Father Burkard Anthony Arnheiter, OSB

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Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: June 13, 1907
Professed: August 26, 1931
Ordained: June 6, 1937
Died: January 2

 

Monk, Priest, Teacher and Pastor
Anthony August Arnheiter was born in Klingenberg, Bavaria, to Konrad and Anna (Spielmann) Arnheiter on June 13, 1907. He was the middle of five children and the last Saint John's monk of his generation born in Germany.

Anthony attended public grade school at Klingenberg from 1914 to 1921 and then studied at the Gymnasium (high school) in Wurzburg, Germany, from 1921 to 1930. Anthony was no stranger to Saint John's Abbey for he had come to know the monastery through his grand-uncle, Father Gerard Spielmann OSB (1865-1939), and his cousin, Father Basil Stegmann OSB (1893-1981).

In 1930 he immigrated to Minnesota and entered the novitiate where he received the name of Burkard. He professed simple vows on August 26, 1931. After completing two more years of college, Brother Burkard graduated in 1933 with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy. After final profession, he began the four-year theological course of priesthood studies that resulted in his ordination on June 6, 1937. As a theological student he taught German part-time at Saint John's University for a year and also at the Preparatory School.

After his ordination, Father Burkard served temporarily at St. Peter's Abbey in Saskatchewan, Canada. The abbey had been founded by monks of Collegeville in 1903. Father Burkard conducted classes in Latin and German from 1937 to 1940. After a brief period as administrator of a parish in North Dakota, Abbot Alcuin Deutsch OSB sent him to be associate pastor at St. Bernard's parish in St. Paul from 1941 to 1947. From there he served St. Peter and Paul Church in Richmond as associate pastor for seven years until he was reassigned to St. Bernard's parish for another five years, 1954 to 1959.

The central focus of Father Burkard's pastoral ministry was the small rural parish of St. Catherine's in Farming, Minnesota, where he made a lasting impression. For 23 years (1959-1982) he served the rural community with dedication and faith despite growing health problems. In Farming he became deeply engaged in rural education, and in 1961 supervised the building of a public school for the community.

Father Burkard was a pastor who was always available. Wherever he served, he won the affection of the people by his kindness and concern for individuals. People sought him out, not only for answers to spiritual questions, but also for advice on ditch digging, mortgages and purchasing property. He was always there to help.

Father Burkard taught all the religion classes for his parishioners instilling basic beliefs and sound doctrine in several generations. The children loved him as much as did their parents. Father Alfred Deutsch, OSB, recalled a visit he made to St. Catherine's parish. "I remember, with some degree of awe, the one visit I made to his parish. I found him in the front rows of the church instructing the children in catechism. I lingered in the back pews, amazed that a man of his age could talk to tiny children with ease."

The Second Vatican Council (1959-1963) brought many changes to parishes. Father Burkard, however, did not delay renovating the church sanctuary and accepting women as lectors and communion ministers. The Farming community was saddened when they learned their beloved pastor would retire because of his increasing infirmity.

When Father Gunther Rolfson, OSB, arrived to replace Father Burkard, he found the census records in flawless order; the church buildings and property well kept; and for such a tiny parish, a good nest egg that insured financial security.

Father Burkard moved to Saint John's Abbey in July of 1982. He participated in the regular monastic community functions and made a hobby of translating innumerable German documents and letters in the Abbey's archives. He continued to be the serene and considerate gentleman he had been his whole life. He was never slow to express gratitude for the personal care he received from the staff of Saint Raphael's Hall, the Abbey's retirement facility.

Father Burkard died peacefully at Saint John's on Sunday, January 2. He is survived by the monastic community. The Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father Burkard at 3 p.m. on Thursday, January 6, in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in the abbey cemetery.

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, Burkard, to your prayers.

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