greenhouse for the university where he worked from 1975 until 1984. An article in the Saint John's University student newspaper, The Record, from 1980 profiled Brother Francis: "His warm smile, scarred leather boots, and worn and wrinkled leather gloves seem to meld with his surroundings as he strolls through the gardens. He remarked: 'I enjoy my work. It's relaxing and much better than sitting behind a desk. I enjoy being outdoors and working with my hands. My satisfaction comes when I step back and take a look at what I've done.'"

Brother Francis did not spend all his time here at the abbey but was a missionary in the abbey's mission in San Antonio Abad Monastery Humacao, Puerto Rico (1971-1972 and 1974-1975), and one year in Saint Augustine's Monastery, Nassau, Bahamas (1984-1985). In 1985 he began his second career working in the Alcuin Library part-time where he processed books for the shelves and part-time in the Abbey Tailor Shop using the pressing machine, adding the finishing touches to laundered trousers and monastic habits. In the fall of 2006, Brother Francis retired from the library and tailor shop.

Soft-spoken with a wry sense of humor, Brother Francis was a gentle presence within our monastic family. He had a strong commitment to the monastic horarium, and a gift for beautifying our gardens. His perennials will continue to delight us for years to come.

Brother Francis died on September 17, 2009, at the Saint Cloud Hospital. He is survived by several cousins, other family members, and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Brother Francis on September 22, 2009, in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in Saint John's Cemetery following the service.

We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Francis, to your prayers.

Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey