Trappist Brother Laurence Hoevel dies at age 78

MONCKS CORNER — Brother Laurence Hoevel, of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance, died at age 78 on Dec. 21, 2007, at Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey. A funeral Mass was held at the monastery church Dec. 22, 2007. Interment was at the monastery cemetery.

Brother Laurence was born April 7, 1929, in Fort Wayne, Ind. In 1948, after he graduated from high school, he entered the Trappist monastic life at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. He was one of the founding brothers at Mepkin Abbey, arriving as a novice on Nov. 14, 1949. He made his simple profession of vows on Aug. 15, 1950, and his solemn profession on Aug. 15, 1953.

Brother Laurence lived his life firmly rooted in the way of prayer and quiet that is the foundation of a monk’s vocation. He was always ready to serve his brothers in the community, and was one of the hardest working men to have entered Mepkin. He worked with the abbey’s buildings and maintenance program.

Brother Laurence could be seen on the farm working on the chicken houses and in whatever area that needed attention. The backhoe was his machine of choice on which he worked in the afternoons until three years ago when an accident limited his capacity for physical labor.

Brother Laurence was a quiet and effective presence to the senior people of the local black community. He received special permission from the Holy Father to go outside the enclosure of the Abbey. He was a beloved figure helping people remodel their homes, install plumbing facilities or add screening to a porch. He also made pastoral visits to the sick and often brought eggs to families along the way.

Brother Laurence took it upon himself to replant the live oaks on the abbey property that were destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He held the office of cellarer twice and was the undermaster for the laybrothers for three years.

Brother Laurence is survived by the monks; two sisters, Mary Ellen Drake of Spencerville, Ind., and Joan Kleber of Fort Worth, Ind.; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.