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Br Howard Studivant, OSB, last surviving member of early interracial monastery, dead at 87

A veteran religious brother who served in one of the first interracial religious communities in America has succumbed to illness in Indiana.

(Lauck & Veldhof Funeral Home)

Br Howard P. Studivant, OSB, the last surviving member of the former St. Maur Priory—one of the first interracial religious communities in the U.S.—has died in Indiana. He was 87 years old.

Following his passing on February 19, a funeral Mass was celebrated on February 24 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis, where he was a longtime member. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery.

Born in 1935 in Faunsdale, Alabama, Studivant entered consecrated life as a religious brother as a member of St. Maur’s, which had been formed in 1947 in St. Denis, Kentucky. The new community was established by Benedictine monks from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota, with the aim of challenging segregation by accepting men of all races.

During the ban on Black Catholic seminarians in the United States, upheld to varying effect from the nation’s founding until the mid-20th century, the seminary attached to St. John’s had been one of the first to accept Black men into stateside formation, beginning in 1939. One of the graduates, Fr Bernadine Patterson, OSB, would go on to become the first Black Catholic prior in U.S. history when he was elected to head St. Maur’s.

After relocating to South Union, Kentucky on the historic Shakertown property, St. Maur’s added a seminary in 1954. The priory became independent from St. John’s in 1963 and moved with the seminary to Indianapolis in 1967. They eventually came under the purview of Newark Abbey in New Jersey.

During the late 20th century, Studivant worked in Indianapolis for eleven years at St. Rita Catholic Church, the oldest Black parish in Indiana. Among other duties, he drove school buses for both St. Rita and Holy Angels Catholic Church, another Black Catholic community in the city.

Studivant also served for a time as the coordinator of Black ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and was a member of the Knights of Peter Claver. He was active with the National Black Catholic Congress throughout his later adulthood, representing his parish at the organization’s quinquennial gatherings, first held in 1987.

Studivant was one of several Benedictine from St. Maur’s to remain in Indianapolis after the closure of the seminary in 1976 and the priory in 2001. He continued to serve in local ministries, including as a sacristan at the cathedral, until illness prevented him.

Flowers can be sent to Studivant’s family on the Lauck & Veldhof Funeral Home website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.

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