Brother Placid Lawrence Stuckenschneider, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: May 19, 1926
Professed: July 11, 1953
Died: February 24, 2007
Lawrence was the second son born to August and Agnes (Hajek) Stuckenschneider on May 19, 1926, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The family moved to Great Falls, Montana, before he began attending elementary school there. He continued his education in Great Falls and graduated from high school in 1944. In September he was drafted into the US Army as a combat rifleman. He served in the Philippines during the last great campaign of the war that liberated the Philippine island of Mindanao from the Japanese.
For another six months after the end of the war, "Stucky" succeeded Bil Keane in Tokyo, cartooning for Pacific Stars and Stripes. He specialized in cartoons that offered wry commentary on life in Japan during the Occupation. After discharge from the Army, Lawrence returned to Great Falls for a year, and then enrolled at Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. He found quite a few former GIs there who, like himself, were seeking professional training.
Intrigued by an advertisement for the Salvatorian Brothers, Lawrence wrote to several religious communities with Brothers. Abbot Alcuin Deutsch OSB responded with a personal invitation for him to visit Collegeville. He stopped at the monastery when hitchhiking home to Montana from Milwaukee. A gracious reception by the monks led him to enter Saint John's Abbey in September of 1948. Abbot Alcuin gave Lawrence the religious name of Placid. He made first vows in 1950. Brother Placid was an industrious and capable worker finding employment in the garden, the forest, the green house, the barns, and the butcher shop. He also did some work in the Art Department of Saint John's University.
Brother Placid was assigned from 1951 to 1956 to the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he served as bus driver, teacher of both Shop and Catechetics while helping with general farm and maintenance work. Placid returned in 1956 to work in the US Post Office on campus. In 1958, at the suggestion of Father William Heidt OSB, he began part-time work as an artist at Liturgical Press. Eventually art became the prime focus of his life although he continued to work in the Porter's Office, drive the coal truck, and maintain the abbey's cars.
Brother Placid began full time work at the Liturgical Press around 1965 as its primary illustrator. He designed layout and jackets for dozens of books, and produced hundreds of illustrations. His work appeared in the Bible and Liturgy Bulletin for 41 years. He spent 1970 on assignment in Puerto Rico while continuing to work for Liturgical Press by mail. Brother Placid employed a wide variety of media that included pen and wash, collage, watercolor, welded metal, wooden sculpture and photography.
After the Second Vatican Council, he accepted invitations from many parishes in the Upper Midwest to serve as a liturgical consultant. Parishes were renovating church sanctuaries and their furnishings. For eleven years he also provided art once a month for the diocesan newspaper, The St. Cloud Visitor.
Besides his time at Layton School of Art, Brother Placid also studied at the University of Notre Dame, the Blackhawk Mountain School of Art in Colorado, and the Sagrada Art Studio in Albuquerque. In 1974, at the Instituto San Miquel de Allende in Guanajusto, Mexico, he created depictions of St. Francis of Rome and St. Augustine of Hippo for chapels on the lower level of the abbey church.
Some of Brother Placid's more visible works include "The Four Evangelists," a metal sculpture on the façade of Liturgical Press, and the road signs on old Highway 52 that formerly greeted visitors to the university, prep school, and abbey.
Times of change are often a cause of confusion and pain. So it was for Brother Placid in 1985 when his employment was reduced to half-time. He felt his commitment and contributions were insufficiently appreciated. Liturgical Press, however, needed new ideas and fresh images for a highly competitive market in a changed and changing Church.
The St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art recognized Brother Placid as "Pioneer Artist in the Field of American Liturgical Art" when it chose him to become the 2006 Laureate of the Mother Teresa Award.
A special project dear to his heart has only recently been completed. The publication, less than a month before his death, of his lavishly illustrated, autobiographical work, Soldier, Artist, Monk, brought Brother Placid much joy and a sense of accomplishment. He said the title was suggested by the influential Catholic publisher, Michael Glazier. The book is divided into three sections: Montana (rural life during the Great Depression); the end of WW II (Mindanao and Tokyo); and monastic life (spiritual and artistic).
Thousands of Catholics remember Brother Placid's sacred art from the weekly bulletin for parishes,Missalette covers, and the many drawings and illustrations he produced. Four books of his clip art are still in print. Placid's style is highly recognizable and always firmly rooted in Scripture and the liturgy.
Except for some hearing impairment, Brother Placid remained vital and enthusiastic in his monastic commitment. He faithfully attended Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours daily. In the span of a few weeks, however, he succumbed rapidly to lymphoma.
Brother Placid died at Collegeville on Saturday, February 24, 2007. He is survived by nieces and nephews and his monastic community.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Brother Placid at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, 2007, 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, Placid, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB and the monks of Saint John's Abbey.