Meet a Volunteer

The State of Minnesota leads the nation with the highest percentage of adults 65 and older who reported volunteering in the past year, at nearly 40% according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In the calendar year 2018 about 90 volunteers contributed 7,200 hours of their time and talent serving a variety of important needs in the abbey including 1,799 hours in the abbey retirement center, 1,726 abbey woodworking shop, 1,040 abbey gift shop, 763 sewing and quilting, 474 vegetable gardens, 463 abbey scola, 417 oblate office, 270 drivers, 246 abbey archives, 120 abbey crafts, 110 yoga and tai chi leaders, and 67 bulk mailing.

Interested in volunteering? Contact Fr. Roman Paur OSB, Director:, or 320-363-3304.


Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Dr. Michael Ross

-20171229_112647.jpgDr. Michael Ross began his thirty-five-year academic career in 1980 at Saint John's University in the Chemistry Department even as he was also dotting the i's and crossing the t's on the final draft of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Minnesota that he completed the following year. Michael was highly regarded by the students and he served on many committees over the years and chaired both the departments of Chemistry and Computer Science.

Michael was raised a long way from Collegeville in Pinehurst, Idaho, in a family of five children with their parents, both of whom had grown up on small farms near Breckenridge, Minnesota. Now living in Saint Joseph with his wife, Kris, they have five children (two of whom are Johnnies) and eight grandchildren.

Following his retirement in 2015, Michael became interested in volunteering and began at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore program using his handyman skills. It was a small step for Michael to be attracted to the Abbey Woodworking Shop in 2016 that appealed to his values on the environment and conservation, and talents with his hands. He was grateful for what he felt Saint John's afforded him over the years and wanted to give back. Michael was a hobby woodworker for many years that started by refinishing beds, dressers, and tables and building some furniture for his home and family with his ever-expanding arsenal of hand and power tools.

Michael commented that the Abbey Woodworking Shop is an attractive perfect fit for his learning and creating! It's an extraordinary workplace where highly professional craftsmen exercise their skills in a climate of respect and opportunity. He appreciates and enjoys very much working and learning among them and other abbey volunteers. Michael has made many items available in the Abbey Gift Shop and online market including wood crosses and perhaps especially the popular Banner Bench in natural red oak!



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Patsy Jones

patsy_jones.jpgPatricia (Patsy) Jones lives in Edina, Minnesota and rides with Dr. Bill Muldoon, a fellow volunteer, once a week to spend the day at Saint John's. She was introduced to the Benedictines when she attended Catholic grade school taught by the Sisters from Saint Scholastica in Duluth where she later received her college degree. Patsy became a Benedictine Oblate in 1953 perhaps especially through a lasting relationship with Fr Arnold Weber OSB who instilled in Patsy and her now deceased husband, Mickey, a sense of Benedictine values and affinity with the Saint John's community. Some years later it was a small step as an active Oblate for Patsy to become an Abbey Volunteer with the encouragement of volunteer, Eileen Haeg. Patsy has been working now in her fourth years in the Abbey archives with the director, Br David Klingeman, learning more of the history of the monks as she sifts through important files and documents. Patsy is able to join the monks in noon prayer and concludes her day with the community Mass before returning home.



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: KC Marrin

Twin_Towers_Clock.jpgMany generous people had volunteered their time and talent at Saint John’s over the years but in March 2011, Carol Marrin, who had been the Director of the CSB/SJU Bookstore and, later, the Saint John’s Bible Project, was appointed the director of the Abbey Volunteer Program.  Although sadly, cancer limited her commitment to six months, Carol organized and promoted the program that attracted many more volunteers over the years.  The first person to sign up was her tireless husband, Kevin Christopher Marrin, known as just KC, a 2011 veteran!   

KC embraced the opportunity with an extraordinary bucket of talent and energy.  He was born into a family of seven children, growing up in Minneapolis.  The six Marrin boys, following in the footsteps of their father, all attended Saint John’s Prep School.  He continued on in the University where he received his degree in 1971 as a philosophy and music major.  

