Benedictine Father Jerome Thomas Coller, 90, died June 22 in the retirement center at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, June 28, at 3:30 p.m. in St. John’s Abbey and University Church with interment in St. John’s Cemetery following the service.
Thomas Coller was the second of three children born to Walter and Helen (Kretz) Coller in St. Paul on Feb. 6, 1929. He graduated from St. Thomas Academy in St. Paul and continued his education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. Thomas took the name Jerome and made his first vows as a monk of St. John’s Abbey on July 11, 1955. He continued his seminary studies at St. John’s and was ordained to the priesthood June 6, 1959.
Following ordination, Father Coller was appointed abbey organist and choir director and also taught theology and Gregorian chant at St. John’s University until 1963 when he was appointed to the Benedictine monastery of San Antonio Abad in Humacao, Puerto Rico, where he taught religion and music in both their grade and high schools. In 1965 he was assigned to Moorhead, Minnesota, as the Newman Center chaplain for Moorhead State University and assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Church.
He began graduate studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1968 and was awarded a doctor of musical arts degree in composition in 1971. He then returned to St. John’s where he taught music theory, music composition and piano until 1998. During those years, he held numerous solo piano recitals, performed in the faculty chamber ensemble, Pastiche, and composed many works for the liturgy as well as for solo piano, clarinet and piano, and saxophone and piano. He served as chair of the music department from 1973 until 1977. He won several awards during his musical career.
Father Coller was a regular parish weekend assistant in the Twin Cities throughout his monastic and professional life. In 2004 he took on the job of abbey stipendarius, collating Mass requests for special intentions. He also accompanied Divine Office as assistant organist for many years.
He is survived by his sister, Mary Helen Trisko of Arden Hills, nieces and nephews, and the community at St. John’s Abbey.