Father Corwin John Collins, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: October 3, 1930
Professed: July 11, 1951
Ordained: June 1, 1957
Died: July 25, 2019
John Collins was born in Port Chester, New York, on October 3, 1930, to John Peter and Mary Ann (Tarpey) Collins, who were born in Ireland. His family included seven children—five boys and two girls. His mother was a homemaker and his father a painter and interior decorator. He credited his parents for their good example and for providing a loving yet disciplined Catholic family life.
John began his grade school education at Saint Anselm’s Catholic School in the Bronx, New York, (1936–1944) in a parish staffed by Saint John’s Benedictine priests. He then enrolled—with abbatial financial assistance and blessing—in Saint John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville (1944–1948). During his time at the Prep School he became better acquainted with the Benedictines. In his own words: “The two things that appealed to me most were the family spirit and the many different types of work undertaken by the monks in the abbey.” He seemed to thrive in the prep school environment, participating in almost all the intramural sports, playing center on the football team for two years, and taking on several acting roles in theatrical productions. His service even extended to working on the library staff and table waiting.
Initially attracted to the mission work of Maryknoll, John decided to become a Benedictine at Saint John’s Abbey.
He continued his education at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, in 1948, earning a B.A. in philosophy in 1953. In the same year, he began priesthood studies at Saint John’s Seminary. Following solemn vows in 1954, Brother Corwin (his monastic name) was ordained to the priesthood in 1957.
During the summers between 1958 and 1964, he attended the University of Notre Dame, and was awarded a master’s degree in sociology in 1964. He later continued his education in summer sessions at Fordham University in New York, where he pursued coursework in counseling and film studies.
Besides teaching religion, Spanish, and social studies (sociology) and serving as hockey coach at Saint John’s Preparatory School from 1957–1964, Father Corwin was also prefect and dean of students from 1957–1972. He continued his work in the educational apostolate through his appointment as headmaster at Benilde-Saint Margaret’s High School, Saint Louis Park, from 1972-1974, and then as co-principal from 1974-1977.
A turning point came in the year 1977 when Father Corwin took up parish life. He wrote, “it was an interesting transition into parish life, coming from the educational world.” His pastoral parish assignments began at Holy Rosary Parish in Detroit Lakes, where he served two years (1977–1979) as associate pastor. In 1979 he became pastor of Saint Joseph Parish, Saint Joseph, for seven years. His next pastoral appointment was at Seven Dolors Parish, Albany, where he remained pastor for twenty-one years (1986–2007). Here he guided the construction of a gathering place and multiple-use facility that presented a fine architectural and practical addition for the parish.
Father Corwin then retired to Saint John’s Abbey for a time (2007–2008), only to be reassigned to Saint Martin’s Church, Saint Martin, and Saint Catherine’s Church, Farming, for an additional three years (2008–2011). According to Father Corwin, “My most enjoyable assignment was being in parishes. I enjoyed the variety of work and also the variety of people.” He was also assigned as chaplain at Mother of Mercy Nursing Home, Albany, for several months beginning in 2011, prior to his final retirement that year.
Father Corwin also served as dean of the Benedictine parishes in the Saint Cloud diocese and as a member of the presbyteral council of the diocese.
Father Corwin died on July 25, 2019, in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by a sister, Maureen Collins, Washingtonville, New York, and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Corwin at 3:30 p.m. on July 31, 2019 in the Saint John’s Abbey and University 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, Father Corwin, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey