Father Simon Bischof, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: December 19, 1926
Professed: July 11, 1949
Ordained: June 4, 1955
Died: February 23, 2009
Robert James Bischof was the third son of Nicholas and Tecla (Lauer) Bischof. He was born in Eden Valley, Minnesota, on December 19, 1926, during a snowstorm so severe that his father had to pull the doctor's car with a tractor to the farmhouse. There were nine children in his farm family. Robert attended Assumption Elementary School for eight years but delayed going to high school to help the family during the Great Depression. Robert entered Saint John's Preparatory School in autumn 1942 to study for the priesthood. He graduated in 1946.
Robert discovered his life-long interest in music while in the prep school. He sang in the glee club and took cello lessons from Father Gregory Soukup OSB, later headmaster.
After entering Saint John's University, Robert played with the University Orchestra. Father Paul Marx OSB encouraged Robert to join the school's football team. He did join because some sophomores taunted him by saying he could never earn an athletic letter in the sport. Father Dominic Keller OSB invited him to join the Dramatic Club. These contacts acquainted Robert with the Benedictines and fostered his desire to become a Benedictine monk. Abbot Alcuin Deutsch OSB accepted him into the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey in 1948 and gave him the name of Simon. He professed monastic vows on July 11, 1949.
In 1950 Brother Simon graduated from Saint John's University with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy. After four years of theological studies, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1955. Father Simon's first assignment was as associate pastor in Saint Augustine Parish, St. Cloud, from 1955 to 1965. After returning to the preparatory school as chaplain for two years, he served two years as the abbey's director of vocations. Father Simon resumed the pastoral work he so enjoyed at Saint Joseph's Church, St. Joseph, from 1969 to 1972 and Saint Boniface Church, Cold Spring, from 1972 to 1976.
He enriched his theological education by attending summer school at Saint John's School of Theology·Seminary from 1970 to 1975. From 1977 to 1978 Father Simon was pastor at Seven Dolors Parish, Albany. He served as chaplain at Saint Mary's Medical Center, Duluth, from 1978 to 1979 and was pastor of Saint Bartholomew's Church, Wayzata, for six weeks in 1979 until he suffered a heart attack.
Following recuperation, Father Simon eased back into pastoral ministry in Hastings where he was an associate pastor for a year at Saint Boniface Parish. From 1981 to 1983, he was pastor at Saint Francis Xavier Church, Lake Park, as well as pastor of Saint Andrew's Church, Hawley. From 1983 to 1992 he was pastor of Saint Benedict's Parish, Avon. As he had begun his pastoral ministry at Saint Augustine Parish in St. Cloud, so did he also conclude it there as pastor from 1992 to 2002. "A combination of déjà vu and always something new," he remarked. On July 1, 2002, Father Simon retired to the abbey after nearly fifty years of dedicated and energetic pastoral service.
In retirement his rich and sonorous voice was a welcome support at the daily monastic prayer he seldom missed. He was always willing to help in pastoral emergencies. He loved working with his friend, Mr. K.C. Marrin, in the production of The Saint John's Cross that Casey designed for the abbey's sesquicentennial in 2006. Father Simon reflected on his long life saying: "Parish life, my ministry to parishes, has been a real high point of my life -- helping people, listening to people, being concerned about people." To be sure, Father Simon remained a people person all his life.
Father Simon died on February 23, 2009, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by his sisters, Sister Loraine Bischof OSB, St. Cloud; Sister Margo Bischof OSB, St. Joseph; his brother, Mr. James J. Bischof, Watkins; and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The monks, family, and friends, will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, February 27, 2009, 3 p.m., in Saint John's Abbey Church. Interment in Saint John's 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, Simon, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey