Benedictine Father Rene Thomas William McGraw, 87, died Nov. 20 in the retirement center at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, in the St. John’s Abbey and University Church, with internment in the abbey cemetery. The service will be live-streamed at www.saintjohnsabbey.org/live.
Father McGraw was the second oldest of five children born to Joseph and Lucile Frances (Ryan) McGraw in Litchfield, Minnesota, on June 19, 1935. He received his elementary schooling in Litchfield and Little Falls, Minnesota, was enrolled at St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville from 1949 to 1953 and continued his education at St. John’s University, Collegeville, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1958. He was first professed as a Benedictine monk in 1956, taking the monastic name Rene, with final profession in 1959 and ordination to the priesthood in 1962.
Father McGraw continued his education at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s degree in philosophy in 1966, and from there he went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Paris, Nanterre, France, in 1972. He punctuated his academic career with sabbaticals at the New School for Social Research in New York City, at the Program for Non-Violent Sanctions at Harvard University, as well as at Oxford University.
In an online obituary posted by the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University newsroom, Provost Richard Ice noted, “For six decades Fr. Rene was a dedicated teacher, advisor and mentor. His profound commitment to his students and his strong service to CSB and SJU are legendary. He has been an inspiration and mentor to countless students, serving as a faculty resident and as a faculty member in philosophy and peace studies. His dedication to social justice was evident in his work and his service.”
Father McGraw was instrumental in the founding of the school’s peace studies program in 1987, served as chair of both the philosophy and peace studies departments and on numerous academic committees. He served five terms on the St. John’s Board of Regents and Trustees.
From 1987 through 1993 he served as formation director of St. John’s Abbey and he was a spiritual director for many in the community.
He is survived by his sister, Mary Lambert, Milford, Connecticut; brother-in-law, Bill Friedman, New York, New York; and the community at St. John’s Abbey.