Father Barnabas Urban Laubach OSB

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Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: 15 November 1925
Professed: 11 July 1946
Ordained: 7 June 1952
Died: 23 June 2015


Urban Matthias Laubach was born to Nicholas Louis and Alvina Anna (Richter) Laubach in Melrose, Minnesota, on November 15, 1925, the oldest of six children (three sisters and two brothers). The family moved from Melrose to Los Angeles, California, while he was a youth. His oldest sister Dolores, now deceased, became a Carmelite nun (Sister Lucia), in Santa Clara, California.

Urban attended a rural school in Spring Hill, Minnesota, from 1931-1935, and finished his elementary education at Lincoln School in Bellflower, California. Urban did his first two years of high school at Melrose High and was accepted into Los Angeles College Junior Seminary in1941. He transferred to Saint John's Preparatory School in 1942, graduating in 1944. Urban then enrolled in Saint John's University. In 1945, Urban sought admission to Saint John's Abbey. He was accepted and given the religious name Barnabas. Barnabas made his first profession of vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1946. After completing a BA degree in philosophy in 1948, he began studies for the priesthood and was ordained on June 7, 1952.

Father Barnabas' first assignment was as assistant pastor in Saint Joseph Church in Minneapolis (1952-1955). In 1955 he was sent to teach at the abbey's foundation, Colegio Tepeyac in Mexico City, Mexico, until 1958. Returning to the United States, Father Barnabas was appointed assistant pastor at Saint Joseph Parish in Minneapolis (1959-1962) and then associate pastor at Saint Bernard's Parish in Saint Paul (1962-1964).

From 1964 to 1969, Father Barnabas served as chaplain at the the St. Cloud Reformatory. He completed the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Norwalk Metropolitan Hospital, Norwalk, California. He also participated in a training program at the California State Prison, San Quentin, California, and the Menninger Foundation, Topeka, Kansas. During his chaplaincy the reformatory saw many innovations. Father Barnabas reshaped the prison Catholic choir, sparked an outside interest in inmate welfare and instituted prison discussion groups. In 1969, Father Barnabas left prison ministry to attend the School of Theology at Boston College where he completed a MA degree in Sacred Theology in 1971.

Father Barnabas returned to Saint John's in 1971 and was appointed associate director of The Liturgical Press. While at the press he was responsible for public relations and the marketing of various publications.

In 1974, Father Barnabas returned to Saint Joseph's parish in Minneapolis where he supervised the closing, sale, and demolition of property to make way for the new interstate highway. In 1977 Father Barnabas was appointed pastor of Saint Francis Xavier parish in Lake Park, Minnesota, and of the mission parish of Saint Mary of the Lakes, Lake Eunice. At Saint Francis parish Father Barnabas managed the construction of a combination rectory and parish life center; he also renovated the basement of the Saint Mary of the Lakes Church so it could be used for catechetical instruction and as a parish hall. Following his tenure at Lake Park, Father Barnabas was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart church, in Frazee, Minnesota, for a few months in 1981.

From 1982 to 2008, Father Barnabas worked in the spiritual care department of the Saint Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, California, much of the time as director. In addition he assisted the diocese by providing weekend assistance, especially with the Hispanic community. Father Barnabas, reflecting on his long ministry as a priest wrote: "The ministry of a priest is greatly appreciated by those who are afflicted with disease and need to undergo surgery. My career as a priest has been a ministry with many variations, every one meaningful to me." The Knights of Columbus Council 4488 of Del Rosa honored Father Barnabas in 2007 with a service award for his years of outstanding service as a chaplain and as speaker to the council during their monthly meetings.

One of the major interests of Father Barnabas was the pro-life movement of Father Paul Marx, OSB, and Human Life International. Father Barnabas was a member of the Board of Directors [from 1981,] and was active in the protest [1989] movement called "Operation Rescue."

Father Barnabas served in many capacities throughout his priestly life: pastor, chaplain, teacher, promoter of pro-life causes, administrator, and world traveler. His outreach has touched thousands of people in his long and fruitful priestly ministry.

Father Barnabas returned to Saint John's in May 2011 and enjoyed his reconnection with Saint John's and his confreres.

Father Barnabas died on Tuesday, June 23rd, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by sisters Marilyn (John) Kennedy, Vivian (John) McGervey and brothers Baldwin (Patricia) Laubach and Vincent (Kathy) Laubach and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father Barnabas on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in Saint John's Cemetery following the service.

We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Barnabas, to your prayers.

Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey