A funeral Mass for Father Paul Kidner will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at the St. Louis Abbey Church in Creve Coeur. Father Kidner, a Benedictine monk and second headmaster of Saint Louis Priory School, died Jan. 18 at the Abbey after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 88.
Born John Michael Kidner on Aug. 17, 1931, in Oswestry in the west of England, he attended Ampleforth College from 1943-49 and Brasenose College in Oxford from 1949-52, earning a degree in civil engineering. He entered the monastery at Ampleforth and made his simple profession as a monk on Sept. 22, 1953. He studied theology at the Collegio Sant’ Anselmo in Rome from 1955-59 and was ordained priest July 20, 1958. Immediately upon receiving his licentiate in sacred theology, he was sent to Ampleforth’s recently founded Priory in St. Louis, where he taught mathematics and theology and coached several sports, some of which were quite new to him.
Not a man of many words, Father Kidner was a careful, precise and patient teacher under whom many students attained highest scores in Advanced Placement exams in calculus. In 1973, when the Priory was granted independence from Ampleforth, he elected to cast in his lot with the young foundation, a commitment that would be confirmed 20 years later when he became an American citizen. In 1974, he succeeded the founding headmaster of Priory School, Father Timothy Horner, as headmaster, a position he held until 1983. From that year until his retirement from the school, Father Kidner served as associate director of college counseling, claustral prior responsible for the day-to-day running of the monastery, and bursar overseeing the responsible care of the Abbey’s finances. Father Kidner’s many contributions to the Abbey and school were recognized by the English Benedictine Congregation in 2004 when the honorary title of Cathedral Prior of Peterborough was conferred on him.
Father Kidner celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood in 2008 and continued teaching until his retirement in 2015 at the age of 83. That year, he was honored with the Luke Rigby Award for outstanding service to St. Louis Abbey. One alumnus summed up his contribution to the institution: “Truly a big part of Priory history. Remembered everyone, with anecdotes of their foibles. Math whiz, sports coach, face to the world …” In 2018, he celebrated 60 years as a priest.
Father Kidner’s body will be received at the Abbey Church on Friday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m., and an all-night vigil will be kept in the church. Burial will be in the Abbey cemetery, followed by a reception in the monastery.