June 10, 2002


Police search for motive in Conception Abbey shooting

CONCEPTION, Mo. (AP) — A 71-year-old man opened fire at a Roman Catholic Abbey, killing two monks and seriously wounding two others before committing suicide in an abbey chapel, authorities said.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese said the diocese did not know if the shootings early Monday at Conception Abbey Benedictine monastery were related to the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic church for months.

“We have no idea who this person is,” said Rebecca Summers, diocese spokeswoman. “There appears to be no explanation as to why this happened.”

The gunman opened fire at random in the halls around the business offices of the monastery about 8:40 a.m., said the Rev. Gregory Polan, abbot of the Abbey. He said the monks barred themselves in their rooms when they realized they were hearing gunshots.

Two monks were killed and two other monks were seriously wounded. Authorities later found the suspect dead in a chapel on the monastery grounds. They also found two weapons, an AK-47 and a 22.-caliber rifle, near the body.

The Rev. Philip Schuster, 85, of Pilot Grove, and Brother Damian Larson, 64, of Wichita, Kan., were killed. Schuster was a greeter at the monastery’s front door; Larson worked as a groundskeeper.

The injured were identified as the Rev. Kenneth Reichert, 68, of Brunswick. He was shot in the stomach and was in surgery at St. Francis Hospital in Marysville. Reichert was an assistant to Abbot Polan.

The Rev. Norbert Schappler, 73, was in stable condition at Heartland Regional Medical Center. It was unclear how he was wounded. He oversees the dining room and also works as director at the printing house.

No students or faculty were on campus because the seminary had ended its academic year in mid-May.

Polan said the Abbey had received no threatening letters or phone calls to hint that the attack was imminent.

Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said officers had been sent to the suspect’s home about 70 miles south of the Abbey to look for clues. But as of Monday afternoon, no evidence was released.

Polan said he was shown the suspect’s driver’s license, but did not recognize him as an employee or as anyone with a connection to the Abbey.

“There’s a lot of shock and sadness,” Polan said. “These were two monks whose lives have been lived here in a generous, gracious spirit.”

The Conception Abbey is a Benedictine monastery and seminary. The seminary college on campus is the largest priestly training center in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph led by Bishop Raymond J. Boland. The complex also has a basilica and publishing operation.

The college lists a staff of 19 priests, eight brothers, one sister, six lay professors and a student body of 97.

The abbey is located on a 30-acre rural campus about 90 miles north of Kansas City.

Ronda Strueby, 39, a supervisor in the packaging department of the Abbey’s printing house, said all employees were evacuated about 9 a.m.

“One of the monks, Brother Jeremiah, said there’s a man in the monastery with a gun, and we need everyone to evacuate,” she said. “We were all told to go home.”

“There’s a lot of helicopters and things around now. We heard he was in the monastery connected to the church. … It’s just not something you think about happening especially in a religious institution.”

Police search for motive in Conception Abbey shooting
Monday, June 10, 2002
Associated Press Writer