KC_Marrin_Rocking_Chair.JPGWhile in college, KC was privileged to work as a student in the Abbey Woodworking Shop and was greatly inspired and mentored by the master craftsman monk, Br. Hubert Schneider OSB, who instilled in him a regard for wood craftsmanship and humility in respecting the environment. Br. Hubert also coached KC through the crafting of a rocking chair made from a small stash of Kentucky Cherry that he had saved for a worthy project.  KC developed a sense of design and cabinetmaking that also would come in handy as an abbey volunteer. The special Heritage edition of the Saint John’s Bible is displayed in a cabinet designed by KC and Heritage_Bible_stand.jpgmade in the Abbey Woodworking Shop as are other related pieces of Bible furniture.  The Saint John’s Cross, a popular graphic design by Brother Frank Kacmarcik, was realized in wood and brass by KC and is available in the Abbey Gift Shop, the University Bookstore, and the online Abbey Marketplace.

In the meantime, though, organ building became KC’s priority and livelihood, creating and restoring pipe organs for churches locally and throughout Minnesota including, for example, Opus 4, 1982, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud, Opus 6,1988, for the University Gerkten Organ Studio, (a 22 stop teaching instrument), and most recently, Opus 11, 2013, for his home parish Saint Boniface Church, Cold Spring.  St_Boniface_Church_pipe_organ.jpegCurrently, KC is volunteering time working with the internationally renowned organ builder, Martin Pasi, on the expansion of our Abbey Church pipe organ, preparing digital drawings, building an expanded organ console with four manuals and assisting the Abbey woodworking artisans with constructing the thirty-two-foot wooden pipes.

SJACross_Burg.jpgKC’s organ building also positioned him as a tuner and technician of pipe organs in the area, and he has volunteered to service the two abbey pipe organs (Holtkamp and Fiss) for over 25 years.  And, not surprisingly, KC continues to witness to our Benedictine vow of stability as a 30 year- plus veteran of the Abbey Schola. 







Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Sharon Schmitt 

sharon_schmitt.jpgShe was born on Christmas morning and grew up on the family farm near neighboring Albany, Minnesota. Sharon Rodenwald Schmitt knows all about milking cows by hand, stacking hay bales, picking rocks, shocking wheat, shoveling oats, gardening and more!  This gifted high-energy lady played the flute in the Albany High School band and starred in three class plays.  She was introduced to the Benedictines as a young girl in the Albany Holy Family elementary school.  

Sharon and Ken celebrated their 50thwedding anniversary in 2015 with their two daughters and son, all graduates of Saint Benedict’s and Saint John’s, and their eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the love of their lives.

Sharon worked in the Saint Benedict’s Alumnae/Development Office 1962 - 1971 and then was a full-time mom for seven years until she was hired by Saint John’s University in 1978 where she coordinated the Study Abroad/International Studies programs until her retirement in 2008. During those thirty years, the offerings grew from four study abroad semester programs to fourteen.  Sharon found this work and interaction with students, monks, faculty directors, and foreign faculty deeply satisfying and rewarding.

After catching a short breath following her administrative duties in the University, Sharon became an Abbey Volunteer in 2009  to date as the manager of the Abbey Gift Shop, a challenging responsibility that includes coordinating the schedule of shop attendants, communicating with monastic artisan suppliers, overseeing and stocking the display inventory, and monitoring sales.

Ken and Sharon are immersed in family activities such as gardening, making jewelry, and the sports worlds of their grandchildren including CSB and SJU basketball and football.

The Benedictines of Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s are very grateful to Sharon for the many blessings of her thoughtful generosity and continuing commitment of time and talent. What a special Christmas present Sharon is to us!



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Ron Joki

ron_joki.jpgRon Joki has been making the nearly sixty-mile trip from the Twin Cities, Saint Louis Park, most every Friday for a number of years arriving at Saint John’s in time for morning prayer with the community in the Abbey Church.  Ron volunteers as a driver for the monks in the abbey health center taking them to their scheduled appointments.

