Fr Francis Dobson OSB, Benedictine monk of Ampleforth Abbey, died peacefully in the monastery infirmary at Ampleforth on 9 January 2018, at the age of 78.
He was born in Newark, in Nottinghamshire, in May 1939, and was educated at Gilling and Ampleforth. He worked in the family textile business before qualifying as an accountant; he worked in Nottingham and then for Price Waterhouse (now PwC) in London (1963-1967) and Johannesburg (1966-1967). As Fr Francis himself wrote in a recent edition of the Ampleforth Diary: "I was 28 when, on 7th September 1967, I caught a train from Newark to York and was then driven by Br Bonaventure to Ampleforth to start the monastic life." A week later he was clothed in the monastic habit by Abbot Basil Hume and ordained priest in July 1976.
Fr Francis studied at St Benet's Hall, Oxford, between 1970-1972, and on his return to Ampleforth began a teaching career that would last over thirty years and encompass a variety of subjects: Politics, Religious Studies, History, and General Studies. He also had close links to a number of boarding Houses, especially St Dunstan's, St Edward's, St Aidan's (where he was chaplain for over ten years), and St Cuthbert's (where he was chaplain from 2003-2016). Those links with students and former students continued with Fr Francis' work on the Ampleforth Journal (1973-1989), as Honorary Secretary of the Ampleforth Society (1994-2009), and editor of The Diary (1999-2009).
From 1979, Fr Francis began co-ordinating the work of Ampleforth College students on the annual Ampleforth Lourdes Pilgrimage. As again he wrote in the Ampleforth Diary, Fr Francis was himself greatly influenced by pilgrimage, and had made over 80 pilgrimages to Lourdes and 20 to Medjugorje. In 1989 he was made a Titular member of the Hospitalité de Notre Dame de Lourdes, and in July 2009 the Bishop of Lourdes and Tarbes appointed him an Honorary Chaplain of the Lourdes Grotto.
Fr Francis also encouraged students to become actively involved in helping the needy abroad, and from 1992 he became co-ordinator of Ampleforth FACE-FAW (Friendship and Aid to Central and Eastern Europe and Friendship and Aid World). Fr Francis' inspiration has led to many students spending gap years working in Third World countries.
In June 2016, Fr Francis was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. Writing about this in the Ampleforth Diary, he stated: "On 14th June 2016, I learnt of illness; a stunning uncertainty, fear and beautiful grace, that I had nothing and could be at Peace. Actually, it is to … no longer seek to be important, to have nothing but the gifts of the Lord. St Philip Neri said "A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one"".
Fr Francis's body will be received into the Abbey Church at Ampleforth at 6pm on Monday 15 January 2018. His funeral Mass will be celebrated at midday in the Abbey Church on 16 January 2018, followed by burial in Monks' Wood.