Fr. Reginald Sander, OSB, enters eternal rest

On Saturday, 9 September 2023, in the hours after midnight that await in night’s darkness the coming of day, our beloved confrere, Father Reginald Sander, OSB, set aside his earthly burdens and answered the call of his Heavenly Father to enter the joys of eternal light. Fr. Reginald was a Jubilarian of both priesthood and monastic profession. He had been a resident in our St. Stephen’s Infirmary since 2016.

Ivan Godfrey Sander was born on 23 October 1935 to John and Eva Sander in their farmhouse in Pfeifer, Kansas, the youngest of their sixteen children. He was baptized at Holy Cross Church in Pfeifer two days later; he later received both First Communion and Confirmation in that parish, and undertook his primary education in the parochial school there. Farm life instilled a strong sense of family unity in the young Ivan, who continued to cherish his family connections throughout his life. Upon graduation from primary school, Ivan entered the minor seminary at Conception Abbey as a student for the Diocese of Salina. “The desire of becoming a priest had been with me ever since I could remember,” he noted in his application to the monastery some years later. His time at Conception soon began to refine his sense of vocation to include consideration of the monastic life; after much prayer, reflection and spiritual guidance, he petitioned for entry into the monastic novitiate upon graduation from the minor seminary in 1957. On 12 September 1958, he made first profession of monastic vows, receiving the religious name Reginald in honor of Christ the King. He immediately began graduate theological studies at Conception Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood on 23 May 1963.

Fr. Reginald’s first assignment was to teach in the high school at Mount Michael Abbey (a daughterhouse of Conception) in Elkhorn, Nebraska, from 1964–66. He returned to Conception to serve as Seminary Professor and Assistant Director of Public Relations (1966–67). He honed his skills at shepherding souls with pastoral assignments at St. Joseph’s Church in Springfield, MO (1967–71) and St. Bernard’s Church in McLaughlin, South Dakota (1971–72). He then settled into a long second stint as Seminary Professor, accepting, along with teaching responsibilities, an assignment as Seminary Chaplain, helping seminarians to discern their vocations as they learned to live in community in a dormitory setting. This period lasted from 1972 to 1988; it also included a term as Seminary Admissions Director (1973–76) and a year of Clinical Pastoral Education (1976–77). Assuming the direction of the Seminary and Abbey Boy Choirs (1978–1983), Fr. Reginald undertook studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey (summers of 1978–80); further studies in music and choral direction at the Royal School of Church Music took him to the United Kingdom in the summer of 1982. Diverse turns as Kitchenmaster (1979–83) and chaplain at nearby Clyde and Mount Alverno convents (1981, 1984) rounded out this very active period for Fr. Reginald.

After his long involvement with seminary education and formation, Fr. Reginald was granted a return to pastoral work in the parish setting, beginning with St. Peter’s Church in Stanberry, Missouri (1989–91). He then had an opportunity to minister in his native state of Kansas, where he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Oberlin (1991–93) and Sacred Heart Parish in Atwood (1993–94). Returning to Missouri, he was named pastor of St. Columban Parish in Chillicothe, Missouri (1994–98), and finally at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Tarkio, Missouri, with its mission at St. Benedict Parish in Burlington Junction (1998–2016).

In 2016, Fr. Reginald’s return to the abbey was necessitated by a stroke that impaired some motor skills and made walking difficult. He took up residence in our St.Stephen’s Infirmary, where he engaged in our ongoing Apostolate of Prayer on behalf of the Church and the world. From that point on, he was more or less dependent upon a wheelchair to get around, but he maintained his presence among the wider community with frequent attendance at the conventual Mass and the Divine Office. He seldom missed one of our Thursday evening periods of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

No account of Fr. Reginald’s life or ministry could be complete without some mention of his abiding love for the musical traditions that have embodied and ornamented the faith for so many centuries. Fr. Reginald’s family life was suffused with appreciation for music: his mother was the organist at his home parish and his father director of the choir. His personal devotion to the fostering and performance of choral music infused all areas of his ministry, both pastoral and educational. In all he did to advance the faith among those in his care, he was guided by the conviction that beauty is a sure pathway to the divine; he untiringly sought to instill that principle in others. Father Reginald could be a demanding and forceful choir director, as both seminarians and parishioners would aver. But he made it clear to those under his direction that hard work was necessary to achieve that proper enrichment of our praise and thanksgiving to God. The power of music to elevate the soul was the foremost spiritual implement in Father Reginald’s storehouse of tools for good works in the life of faith.

In early March 2023, Fr. Reginald’s condition noticeably worsened, and he was placed on hospice care. For six months, he patiently endured his diminishing physical health, while his ability to maintain his presence among his brethren necessarily declined. In the early hours of the morning on Saturday, 9 September, he surrendered his soul to his Maker without fear or fanfare, having long prepared for the inevitable journey.

Fr. Reginald is survived by his sister Mrs. Velma “Sandy” Batchelder (Reno, Nevada), by many nieces and nephews, and by his monastic confreres.

Vespers of the Faithful Departed will be prayed at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 September 2023, and Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 September 2023. We entreat you to offer the traditional prayers for the repose of the soul of our beloved confrere. May he rest in the peace of Christ!

Abbot Benedict and Community

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