Ron grew up in a very small town in northern Minnesota called Zim and moved to the Twin Cities after graduating from high school where he attended the University of Minnesota with a life-long career in the College of Veterinary Medicine.  He wandered through numerous Christian faith traditions as well as Muslim and Hindu meditation before discovering Saint Theresa of Avila and St John of the Cross that anchored his spirituality with the help of a now-deceased former Benedictine Monk, Ryan Perkins, at the Newman Center where he became Catholic.

Before retiring in 2015 Ron worked as a veterinary scientist at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for nearly forty-five years.  Much of his work involved detection of disease and causes of death in animals submitted to the lab for testing.  Due to the nature of the work and potential exposure to pathogens, he and the team of veterinary pathologists and scientists were responsible for worker safety as well as containment of disease agents to protect the general population of people and animals.  

In some ways, Ron’s professional experience has made it easier for him to work in the health care setting of Saint Raphael Hall where he has found the staff provides loving and professional care for the residents.  Ron feels blessed for the opportunity to assist the senior monks and to hear their stories as well as to participate in the life and work of the Benedictines.  

Ron became a Benedictine oblate of Saint John’s Abbey in 1989 and the community is an important part of his spiritual journey.  He regularly participates in the oblate retreats and days of reflection, and over the years has become friends with a number of monks and oblates.  For the past twenty years, Ron also is the facilitator for a Twin Cities chapter of the Saint John’s oblates in his parish, Saint Joan of Arc, where he volunteers in several social justice and worship ministries that are spiritually enriching for him.



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: John Grobe

john_groebe.jpgWith this issue, we are introducing as a regular feature “Meet an Abbey Volunteer”.  There are over a hundred generous and talented women and men who volunteer their time and talent in many ways that are very helpful to the monastery as well as individual monks.  These good people come from near and far and work as their time allows contributing well over a combined 7,000 hours yearly.  Whether a few hours on-call as needed or a lot of hours every week, we are grateful.

Along with about a half dozen volunteers, John Grobe has been helping us in the Abbey Woodworking Shop for over three years most every week clocking as many as 90 hours in some months! In addition to skillfully assisting with regular production projects John designs and crafts items for the Abbey Gift Shop including wooden wall clocks, cutting boards, crosses, etc.

John graduated from Saint John’s University in 1972.  After retiring as an administrator of Saint Bernard’s Parish in Saint Paul and several law firms he moved with his wife Joan, a 1974 graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, to their new home on Kraemer Lake just two easy miles from Saint John’s. Their four children are now grown and are on their own.  John now shares his talent with the gifted Woodworking team alongside his son, Father Lew Grobe OSB, whom he volunteered to the Abbey in 2010!

The Abbey Woodworking Shop designs and makes much of the furniture on campus.  Most of the lumber (oak, maple, and pine) are harvested from the Saint John’s forests with some 20,000 board feet milled annually.  The Shop recently completed the red-oak lattice entry detail of the newly opened Saint John’s Bible Gallery in the University Alcuin library.



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Wilfred Theisen OSB

wilfred_theisen.jpgAt nearly 90 years old Fr Wilfred Theisen OSB is a very senior volunteer who is helping out for years as an attendant in the Abbey Gift Shop.  He calls it a “plumb job” musing with visitors with his engaging disposition and cheerful smile about their lives and Saint John’s while ringing up sales. He says he is truly inspired by the many generous lay volunteers who help out “all over the place.”

A monk of Saint John’s Abbey since 1950 and ordained in 1956, Wilfred learned of Saint John’s as a young boy from abbey priests who celebrated Mass on weekends in his hometown parish at Wadena in Northern Minnesota.  Wilfred attended Saint John’s Prep, University and Seminary.  

His college teaching career in Physics of some fifty years between 1955 and 2005 was interrupted only by graduate studies on the history of science at the University of Madison where he received his PhD in 1972.  Wilfred also taught interdisciplinary courses as well as the freshman symposium and senior seminar classes.  For forty years concluding in 2016 Wilfred served as the Liaison Officer with the resident scholars of the Collegeville (Ecumenical) Institute.

