Obituary for Father Julian Schmiesing, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: September 25, 1931
Professed: July 11, 1952
Ordained: June 7, 1958
Died: July 7, 2018
Julian George Schmiesing was born on September 25, 1931, the youngest of four children born to Aloys and Rose (Brockmann) Schmiesing on a farm near Meire Grove, Minnesota. His earliest memories having to do with the priesthood came from an old uncle who lived with the family and whom Julian described as a “wonderful storyteller.”
Julian’s elementary school years were in Meire Grove from 1937 to 1945. He began considering a priestly vocation again at the suggestion of a local childhood acquaintance, Father Paulin Weisner, OSB. After Father Paulin put Julian into contact with the Abbot of Saint John’s, Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, Julian enrolled in Saint John’s Preparatory School in 1945. He grew to like being at the prep school, especially after involvement in various extracurricular activities and graduated in 1949.
After finishing four more years at Saint John’s University, he graduated with a BA in philosophy and classics in 1954. As an undergraduate, Julian lived in Anselm Hall for pre-seminary students and “began to think more and more about the Benedictines.”
He entered the novitiate in 1951 and received the religious name of Meinulph (returned to Julian following Vatican Council II). He was first professed a Benedictine monk in 1952. Although, in Julian’s own words, “often the going got tough and I was tempted to quit,” he was determined to persevere. From 1954 through 1958 Julian studied and prepared for the priesthood. He was ordained in June of 1958.
Father Julian pursued further studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1959, and at Saint Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota, in 1963. During the summer months from 1958–65 he took courses in German and linguistics at Georgetown University and at The Catholic University of America, both in Washington, D.C.
Father Julian’s earliest monastic assignments were in the educational works of Saint John’s. During his college and early monastic years (1952–56), he worked as an assistant in the campus bookstore. From 1958 to 1959 he taught German at Saint John’s University; for the next ten years (1959–69) he taught German and served as a prefect at Saint John’s Preparatory School. His prep school assignment also involved teaching Spanish from 1959 to 1964. Father Julian was the pioneering director of the study abroad program for Saint John’s Prep school students from 1966 through 1968 at the Benedictine monastery in Melk, Austria.
Father Julian’s command of Spanish made him a good choice to send to the Abbey’s priory of San Antonio Abad, Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 1969 as the monastery school’s principal. In 1973 the monastic community elected him to a three-year term as prior. It was a period of transition in the priory’s history, its members preparing for the monastery’s eventual independence.
Returning to Minnesota in 1976, Father Julian requested a mini-sabbatical, subsequently being named director of vocations and director of candidates at Saint John’s Abbey. His natural affability served both positions well. He also resumed teaching German part-time at the prep school. In 1982 his assignment as vocation director ended; as director of candidates in 1985.
Already in 1979, his leadership skills were called upon; he was named subprior of the abbey, followed by his appointment in 1982 as its prior. Prior Julian was especially solicitous toward the ill and those who lived in the abbey retirement center. He visited those confreres regularly and displayed a gentle sense of humor that lifted their spirits.
Prior Julian likewise kept in close contact with those who were pursuing studies outside the abbey. Passing by his office, one frequently heard him typing away on his old manual typewriter, drafting a letter of encouragement, rich with “local news,” to a confrere living away, or to one preparing to return to the abbey.
In 1989, he accepted an appointment that again took him from the abbey: parochial vicar at Holy Rosary parish in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. He remained there until 1994 when he was named pastor of Saint Boniface Church, Cold Spring, Minnesota.
While at Saint Boniface, Father Julian’s pastoral and cultural sensitivity initiated the parish’s Hispanic ministry. He invited one of his Spanish-speaking confreres to start a sacramental and pastoral outreach to the growing Latino population in Cold Spring. Father Julian recognized that those newly arrived Catholics needed specialized care, and that he was unable to provide it himself, busy as he was. Thus began a Latino ministry that has continued at Saint Boniface for over twenty years.
Father Julian left Saint Boniface in 1997 to become pastor of the smaller parish of Saint James in Jacobs Prairie, Minnesota, until 2000. He later served at Saint Martin and Saint Catherine parishes until his retirement.
Following his own move to the abbey retirement center in 2008, Father Julian kept busy by volunteering as a staff member at the Abbey Gift Shop. There he often chatted with visitors about their personal concerns, offering them his listening ear and modest counsel.
Father Julian died on 7 July 2018 in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by his sister, Lucille Waldorf, sister-in-law, Rose Mary Schmiesing, and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Julian on 13 July at 3:30 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 Julian to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey