Father James Tingerthal, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: July 10, 1934
Professed: July 11, 1954
Ordained: June 3, 1961
Died: July 4, 2009


Born to William and Anne (Deutsch) Tingerthal in St. Paul, Minnesota, James was the first of six children. He was the nephew of our late Father Alfred Deutsch OSB and the grand nephew of Abbot Alcuin Deutsch OSB. James attended Saint Bernard's Grade School in St. Paul and Saint John's Preparatory School. He graduated from Saint John's University in 1957 with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy.

After his second year of college, James entered the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey where he was given the religious name of Rhaban, honoring Rhabanus Maurus, one of the most prominent teachers and writers of the ninth century. He professed first monastic vows, July 11, 1951. After Brother Rhaban had completed theological study at St. John's Seminary, he was ordained a priest, June 3, 1961. He resumed his baptismal name of James after the Second Vatican Council.

Father James began part-time teaching Mathematics at Saint John's Preparatory School while still studying theology. For twelve years, he taught Mathematics at the preparatory school except for the year he spent at Boston College earning a master's degree in Mathematics in 1969. Father James spent one academic year, 1968-1969, as director of the Study Abroad Program in Melk, Austria. While at Melk he taught English, Speech, and Social Studies as well as Mathematics. During several summers Father James took courses in Educational Administration that led to his being named Headmaster of Saint John's Preparatory School in 1972. As headmaster he opened the school to young women.

For eleven years Father James served as Assistant Corporate Treasurer and Director of Corporate Enterprises. During this time he was responsible for the operations of the corporate physical plant including maintenance and construction. He was also responsible for land and forest management, utilities, the fire department, and duplication services.

On and off over these years of multi-faceted administration, Father James was also responsible for the grounds, the abbey garden and orchard, laundry services, the tailor shop, and health services.

The community called on Father James, with his many talents and interests, to assume heavy responsibilities as general contractor, or owner's liaison officer, supervising numerous construction projects that included the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, the Abbey and University Health Care Center, and the extensive renovation and modernization of the monastic residential space on the fourth and fifth floors of the quadrangle. He also oversaw construction of a solid waste incinerator at the power house, novel earth-sheltered apartments for university students, a warehouse for dining services, and a modern water tower for the whole campus. During his tenure Father James guided major renovations of the music auditorium and two university dormitories, as well as overseeing a major upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant.

In 1985 he became Director of Events and Conferences as well as Director of Facilities for the re-opened Stephen B. Humphrey Auditorium. He was responsible, under the Director of Dining Services, for coordinating and hosting all summer conference programs -- from the bishops of the United States Catholic Conference to the seventh-grade wrestlers of area schools. The number of guests on our campus averaged in size from 6,500 to 10,000 per summer. Father James assumed responsibility for all non-academic and non-athletic events during the school year as well as the total operation of the Stephen B. Humphrey Auditorium. He was indeed the consummate administrator.

During October 1998 Father James took a sabbatical in Japan during which he assembled all the furniture made at Saint John's Abbey Woodworking that had been shipped to Trinity Benedictine Monastery in Fujimi. He continued in Abbey Woodworking from 1999 to 2001.

The Abbot President of the American-Cassinese Congregation tapped Father James to become Administrator for St. Leo's Abbey in Florida. He served there from February 2002 to February 2005.

Returning to Saint John's in 2005 he was named director of the abbey cemetery. When asked, in 1985, about his future work preference, Father James responded that he would "prefer to be a plumber in Collegeville than a president elsewhere." Father Jim enjoyed doing any kind of manual work, especially when it was related to construction or woodworking.

On May 18, 2009, the Saint Cloud Times featured Father James. The article explained how he discovered tranquility among the trees of Saint John's forest. Every Saturday morning since 2005 he volunteered to help trim dead branches from hundreds of pines in the Arboretum. He estimated he had pruned over 800 trees.

Father James continued to work in Saint John's Abbey Woodworking. He took special pride helping Brother Christopher Fair OSB create the furnishings for the recently dedicated chapel at St. Paul Monastery.

Father James had a mild stroke a few years back and had seemed to regain all his former vitality, strength of voice, and verbal ability. A day after receiving a stent to relieve blockage in his heart, -- while still in the Saint Cloud Hospital -- he experienced a massive aneurism. Father James died at the hospital, in the company of monks and family, on Saturday, July 4, 2009. He is survived by the community at Saint John's Abbey, his sisters: Margaret & Thomas Prokosch, St. Paul; Judith Ervin, New York City; Mary Tingerthal & Conrad Soderholm, St. Paul; and brothers: William C. & Eldean Tingerthal, Woodbury, MN; Robert & Lenore Tingerthal, Red Wing, MN; and many nieces and nephews.

The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father James on Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 3:30 p.m., in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in Saint John's Abbey 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, James, to your prayers.

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