It was a sad chapter when Wilfred swung his last golf club but he continues to be an avid sports enthusiast, especially football and basketball, and often shows up with his electric cart for home games and sometimes elsewhere too. Wilfred lives in the Abbey Retirement Center surrounded by Johnny sports memorabilia where he enjoys visiting with confreres and guests.



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Bill Muldoon

bill_muldoon.jpgA native of Boston, Massachusetts, Bill came to Minnesota in 1972 to earn a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Minnesota.  He first learned about the Benedictines of Collegeville in 1979 as an instructor in the Saint John’s University Chemistry Department.  Retiring from teaching early, Bill returned to live in Saint Paul and worked as a Pharmacist for ten years. He retired from full-time work in late 2007. For several years thereafter he continued to work part-time, as there was high demand for a licensed pharmacist.  

Abbot John Klassen talked to Bill of a need for volunteer help at the Monastery.  As an Oblate of Saint John’s since 2010, Bill thought about volunteering to work on Oblate-related issues.  Having a keen interest in genealogy, he proposed a project that combined that interest with some needs in the Oblate office.  His project consists of collecting data on the Oblates who made final profession and recording their death dates.  With this data, he developed a spreadsheet listing their deaths in chronological order so that we might remember them on the anniversary of their deaths as is done for vowed members of the Abbey. Bill pitches in when other program needs require him.   Otherwise, Bill continues to find and record information on the deceased Oblates. With over 4,500 names to investigate, he is able to hone his skills and put them to use in genealogical research on his own extended family as well.  Bill considers himself as a stickler for detail and he enjoys filling in the blanks of the Abbey’s Oblate community.  

Since 2011 Bill has been trecking to Saint John’s from his home in Saint Paul about one very full day working in the Oblate Program mostly in front of a computer! Fortunately, fellow volunteer, Patsy Jones, who lives in Edina rides with him and they both participate in the monastic noon prayer and community Mass.



Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Ed and Bernadette Dunn 

ed_dunn.jpgbernadette_dunn.jpgBernadette and Ed were both born and raised in the New York City area. Married for 53 years, they are proud parents of four adult children, two grandchildren, a step-granddaughter and a step-great-granddaughter. Ed served in the Navy for 26 years, after which they moved to Minnesota for Bernadette to pursue a Master of Divinity degree at St. John’s University School of Theology. Having earned her degree, Bernadette served as a pastoral associate and as Director of the Office of Christian Service for the Diocese of Crookston. 

After 12 years in Crookston, the couple returned to St. John’s where they began volunteering about seven years ago, most every weekday, all day and regularly participate in the monastic community Mass!  Bernadette works as a receptionist in the Abbey Guest House and Ed as a handyman in the Abbey Retirement Center.  “We volunteer here because we believe in the mission of St. John’s Abbey. St. John’s is our community who, from the very first day, welcomed us and invited us into their family.”




Meet an Abbey Volunteer: Barbara Lyndgaard             

barbara_lyndgaard.jpgBarb Lyndgaard is the Saint John’s Abbey Retirement Center’s own personal barber.  She cut hair professionally for over forty years with the last 20 years at Saint John’s University as “The Hair Razor”. She is very happy to have a volunteer job she truly enjoys.  Barb lives on Kreigle Lake in Collegeville Township with her husband, Dave, a retired longtime University senior administrator.  Although they no longer live on their hobby farm which they had shared with a few dozen Icelandic sheep (and their llama, Edgar), Barb continues to spin, knit, weave and make quilts.  They love traveling, and this winter traveled to Hawaii, Marco Island, and Hilton Head Island. Now that winter snows are melting, they look forward to spring gardening, new landscape projects, and biking.  They biked over 1000 miles each of the past two summers and plan to bike even more miles this summer.  Their three children, Kyhl, Laura, and Dana, all live in Minnesota, so they can spend a lot of time with their four young grandchildren: Adeline, David Peregrine, Lars and Miles who love going to the lake!