In Memoriam of One of our Own: Fr. Robert Sum, O.S.B., Ph.D.


June 3, 1961 – August 16, 2011

Our confrere, Father Robert “Bob” Sum, died at the Abbey late in the evening of August 16, after a difficult struggle with intestinal cancer.  The oldest of five boys, Father Robert was born in Chicago on June 3, 1961.  Growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, he graduated from Rolling Meadows High School in 1979 and began studies in Computer Science at the University of Illinois, from which he obtained a bachelor’s, master’s, and finally, in 1991, a doctorate in that field.

While in Champaign-Urbana, he came into contact with St. Procopius Abbey through Father David Turner, assigned at the time to the University’s Newman Center.  While very active in various campus ministry activities and drawn to the idea of a monastic vocation, Robert for the time being accepted a position as a software engineer for General Electric and worked for seven years in Schenectady, New York.  In 1997, he decided to pursue the idea of joining the Abbey, and that summer he entered the monastery.  Though willing to serve the monastery and schools however needed, music was closer to his heart than computer science, and already as a novice he assisted with the music program at Benet Academy.  After professing vows on November 14, 1998, Brother Robert both served as a computer advisor at the Abbey and worked in campus ministry at Benedictine University, especially with music and the retreat programs.  In 2001, he began theological studies at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, and he was ordained to the priesthood at the Abbey by Archbishop Daniel Kucera on July 2, 2005.  For one year, Father Robert was assigned to campus ministry work at the University, though he remained involved in various ways with the Koinonia retreat program there until the spring of 2011.

In 2006, he was appointed chaplain at Benet Academy, and he remained actively involved with ministry there so long as his health permitted.  Conscientious and cheerful by nature, Father Robert easily became over-committed, giving his utmost both to his work at the schools and his responsibilities for the computers at the Abbey.  Discovery of cancer in the spring of 2010 was a shock both for Father Robert and the monastic community.  He continued with his work at Benet as best he could, meanwhile undergoing the limited medical treatment available.

Fr. Robert is survived by his many brothers in the monastic community, his parents, Robert and Marcia, and his four brothers, Michael, Gregory, Steven and Jeffrey.  In memoriam, we will light a candle at his place at table in the refectory.

At the Abbey we will receive his body at 7:00 p.m., Friday, August 19, 2011.  We will then process into the Abbey Church, pray the Office of the Dead and keep vigil.  On Saturday, August 20, 2011, at 10:30 a.m., we will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial and travel to the Abbey Cemetery for the interment.  All are welcome to join us as we observe these solemn rites.

Please remember Father Robert and all of us in your prayers and masses.

Abbot Austin and Community


7 responses

  1. Fr Robert was such a kind and gentle man, with a quick smile. Fr Robert, was loved by all the Benet children and families. Heaven has welcomed a very special angel.

  2. I had the privilege of knowing Father Bob for the past 5+ years. We worked together on Campus Ministry at Benet Academy and I always considered him a mentor/friend.

    I am writing a tribute to Father Bob for The Candor Newspaper at Benedictine University. I would love to add the picture of FABA with Abbot Austin. We will give the photographer credit; this would be such an extraordinary image to add!

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