St. John's Abbey monks drop Petters name from pavilion, will return $2M
PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
The unhitching of the disgraced Petters name and his money from various locales continues.
The latest reversal of fortune -- in this case $2 million -- came when the monks of Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., voted Tuesday to return the gift from the Thomas J. Petters Family Foundation for construction of the Petters Pavilion, the order announced.
The Petters name will also be removed, the monks decided. A new name for the facility, which was completed in May 2007, has yet to be determined.
The donation by Wayzata businessman Tom Petters, convicted Dec. 2 by a federal jury of orchestrating a $3 billion Ponzi scheme, was made in honor of his parents, Fred and Rosemary. The Abbey Church is where his parents have worshipped.
The abbey said it is currently negotiating the terms for how the money will be returned.
"After giving careful consideration to the gift, and the circumstances that surround this issue today, the monks ... decided that they would return the gift to Doug Kelley, the court-appointed receiver," the abbey said in a statement.
Brother Paul Vincent-Niebauer said that while the vote was "done in secrecy," he acknowledged that Petters' conviction prompted the action.
"It's what you have to do," Vincent-Niebauer said Friday. "We know the parents. They are marvelous. We are feeling really sorry for them."
The pavilion is a 3,500-square-foot expansion of the Abbey Chapter House. The two-level addition to the east entrance of the Abbey Church provides lobby space, elevator and stairwell access to the Assumption Chapel in the lower church, restrooms, bride's and groom's rooms, storage and a pedestrian tunnel that connects the Abbey Guesthouse to the pavilion and church for use during inclement weather.
On Dec. 8, the nearby College of St. Benedict announced that it has changed the name of the Petters Auditorium at its art center to the Escher Auditorium in honor of Sister Firmin Escher, who died this year after more than half a century of service to the central Minnesota school.
The college said it made the name change after consulting with the Fred and Rosemary Petters family, whom the school described as "cherished friends" of St. Benedict. The building was named after Tom Petters' parents at his request after he made a $3 million donation to the school for the building in 2003.
On Dec. 4, Miami University in Ohio announced it would return slightly more than $5 million it received as donations from Petters, who pledged $14 million for academic programs on behalf of his late son, John, and daughter, Jennifer.
John, a Miami student, was killed in Italy during spring break in 2004. He had wandered onto private property, mistaken for an intruder and stabbed to death.
If you want to preach morality, you must practice it impeccably. The Catholics at St. John's University in Collegeville Minnesota have acted in a way that sets the standard for religious institutions in an era of financial corruption. We are impressed.