A Letter from Br. Richard
SAINT AUGUSTINE’S HOUSE
3316 Drahner Road
Oxford, MI 48370
Telephone (248) 628-5155
9th April 2021
Members of the Fellowship of St. Augustine and other friends:
Many, if not most of you receiving this letter will already be aware of the passing
of our prior, Fr. John R. Cochran on Friday, the 26th of March. He was 83 years old. In
addition to informing those who may not have heard the news, I would like to provide
additional details to give a little more context to his death.
In December of 2019 Fr. John was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The first part
of last year he underwent surgery and then was treated with radiation and chemotherapy.
All this was completed by the end of April. Although he experienced some physical
exhaustion during the treatment he largely rebounded and picked up his normal activities
for the rest of last year.
The beginning of this year, however, new symptoms began to appear, at first
slight but persistent and increasing in severity. In early March a radiology report
suggested that his cancer had returned and spread. Additional visits to his doctors
confirmed this diagnosis and indicated that the options for treatment were few and likely
to be ineffective.
With his knowledge and consent he was enrolled in hospice care in mid-March.
We are grateful to the nurses and staff of St. Joseph Mercy Hospice for their services
which allowed us to care for Fr. John in his last days here at St. Augustine’s House.
During the last week of his life while he was still alert, he received many visitors:
His foster son Rudy McBride and family from Pittsburgh were with him over the
weekend; his brother Michael and his nephew Doug spent a day and half here. Many
more made brief visits to express their gratitude for his ministry: members of the
worshipping community here, other local members of the Fellowship, and others who
travelled a distance (one as far as California) to see him. In addition, there were telephone
calls and messages as well as cards, letters, and emails which I was able to read to him.
All of this was meaningful to him, and we who witnessed it were moved by this
spontaneous outpouring of affection and gratitude.
For the last several days of his life he was unresponsive. By taking turns we
maintained a continuous watch at his bedside. When he took his last breath early Friday
morning just before the prayer office of Vigils, his brother Michael and I were with him
and we were able to pray the prayers of commendation over him.
On Palm Sunday afternoon his body was returned to the church where he lay in
repose as we sang the daily round of prayer offices in which he had so faithfully
participated in life. At ten o’clock Monday morning the Burial Liturgy was celebrated
with our pastoral visitor, Bishop Matthew Riegle of the West Virginia Synod presiding at
the Eucharist assisted by several other clergy. His body was interred here in the cemetery
behind the church where Fr. Arthur and other members and friends are buried.
As I noted in my homily Fr. John’s active and fruitful ministry could be divided
into three relatively equal parts: two decades in Philadelphia, two decades Pittsburgh, and
a little less time as a permanent resident here at St. Augustine’s House. This third part of
his life is, however, larger than it may appear since his relationship with our community
preceded and ran concurrently with his other ministries. He first came here as a
seminarian. Throughout his ministry he made regular retreats often bringing with him
young people from his parish or neighboring pastors whom he wised to introduce to
monastic life as it is lived here. From the early 1990’s he served continuously on the
pastoral council of the community. As the prior then I came to rely upon him for advice,
support and often encouragement. In 2014 he succeeded me as prior and in that office he
His death coming just before Holy Week and Easter gave freshness and vividness
to the events we recall in these days. The indignity, labor, and struggle of dying is a
process the Son of God himself freely embraced for our sake on the cross and with whom
every Christian can be in solidarity in the hour—or weeks or months—of death. And now
we have heard again a message that the Church stills disbelieves for joy, namely that “the
Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon,” and that through Baptism we already
share in this eternal life with him and that “neither death, nor life…will be able to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is in this faith that we continue here at St. Augustine’s House in this season of
Paschal joy and renewed hope. At a special meeting of the council April 6th, I was
appointed interim prior to fill out the remaining days of Fr. John’s term until the annual
meeting of the chapter in May when more permanent arrangements will be made.
Our prayer for you and for ourselves in these days is the one with which the
Exultet of the Easter Vigil concludes: “O Lord, rule, govern, and preserve with your
continual protection your whole Church, giving us peace in this time of our paschal
—Br. Richard for the community