First, there is the statue, a striking cast plaster image of St. Thomas More. Then, there is the story of Brother Thomas More, Monk of a Benedictine abbey in France, who was accompanied on his spiritual journey by the statue. Finally, there is the ongoing tale of a small Catholic College in New England, who recently received the statue as a gift. The story of the statue, the monk, the Abbey, and the College is a moving one. It is a story that tells of the overwhelming generosity of Brother Thomas More, the fidelity of Fontgombault Abbey in France, and the steadfast commitment to Truth of Thomas More College.
In July of this summer, Mark and Emily Schwerdt, along with their two children, traveled to France on a pilgrimage that took them to Lourdes and to the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault. At Fontgombault, they were presented with a statue of St. Thomas More, and told that Brother Thomas More, suffering from illness, had asked that the statue be given to the small faithful Catholic college in America named for his patron.
Mark, Principal of St. Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield, New Hampshire, along with his wife Emily, are longtime friends of the College. Upon their return to the States, Mark presented the statue to Thomas More College President William Fahey on behalf of Brother Thomas More. Accompanying the statue was the moving story of Brother Thomas More which appears below.
“I am filled with overwhelming wonder at the thought of a man who could give this College half of his possessions.”—President William Fahey
Dr. Fahey marvels at the gift of this statue. “I am filled with overwhelming wonder,” he says, “at the thought of a man who could give this College half of his possessions. I trust that as he continues to draw ever nearer to St. Thomas More in his illness and suffering, the need for the image is passing away. The sight of the true man and saint grows clearer.”
The statue presently stands on the fireplace mantel in the Office of the President. There it serves as a reminder of Brother Thomas More’s selfless dedication to his patron and to Our Lord. It also serves as a reminder to the College of our commitment to the Truth which Thomas More defended with his very life.
Brother Thomas More
Brother Thomas More was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1945 of German descent. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he entered an order of Franciscan brothers, originally founded in Germany.
It was at the University of Wisconsin that he discovered Saint Thomas More from a non-Catholic professor. Brother was immediately drawn to him. He studied his life and writings. When he entered the Franciscans, he asked for the name of Brother Thomas More and much to his delight, that name was granted to him. With gift money, he asked for permission to buy this statue of Saint Thomas More. This statue has been with him since he was a young religious. His devotion to Saint Thomas More has grown throughout the years.
After profession, Brother had a few assignments teaching school before he was sent to an Arkansas boarding school that drew many boys from Mexico. He was a teacher and a superior in Arkansas for over twenty years. The school closed and his religious order had changed.
He wandered among a few religious orders (including five years at the Abbey of Still River) before he found his home at Fontgombault Abbey in France. He feels like he has found “the vestibule of heaven” at Fontgombault.
He arrived at Fontgombault in 2005 with a small bag containing his statue of Saint Thomas More and a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He was given permission to keep these in his cell.
He has heard many good things about Thomas More College and how devoted they are to Saint Thomas More. He has not been in good health recently and asked the Père Abbé here at Fontgombault if he could give the statue to Thomas More College, where Brother knew they were so devoted to his holy patron, Saint Thomas More.
The only gratitude he would wish for is for the College to continue and grow in devotion to his beloved Saint Thomas More. He always prays for the College.