Brother Lawrence “Olaf” Koester, monk of the former Benedictine monastery in Sonoita, passed away on Sunday, January 30, 2022. He would have reached 91 years of age on February 16 this year. 

Olaf was born in Viborg, Denmark in 1931 to Svend Koester and Elna Theodora Frederikke Larsen, the youngest of five children. His father was a senior high school teacher. After graduating from high school, Olaf did his required period of service in the Danish military. He then attended teachers’ training college and became a primary school teacher. Olaf became a Catholic around the age of thirty and entered the Benedictine lay community of Kloster Erlach in Austria sometime in the 1960s. In the monastery he took the name Brother Lawrence.

Br. Lawrence came to Arizona in 1980 with Fr. James Straif and four other monks to start a new Erlac Benedictine monastery in Casa Blanca Canyon, Sonoita. Three of the founding monks eventually returned to Austria, but Br. Lawrence, along with Fr. James and Br. Pachomius (Kurt) Pirmanschegg, put down deep roots here. Like a true Benedictine monk, Br. Lawrence put nothing before the “work of God” and lived by the work of his hands; that is to say, he delighted in private prayer, in singing the Psalms with his brothers, and in the quiet work of gardening, maintaining the monastery buildings, and tending to their numerous dogs.

After Br. Pachomius’ death in 2020, Br. Lawrence moved to an apartment at Atria Campana del Rio in Tucson. It was difficult for him to leave his home of 40 years, but he was a man of deep faith and made up his mind to be happy in his new home. Unfortunately, because of Covid restrictions, his many friends in Sonoita and Patagonia were unable to visit him. Even at Atria, at first, Covid restrictions severely limited his contact with his new neighbors within the facility. As restrictions eased, however, he made new friends among the other residents and the staff. He was always happy to hear from his old friends. He did not forget you! 

Br. Lawrence’s funeral Mass and burial will be held privately at Santa Rita Abbey in Sonoita.