Brother George Matsuoka, OSB, 98, dies; recalled for welcoming handshake, smile
PERU — Brother George Matsuoka, OSB, a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru who for decades was beloved for his outstretched hand and smile that greeted St. Bede Academy students and guests as they arrived to and departed from school, died on Easter Sunday morning, April 12, 2020. He was 98.
Reception of his body took place at the St. Bede Abbey Church on Tuesday, April 14. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there the following day with Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, as principal celebrant and homilist. Because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the funeral Mass was private. It was however, livestreamed on the internet.
“Brother George was here, day after day, spending time with the students,” Abbot Philip said in the homily. “Always with a smile and welcome, giving them a sense of how precious they were. What a gift!”
Brother George’s ministry of cheerful greeting is captured in a life-size, bronze statue — sculpted by artist and St. Bede alumnus Larry Johnson — that was dedicated in 2018 and placed just inside the academy’s new main entrance through the Perino Science Center. In 2009, Brother George was inducted into the St. Bede Athletic Hall of Fame and he recently observed the 75th anniversary of his Benedictine profession.
“He learned so early to follow Benedict’s precept that all visitors should be received as if they were Jesus Christ,” said Abbot Philip.
Born in Chicago on Aug. 27, 1921, to George and Emma (Laudstrom) Matsuoka, he entered the novitiate at St. Bede in 1943 and professed his vows on May 17, 1944.
Brother George worked in the bakery and then in the abbey print shop, hand-setting type.
He had recently moved to St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon. Abbot Philip noted that Brother George continued his greeting ministry there.
“Almost every morning he would put on his habit and go to the entrance of the chapel before Mass and stand there and shake hands,” said Abbot Philip. “That welcome, that charity, filled his heart.
“Truly, Brother George was converted and transformed by the monastic life,” continued Abbot Philip. “He was a presence of Christ — loving, concerned, supporting.”
Interment in the abbey cemetery followed followed the funeral Mass. A public memorial Mass will be celebrated at a later date.
Memorial gifts may be directed to St. Bede Abbey.