Father John Kulas, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: 1 June 1930
Professed: 11 July 1951
Ordained: 1 June, 1957
Died: 14 October, 2012

John Stanley Kulas was born on June 1, 1930, to Joseph and Mathilda (Friedl) Kulas in Albany, Minnesota. John was the fourth of seven children (three of his brothers died in infancy). He attended Holy Family School in Albany from 1936 to 1944. In 1944 he enrolled at Saint John's Preparatory School, Collegeville, Minnesota, where he participated in band, track, and was an avid reader. In 1948 John enrolled at Saint John's University, pursuing a degree in Philosophy and Classics. He graduated from there cum laude in 1953.

In 1950, while continuing his studies, John entered the novitiate at Saint John's Abbey, receiving the religious name of Warren. Brother Warren professed vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1951, and, following his college graduation, entered Saint John's Seminary. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1957. He resumed his baptismal name of John after the second Vatican Council.

During his studies at Saint John's Seminary, Father John taught history and religion at Saint John's Preparatory School and coached the debate team there from 1954 to 1959. Beginning in 1959, he taught German at St. John's University until his retirement in 2006. Father John recalled that when he was a boy growing up, German was still spoken on the streets of Albany, and his mother spoke German before English. However, he didn't learn German until he studied it in school. Father John received a National Defense Education Act fellowship to study German at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., from 1962 to 1965. He was awarded his M.A. Degree in Germanic Languages and Literature from that institution, returning there under an additional fellowship in 1967-68.

On three occasions while in residence at St. Stephen's Church in Washington, D.C., Father John presided and preached at Masses attended by President John F. Kennedy.

When Father John returned to teaching at the St. John's German Department, he was instrumental in setting up a state-of-the-art language lab, spending long nights creating practice tapes for students. He recalled being so tired from teaching and being a Faculty Resident that he would fall asleep during the pauses in the tape's exercises. Father John held the chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages for fourteen years (1967-82), during which time he patiently guided the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University language departments into one department. Beginning in 1978, he began working on his doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota. He completed his Ph.D. in 1988, submitting his thesis, "Influence of Der Wanderer on the Americanization of German Immigrants in Minnesota."

Father John's dissertation was published in 1996 by Peter Lang Publishing of New York under this title: "Der Wanderer of St. Paul: the First Decade, 1867-1877: A Mirror of the German-Catholic Immigrant Experience in Minnesota." LaVern J. Rippley, Professor of German at St. Olaf College and editor of the Society for German-American Studies, reviewed the book, noting that "Kulas' book... by its all-encompassing methodology, tells the story of German Catholicism in Minnesota. No Minnesota or state library can pretend to serve its clientele without this book in its catalogue."

Father John also served as Faculty Resident in Saint Benet Hall (1959-61) and Saint Bernard Hall (1971-72). From 1974 to 1978, he served as Director of Formation of the junior monks of Saint John's Abbey. In 1999 he became a part-time field project director for the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, a position that required him to travel to Germany and Sweden.

Following his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2006, Father John's health began to decline. The onset of Parkinson's disease slowed his health, but his interest in the monastic community's affairs did not waiver. He was faithful in attending the monastic daily round of prayer when he was able.

Father John will be remembered for his carefully researched and insightful homilies, his simplicity of lifestyle, and his gentle humor accompanied by a radiant smile.

Father John died on Sunday, October 14, 2012, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by his monastic brothers, Paul, his brother and wife, Kathryn, sister-in-law Donna, many nieces and nephews, as well as by his special friend, Ingrid Drekonja. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father John on Thursday, October 18, 2012, in Saint John's Abbey and University Church. Interment in the Abbey Cemetery follows 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, John, to your prayers.

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