Father Luke Steiner, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: 27 August 1930
Professed: 11 July 1951
Ordained: 1 July 1956
Died: 18 January 2013

Joseph John Steiner was born on August 27, 1930, the second of four children born to Joseph and Helen Rose (Landeis) Steiner in Mandan, North Dakota. The family lived on a farm twenty-five miles north of Mandan, North Dakota. Joseph's father was a switchman for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Joseph attended grade school at Saint Joseph's Parish in Mandan, which, at the time, was administered by the Benedictines of Saint John's Abbey.

After grade school, Joseph enrolled at Saint John's Preparatory School in 1944, graduating in 1948. He then enrolled in Saint John's University as a pre-seminary student. Since he wanted to become a priest within a religious community, Joseph petitioned Abbot Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, and was accepted into the novitiate in July 1950. He received the religious name of Luke. Frater Luke professed vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1951, and went on to complete his BA degree in philosophy and classics in 1953.

He was then sent to begin theological studies at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant' Anselmo in Rome. On July 1, 1956, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Abbot of Santa Scolastica Abbey in Subiaco, Italy. He was always fond of recounting how his ordination took place in the very cave where the young Saint Benedict lived prior to founding his first monasteries. Father Luke moved from Sant' Anselmo to the German College within Vatican City and continued his theological studies, enrolling at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He completed his STL in theology in 1957 and earned his Licentiate in Sacred Scripture in 1960. During all his student days, he was a member of a chaplains' team serving the enclosed Benedictine nuns in Veroli, where he became a good friend of Nando, the nuns' driver and factotum. He became fluent in Italian.

Returning to the United States in 1960, Father Luke began teaching scripture in the Saint John's Seminary. In 1966, Father Luke was appointed the first dean of the School of Theology. In 1969, Father Luke participated in an archeological expedition to Gezer, Israel. From 1970-1973, Father Luke served as the Director of the Interdenominational Continuing Education Program for Clergy in Minnesota, generously funded by the Bush Foundation.

For many years, Father Luke served regularly in tandem with Father Thomas Wahl, OSB, as director of the School of Theology's Jerusalem Program housed at Ein Karem, a village just outside Jerusalem. This program comprised a semester of study focused on Scripture and the religious and geographical setting of the sacred writings. Not only did he teach a course, but he shepherded students through initial culture shock, homesickness, and personal woes; he organized all the field trips from Dan to Beersheba; hired Jewish and Palestinian professors and guides; arranged at semester's end for travel in Egypt from Cairo to Luxor. Whether in Italy, the Middle East or central Minnesota, Luke had a way of connecting with ordinary people and developing an easy rapport with them. Part of this gift was his ability to tell good stories, enlightening and entertaining his listeners by touching on the many places and people he had come to know. This was a gift that marked all of his life as a monk, priest, and professor.

Over the years, Father Luke also taught Scripture courses at several Minneapolis-St. Paul area schools: Luther/Northwestern Theological Seminary, United Theological Seminary, Bethel Theological Seminary and Saint Paul Seminary-School of Divinity. Father Luke also taught scripture to the novices of Saint John's Abbey, Italian courses to inmates at the St. Cloud Reformatory, and summer courses on Saint Paul's Letters, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Father Luke was appointed rector of Saint John's Seminary (1999-2001) before retiring from teaching in 2004. Moving to a parochial ministry, Father Luke became the pastor at Saint Augustine's Parish in St. Cloud (2004-2007), and then chaplain to the Poor Clare Sisters in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota (2007-2013).

Father Luke died suddenly in the chaplain's house in Sauk Rapids on January 18, 2013. He is survived by a brother, Richard Steiner and a sister, Loretta Jantzer, both of Bismark ND, and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Luke on January 23, at 3 p.m. 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 Luke to your prayers.

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