Father Florian Elmer Muggli, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: 15 March 1925
Professed: 14 June 1945
Ordained: 2 June 1951
Died: 26 January 2010
Elmer Joseph was born on March 15, 1925, to John Muggli and Eleanor (Pallansch) in Richardton, North Dakota. He was the third child of four born of his father's second marriage. His older brother, Father Julius Muggli, OSB (1921-1998), became a monk of Saint John's Abbey, and three half-sisters became Benedictine sisters. Elmer attended Saint Mary's Grade School and was taught by the Benedictine sisters of Yankton, South Dakota. At the end of the sixth grade he developed scarlet fever. During this period, Abbot Cuthbert Goeb, OSB, of Assumption Abbey, visited Elmer, bringing along a relic of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus to whom he prayed each day. After six weeks he recovered, and credited his recovery, along with two other boys with scarlet fever in his school, to the intercession of the Little Flower.
In his autobiography, Father Florian wrote that he and his best friend Howard were pranksters (stealing watermelons, apples, moving benches and chicken houses), yet had the reputation of being the best behaved boys in town. Both of them entered the Boy Scouts and received their Eagles Scout Badges. He loved to camp out with his friend and his older brother, Walter.
Elmer attended Assumption Abbey High School in 1938 where he was a member of the football and basketball teams. Elmer also played alto horn and the sousaphone with the army band and sailors from Dickinson Teachers College. His summers were filled with golfing, jobs as a clerk, gas-station attendant, carpenter, and work in his father's real estate business. By his senior year, Elmer was captain of the football team and president of the senior class. In 1942 Elmer left North Dakota and traveled to Minnesota to begin college at Saint John's University as a priesthood student. The idea of entering the monastery never entered his mind until the end of his senior year. He could not imagine how anyone who knew his shenanigans would ever think of him with a religious vocation.
Elmer entered the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey in 1944 and received the name of Florian in honor of his monk-friend Father Florian Fairbanks, OSB, of Assumption Abbey. Florian made his profession as a Benedictine monk on June 14, 1945, completed a BA in philosophy in 1947, and began his priesthood studies. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1951.
After ordination, Father Florian was an instructor in the Department of Mathematics at Saint John's University and a prefect until 1955. By attending summer schools, he received an MS degree in mathematics from Notre Dame University in 1952.
In 1955 Father Florian was appointed treasurer of Saint John's Abbey and University. During his sixteen-year tenure, he oversaw a great flurry of activity: construction of the new Breuer monastery wing, the new Abbey Church, the Liturgical Press building, Saint Thomas Hall, a new preparatory school, Alcuin Library and new Science Building, as well as the student residency buildings of Saints Bernard, Boniface, and Patrick Halls. His tenure was marked by equanimity, steadfastness, and a spirit of genial service, commenting: "Those were very prosperous times. They were good years."
In 1971 Father Florian began a second career in pastoral ministry. He became pastor of St. Mary's parish in Stillwater, Minnesota (1971-1978), then pastor of St. Boniface parish in Hastings (1978-1987). He was the guiding force in successfully merging the two parishes in Hastings-Guardian Angels and St. Boniface-into the new parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. He continued as pastor of this new parish with all its birth pangs and challenges from 1987 to 1995, during which he oversaw the building of the new church and parish offices on a site west of Hastings. "If people worship well together and pray together, they will serve one another," he remarked about the accomplishment.
Father Florian returned for a year to St. Mary's parish in Stillwater (1995-1996), then he became associate pastor of St. Joseph parish in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, and pastor in 1997. In 2000 he was assigned the country parish of St. James in Jacobs Prairie until 2003.
In February of 2003 Father Florian returned to the abbey for his retirement but found time to take care of abbey stipends and some golf until his health would no longer permit it. The ongoing ravages of Alzheimer's disease necessitated his transfer to the Saint Raphael Retirement Center. He continued to attend choir with the monks and concelebrate daily Mass as he was able. Throughout, his spirit remained jovial and serene.
Father Florian died on January 26, 2010, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by his sister, Noreen Carroll, of Dickinson, North Dakota; his aunt, Martinella Muggli, of Cold Spring, Minnesota; his nieces Jane Muggli of Medora, North Dakota, and Mary Ann Haws of Avon, Minnesota; his nephew John Muggli of Waite Park, Minnesota; and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father Florian on January 30, 2010, 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, Florian, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey