Father Bruce Swift, OSB, died on December 25, 2014, as he was preparing to join the monks in praying Morning Prayer for Christmas. Abbot James was able to give him the Apostolic pardon, as he was surrounded by his brothers in prayer.
Robert Lee Swift was born on December 17, 1932, one of triplet boys born to William and Loretta Swift in Springfield, Mo. He attended grade school and high school at St. Agnes in Springfield. In 1954, he graduated from St. Benedict’s College, where he studied biology. He then entered the novitiate of St. Benedict’s Abbey and received the religious name, Bruce. He professed his first vows as a monk on July 11, 1955, and his solemn vows on July 11, 1958. After completing his studies for the priesthood at the Abbey School of Theology, he was ordained on May 26, 1960.
Father Bruce’s monastic life was punctuated with a willing obedience to his superiors. Despite having studied biology, the Abbot asked him to study French. He received a Masters Degree in French from Assumption College, Worcester, Mass., and spent four summers studying in France.
From 1960 to 1983 Fr. Bruce served in many roles at Maur Hill Prep in Atchison. He taught English, drama, biology, chemistry, and French, and served in a variety of administrative roles. He would return to teach religion in 1992-1993.
Fr. Bruce became the postulant director in 1983, and in 1984 he also was assigned the duties of vocation director.
Fr. Bruce served as pastor of Sacred Heart in Conway, Mo., and St. William in Buffalo, Mo., from 1993 to 2000. During the Jubilee Year of 2000-2001, Fr. Bruce received permission to be a confessor at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, where he heard confessions of pilgrims in English and French.
He returned to the Abbey to be the novice master, a position he held from 2001 until 2011. He also served as Catholic chaplain to the prisoners at the State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kan., from 2001 until 2013.
He was perhaps best known as a confessor. He was a faithful minister of the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance.
Father Bruce was preceded in death by his parents, and three brothers, William, James, and Fred. He is survived by three sisters, Jeannine Solar, Patricia Garton, and Rosie Fritz, and a brother, Paul.
Vespers for the Dead, followed by visitation, will be prayed on Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in St. Benedict's Abbey Church. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church on Wednesday, December 31, at 10:30 a.m., with interment following in the Abbey cemetery. All are welcome!