MOUNT PLEASANT — More than a hundred people gathered at Christ Our King Church on Sept. 11 to pray for Abbot Francis Kline at a special memorial Mass.
They spoke of his love for God, for music and for nature; told stories about the organ concerts he gave and the journeys he made during his life; and laughingly recalled his quiet, quirky sense of humor displayed everywhere from daily life at Our Lady of Mepkin in Moncks Corner to city streets in Russia.
Abbot Kline, who served as abbot at the Trappist monastery, died Aug. 27 at age 57 after a three-year battle with lymphoma. He was buried at the abbey on Aug. 30.
The Mass was concelebrated by two of his closest friends, Msgr. James Carter, pastor of the church, and Bishop David B. Thompson; Trappist Father Aelred Hagan and Father Robert F. Higgins also concelebrated. Deacon Joseph Cahill served as master of ceremonies for the evening.
Those who attended included priests, women religious and laity from around the Diocese of Charleston.
The choir of Christ Our King offered moving music throughout the Mass, and many people in the pews wiped away tears during the hymns.
Bishop Thompson offered a homily and tribute to Abbot Kline. He described the honor of giving the abbatial blessing to him in March 1990, and joked about the fact that Abbot Kline usually refused to wear the miter that is part of an abbot’s ceremonial vestments.
He spoke of the sadness of losing a man like Abbot Kline who gave himself completely, not only to his work, but to his friendships and relationships with others.
Bishop Thompson also said that it hurt to think that those who knew him shall never hear his voice again or the sound of his music but also “because he was our very own abbot.”
He said he was privileged to be with Abbot Kline during the last hours of his life, and said one of the monks from Mepkin put the abbatial cross around Abbot Kline’s neck and made sure he was clothed in his Trappist habit before he died.
“We thanked each other for our friendship, and I told him ‘the most wonderful thing … has been who you are and what you have been,’ ” he said.
The retired bishop of the diocese spoke with humor about the fact that both he and Abbot Kline were from Philadelphia and pulled for the city’s sports teams, especially the Phillies, a baseball team that has not had much success in recent years.
“He always said that as a Phillies fan, you had a lot of faith, but not much hope,” he said.
Bishop Thompson spoke of Abbot Kline’s devotion to Mepkin Abbey as a spiritual home and also as a beautiful and special part of the world.
He talked about the abbot’s work not only to improve facilities at the monastery but to preserve its land and the surrounding area.
Dedication to environmental work was one of the hallmarks of Abbot Kline’s work at the monastery.
“Look how Francis loved the place we call Mepkin Abbey,” Bishop Thompson said. “People of all faiths knew that God was at Mepkin Abbey because of Francis … he brought people to reverence and to their knees.”
After the Mass, the bishop reflected on their 17-year friendship.
“I blessed him as the third abbot of Mepkin less than a month after I was installed as bishop,” he said, “and I was privileged to be with him during his last hours.”