Book looks back on Abbey deaths

Connie Goff

At 8:40 a.m., Monday, June 10, 2002, Lloyd Jeffress entered Conception Abbey and began randomly shooting.

That day, both Father Philip Schuster and Brother Damian Larson both died while Father Kenneth Reichert and Father Norbert Schappler were injured.

Having then turned the gun on himself, questions were left unanswered about why Jeffress would commit such an assault.

Six years following the, Danny Schuster, nephew of Father Philip Schuster who was killed, wants to honor the lives of the monks at Conception Abbey with a book entitled "Blessing out of Tragedy."

Schuster is seeking help from those who knew the monks involved –– relatives, friends, Nodaway County citizens who were affected by the tragedy.

"These men touched so many lives," he said. "I know there are more stories out there. I'd like to use them in the book. I want to highlight the blessings that have come in the past years."

Anyone wishing to contribute stories or information can mail them to Schuster Group, P.O. Box 61, Maryville, MO 64468, or e-mail Schuster at pathwalkerdanny@aol.com.

"I want to write this book to bring about a piece of religious history that people can keep a hold on," Schuster added. "I want to let people know what happened. I really believe Father Philip and Brother Damian are martyrs."

Schuster is one of seven children who grew up in Maryville –– having graduated from Maryville High School in 1975. He left the area soon after graduation to attend St. Anthony's School of Nursing in Oklahoma City.

Schuster researched information for his book for more than a year. He has been working full time on the book since his return to Maryville eight months ago when he came home to care for his ailing father.

Schuster said through his book, he wants to point out some of the positives that have come about since the tragedy.

"Scholarships have been set up for young men who want to go to the Abbey to become priests," he said. "Parks have been created –– Abbey Trails, as an example, which is dedicated to the memory of Father Philip and Brother Damian. There has been money donated for good causes –– helping people through the Abbey."

Schuster said recognition of Father Philip's book, "Seeking God's Will Through Faith, Hope and Charity," which was published after his death. In the literary world it’s an example of one of the positive things that has taken place since the tragedy, along with Paul Skinner's (Father Philip's great-nephew) recognition in the music world with his CD "Gettin' with it." The CD includes the song "Shining Wonder," which Skinner wrote about Father Philip, who he admired a great deal.

Schuster plans to tell the story of Conception Abbey through photos and the written word. He will include a history of the Abbey, autobiographies of the men who died, an account of the events taking place on the day of the murders and what has happened since then.

"I am not a world renowned author," Schuster said. "I'm not an author at all. I'm actually an R.N. My dad is an English teacher, but not me. This is a labor of love. I get excited about the book every time I talk about it."

At the time of the tragedy, Abbot Gregory said the monks at the Abbey would work to restore the spirit of peace that exists there.

On the sixth anniversary of the death of their fellow monks, Conception Abbey will be quiet. Prayers of remembrance will be said by the monks who remain. They have chosen to move on.

"Part of the view of the Benedictine Monks is not to dwell on what happened in the past," said Jarrod Thome, director of communications at Conception Abbey. "They praise God in the here and now and what is to come."

Maryville Daily Forum