Father Fintan Alfred Bromenshenkel, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: October 23, 1918
Professed: July 11, 1940
Ordained: September 2, 1945
Died: September 13, 2017
Alfred Gerhardt Bromenshenkel was born, the fifth of nine children of Alex and Theresa (Unger) Bromenshenkel, on October 23, 1918, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. The family lived on a dairy farm outside of Sauk Centre. Alfred went to the local Catholic grade school of Saint Paul from 1924 to 1933. It was during the fifth grade that he already decided to become a priest. After considering his options, it was decided that he would go to Saint John’s Preparatory School since it was closer to home. As a sophomore Alfred was stricken with scarlet fever and had a mastoid operation at the Saint Cloud Hospital. He recuperated first in the school infirmary and then spent two months at home.
During his school years he spent his vacations on the family dairy farm which fostered his life-long attraction to working on the farm and grounds of the abbey. In 1937 he graduated from the Prep School. After two years attending Saint John’s University he entered the monastery as a novice in 1939 receiving the name Fintan. Abbot Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, loved to give this Irish name to a true Stearns County Luxembourger. Fintan’s novitiate confirmed his desire to become a monk and he made his first profession of simple vows on July 11, 1940. After his last two years of college, Fintan graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy in 1942. He continued his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on September 2, 1945. An older brother, Father Silvan Bromenschenkel, OSB, (1915-2005) followed Fintan into the monastery. He was ordained in 1947 and sent as a missionary to the Bahamas.
Immediately after his ordination, Father Fintan became a full-time teacher of mathematics, physics and religion in the Prep School where he also served as a prefect, a coach of hockey and B-team football as well as the sponsor of the Prep Radio Club. He also provided weekend and summer assistance in parishes in Minnesota and some western states.
Father Fintan received an M.S. degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame in 1958 at which time he began a long career at Saint John’s University. He taught in the Mathematics Department and later, pioneered in Computer Science until 1982. From 1960-1962 Father Fintan served as the college hockey coach. “The record of those years of coaching was not such as to suggest induction in the Hall of Fame,” he would humbly admit. Father Fintan also continued his college prefect duties in Saint Thomas Hall and Saint Joseph Hall, as well as weekend parish assistance.
From 1963 to 1978 Father Fintan served as the first Director of the Saint John’s Computing Center. The history of Saint John’s computer science program began in 1963 when Father Gordon Tavis, OSB, called Father Fintan out of class to show him a check of $25,000 from the National Science Foundation. This money, along with a grant of $35,000 from the monastic chapter, funded Saint John’s purchase of an IBM 1620 computer. Father Fintan used the computer as a teaching aid and as an administrative tool for the Registrar’s Office, the Liturgical Press, and the Admissions Office, along with billing and payroll in the Business Office. In 1965 the computer operations moved to Wimmer Hall. From 1979 to 1990 Father Fintan continued to serve as programmer/analyst at the computing center.
Among his awards, Father Fintan received National Science Foundation grants for graduate sessions at the University of Kansas and at the Michigan Institute of Mining and Technology.
In the summer of 1990, Father Fintan looked forward to his “retirement career” by volunteering as a missionary at Saint Augustine’s Monastery, Nassau, Bahamas, joining his older brother, Father Sylvan and the small community there. Father Fintan began work in the business office of Saint Augustine College, with regular service to the local Bahamian parishes on weekends. After the illness and death of Brother Barry Gearman, OSB, (1946-1995), Father Fintan took over the computer operations of the school and monastery. He also enjoyed working outdoors on the grounds of Saint Augustine Monastery gladly enduring the tropical heat and humidity.
In June, 2006 Father Fintan, now with striking white hair, returned to Saint John’s. It was not a retirement for this persistent monk as he continued his volunteer work: snow shoveling, gardening, and taking an axe into the woods for cutting down dead trees, and later splitting the wood, to provide firewood for the monastery and abbey guesthouse. His presence on campus startled some visitors when they saw this tall, lean man with long white hair carrying an axe over his shoulder slowly walking by as he returned from the woods.
Father Fintan was a stable presence in the monastery. Faithful to the monastic horarium, willing to help out when called to service, he was a calm, wise soul to his confreres.
Father Fintan died on September 13, 2017, in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by his sister, Theresa Marie Knier, and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Fintan on September 19 at 3:30 pm in Saint John’s Abbey and University 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, Fintan, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey