Obituaries » Father Francis Wehri
November 4, 1935 - July 30, 2017
Service Date: August 4, 2017
Funeral Home Dickinson, ND
Memorial Mass: Friday, August 4, 2017 at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, ND.
A Memorial Mass for Father Francis (Arthur) Wehri will be celebrated on August 4, 2017 at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, ND.
Father Francis passed away on July 30, 2017 in Bogotá, Colombia where he had been living for the past 50 years at Monasterio Benedictino de Tibatí, the foundation established by Assumption Abbey in 1960. A funeral Mass was celebrated in Bogotá on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at the Church of Colegio San Carlos.
Arthur Wehri was born in rural Haymarsh, North Dakota, on November 4, 1935 to Frank and Kathryn (Roether) Wehri. This parish was always served by the monks of this Abbey, and many boys from St. Clement’s attended the Abbey boarding school. Arthur spent the years 1949-55 in Assumption Abbey school, where he excelled in the music department. No concert was complete without Art Wehri at the piano. In 1955, he became a monk of the Abbey, being given the name Francis. He professed first vows on July 11, 1956.
Fr. Francis did his philosophical studies at St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota and then spent four years in the seminary at Assumption Abbey. After his ordination on May 27, 1961, he began to work in Assumption Abbey School. He was principal of the school in 1965 when he underwent open-heart surgery in Washington, DC, for a congenital defect. Since this surgery was still in its beginning stages, his recovery was not taken for granted.
The very next year, 1966, Abbot Ignatius Hunkler sent Fr. Francis to Bogotá, Colombia, to be rector of Colegio San Carlos, the school founded by Assumption Abbey monks. For the next 49 years he served as rector of the school; a job in which he performed extraordinary work on the behalf of thousands of students over the decades.
He knew every student by name and took a hands-on approach to every aspect of the school. He was one of those rare educators who had a practical, intuitive understanding of what makes a school work, and what made students flourish. His work there made him a reference for education in the country and he managed to consolidate that educational institution as one of the best in the country. Throughout his years at the school, Fr. Francis did all he could to ensure that the students had an example in him for how to keep God and others at the center of their lives and he was not afraid of doing all of the menial tasks that were necessary to run the school (though in his last year, his physicians told him he could no longer bend over to pick up the the wastepaper on the grounds).
His arrival in Colombia, according to what he himself told Semana magazine, was given because his superiors ordered him. “Bogotá was an unknown city. But what I want to emphasize is that there are things that have not changed. People are still open, jovial and familiar.”
In an important sense, Fr. Francis is probably the best-known monk in the history of this Abbey. Thousands of San Carlos alumni consider him the gold standard of integrity and fairness, and until his death they continued to consult him as a mentor. If anything needs to be added, Fr. Francis had also functioned as Prior of Monasterio de Tibati, our monastic community in Bogota. He has always served as the community accompanist at the organ. He obtained an MA in education from the University of Alabama extension service in Bogotá.
Fr. Francis was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by one brother, Fred (Laura), and two sisters, Sr. Matthew, OSB of Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD and Eileen (Larry) Bolstad of Detroit Lakes, MN.