Early in the morning of Monday, 20 February 2017, our beloved confrere Father Aidan McSorley, OSB, a monk of Conception Abbey, Conception, MO, entered his eternal reward at the age of 75.
Francis William McSorley was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on 9 July 1941, the son of Francis and Helen (Bergman) McSorley. He was baptized at Blessed Sacrament Church in Kansas City, having been christened in honor of both his father and Saint Francis. His mother and father had been married in Blessed Sacrament parish; in the same church young Francis was also to take his First Communion (1949) and be Confirmed (1950). He then attended the Blessed Sacrament parish grade school, from which he graduated in 1955. Throughout his childhood in Kansas City he was commonly known as Frank.
Raised in a steady and deeply Catholic family, young Frank was quiet and reserved, distinguished as “a hard worker and deeply pious” by an early commentator. After a year at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, he entered Saint John’s Minor Seminary in Elkhorn, Nebraska, staffed and operated by the monks of Conception Abbey’s daughter-house, which would soon become Mount Michael Abbey. Upon graduation from Saint John’s in 1959 he entered Conception Seminary; he petitioned to enter the novitiate at Conception Abbey in 1961. Frater Francis made profession of first monastic vows in 1962, at which time he was placed under the patronage of Saint Aidan by Abbot Anselm Coppersmith. Frater Aidan had indicated that he was attracted by the saint’s exemplary reputation as a monk and churchman, but also admitted some practical considerations in choosing the name. “Because of my Irish background,” he noted, “I chose the name of a Celtic monk, who was close in time and spirit to Saint Columban, but who worked in spreading the Gospel and nurturing monasticism. My family, too, rather likes this name.”
Once he had been taken into the monastic family at Conception, Frater Aidan completed his undergraduate studies, receiving a B.A. in 1964. He then took up theological studies. The 1960s were a time in which the nature of vocation was under serious discussion, as the Church wrestled towards an understanding of both monastic and priestly life in a post-Vatican II world. While Frater Aidan had a strong sense of his own calling to holiness, he struggled with the question of whether monastic priesthood was the best means by which to realize that call. Eventually he was able to settle in his own mind the nature of his particular calling in service both to his monastic family and to the wider Church, and was ordained to the priesthood on 28 November 1969. At this time his monastic life and priestly ministry began to take their unique shape in service to his community and the Church.
Frater Aidan had begun graduate studies in Library Science at Rosary College, River Forest IL, in 1966, and had furthered them at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. A year after earning an M.A. in theology at Conception Seminary (1969), he completed the requirements for the M.S. in Library Science (1970). Having served as an assistant in the Conception Abbey Library since 1966, he became the head librarian in 1982, serving in that capacity until 1996. Father Aidan earned a third Master’s Degree when he completed the Christian Spirituality program at Creighton University, Omaha NE, in 1978. During that period he also served in a wide variety of capacities, from Chaplain, confessor and spiritual advisor to monastery barber and curator of the abbey stamp collection, to bellringer, intentionarius and sacristan. The period saw him exercising pastoral duties in many capacities: from 1988 he was assistant pastor for Ukrainian Rite Catholics at St Joseph Parish in St Joseph MO until his assignment in 2002 as pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Parnell, MO. He held this latter assignment until 2012. He also served as a summer chaplain at Domus Pacis in Fatima, Portugal, in 1988.
But these merely mark Father Aidan’s more conventional achievements, whether academic, monastic or pastoral. He was also an avid hiker, having attended Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School in 1983. At various times he had hiked both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast, not to mention sites both rugged and beautiful in between. From August to November 1996, Father Aidan took a course in house construction at the Vo-Tech Center in nearby Maryville MO.
Father Aidan was diagnosed with diabetes in 1974. Though this condition had an inevitable effect on his life and ministry, it did not hinder him from pursuing that life to the fullest extent possible. As a previous chronicler has aptly noted, Father Aidan often heard a unique and idiosyncratic music in life, and was thus wont to follow a different drummer. But the rhythm of his life was in harmony with the monastic round, and from that rhythm and round flowed the devoted service he gave to his community and to the wider Church.
Father Aidan is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Joe (Helen) O’Connor of Riverview FL; by his cousin, Paul Bergman of Denver CO; and by his monastic confreres.