The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Second editor commutes from Subiaco Abbey to lead paper for 11 years

Published: March 26, 2011   
Father Augustine Stocker, OSB
Second editor, 1911-1922

Father Augustine Stocker, OSB, came to Arkansas in 1887 at the age of 19 from Switzerland, and later became the second editor of The Guardian.

He was born Dec. 20, 1868 in Abt Wich, Switzerland.

Father Stocker was in his first year of study in philosophy at the Benedictine College of Einsiedlen when Father Gall D'Aujourd'hui persuaded him to come to the wilds of Arkansas with eight other novices, dubbed "the eight Beatitudes."

Father Stocker was the youngest of the eight and one of the first to volunteer to come to Subiaco Abbey and Academy.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edward Fitzgerald in December 1891. He served at the missions of St. Anthony in Cauksville and Sacred Heart in Charleston, before heading to Missouri as assistant at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

He returned to Subiaco as subprior and professor of theology. In 1897, he went to Rome to study at the Benedictine College of San Anselmo.

With his doctorate of divinity in hand, he garnered the nickname of "Doctor Stocker" and he became commonly known by it for the rest of his life -- both by his fellow monks and the public.

After his return to Subiaco in 1900, he returned to his role as professor of theology, and also became master of novices and clerics. In 1902 he became prior, a post he held until his death in 1922.

He devoted himself intensely to study throughout his life -- mastering seven or eight languages, memorizing the Psalter (all 150 Psalms), reading Shakespeare's works yearly and the Old Testament in Hebrew, and as a pianist playing all of Beethoven and Mozart's sonatas and other favorite compositions every year.

In 1907, Bishop John B. Morris asked him to serve the diocese as secretary for the Diocesan Synod, defender of the marriage bond, financial secretary, censor of books and diocesan consultor -- all in addition to his duties at Subiaco.

After the resignation of the first editor of The Southern Guardian, Msgr. J.M. Lucey, Bishop Morris appointed Father Stocker as editor. While he remained at Subiaco in Logan County, he made trips to Little Rock via train to complete his diocesan work.

In correspondence between the two friends, it states that Bishop Morris would even send Father Stocker spending money to buy a treat on the train.

During his time as editor, he wrote more than 1,000 editorials and articles.

His time was not without controversy. During World War I, Father Stocker wrote an editorial condemning Germany and reiterating loyalty to the United State. Because of the German-Swiss heritage of the settlers and monks in the area, they were under scrutiny from the wartime fears of the community and the government.

"Why should we be suspected of disloyalty? We are all American citizens, and most of us were never Germans in the political sense. It was from Switzerland that the abbey got most of its members until the monastery could produce American-born recruits. We appeal then, to our fair minded fellow-citizens to discontinue the unjust whisperings that would make us traitors," he wrote.

In addition to his editorial work at the diocese, Father Stocker wrote on various subjects including a paper on liberal education published by the National Catholic Educational Association.

Ironically, "Doctor Stocker" didn't have much faith in medical doctors and refused to consult one for his failing health. He finally went to see a doctor and died in the doctor's office in 1922.

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