Born: June 26, 1925 Professed: December 8, 1955 Died: January 29, 2020
The eldest member of our community and the last to have entered the monastery as a lay brother, Brother Raphael Kozel, died at St. Patrick's Residence, Naperville, IL, on the morning of January 29, 2020. Born into a large farming family in LaGrange, Texas, on June 26, 1925, Wenceslaus Kozel knew of St. Procopius Abbey from his early years, both through the publications of the Bohemian Benedictine Press and through the fact that his mother’s brother, Father Charles Kolek, was a member of the monastery. Suffering from serious vision problems that would trouble him throughout his life, the young man only advanced so far as sixth grade in the local schools before it was decided to send him to a school for the blind in Austin, where he spent two years. Wenceslaus then returned to work on the family farm. In 1950, he took up the profession of steeplejack, helping to build radio towers. By that time, his sister Annie had become a member of the Missionary Oblates of St. Scholastica in Lisle, and in 1951 she invited him to spend his vacation there. He would throughout the rest of his life quip, “And I’m still on vacation!”, for he never returned to his former occupation. Instead he was hired by Father Richard Shonka, the procurator of St. Procopius Abbey, to work in first the powerhouse and then the garage. Coming into contact with the lay brothers, he made application to join the monastic community, taking vows under the name of Brother Raphael on December 8, 1955. For a number of years, he was in charge of a large garden that supplied produce for the cannery operation run by Brother Anthony Hubka. From 1964-1967, Brother Raphael took part in an effort to establish a semi-contemplative monastery in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Returning to St. Procopius, he was then assigned to the Bohemian Benedictine Press in Chicago, where, along with Brother Peter Pavlinak, he did much to keep the machinery operating during the Press’ final years. Brother Raphael was in 1976 placed in charge of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning at Benet Academy. Notwithstanding his near blindness, for close to three decades “Brother Red” was involved at the school, even learning how to program various HVAC operations on the computer. Ever more unsteady on his feet as he passed his eightieth birthday, it finally became necessary to remove him from the work at Benet, but he continued to contribute to the good of the community through his cheerfulness, his devotion to common exercises, and his assistance wherever possible. In 2016, decreasing mobility led to his admission to St. Patrick's Residence, where he spent his final years. Please remember Brother Raphael in your prayers.
Abbot Austin and Community
St. Procopius Abbey