Monday, December 12, 2011

Guests from Germany visit St. Bernard

Iwer Rosenboom and Wanda Rosenboom of Zweibrucken, Germany, visited St. Bernard during their vacation in the United States this past autumn. Wanda is the grand-niece of Fr. Benedict Oberdoerfer, O.S.B., and Br. Osmund Oberdoerfer, O.S.B., who were monks at St. Bernard in the early 1900s.

“My mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Oberdoerfer, was the niece of Br. Osmund and Fr. Benedict,” said Mrs. Rosenboom. “All my life I have heard stories of my great-uncles who came to America and entered a monastery in Alabama. I wanted to come and see the place and visit their graves. I have taken pictures of their grave markers and the beautiful buildings at St. Bernard to show my family when we return home.”

“There were five children in the Oberdoerfer family,” she continued. “Fr. Benedict and Br. Osmund left home and came to America and entered the Benedictine Order in Alabama. One of the great-aunts became a nun. That was Sr. Anna Oberdoerfer who stayed in Germany. She was a school teacher and was killed during the Second World War in April 1945.”

Fr. Benedict and Br. Osmund were among the monks who originally came to St. Bernard to serve the needs of the many German speaking Catholic families who settled in north Alabama in the late 1800s. Fr. Benedict arrived at St. Bernard in 1894 and his brother arrived in 1897.

Fr. Benedict spent most of his years in the classroom. He taught Latin, Greek, mathematics and chemistry. He studied at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame University where he received his Master’s degree. He was best known as a professor of chemistry, a subject he taught until two years prior to this death in 1951.

Br. Osmund, a favorite of the students, was an assistant in the dining facilities. Working in the bakery for over 30 years, he was remembered by many early alumni as the monk who brought fresh-made rolls and bread to the kitchen. He was 60 years old at the time of this death in 1940.

The Rosenbooms brought with them documents and pictures that had been kept by the Oberdoerfer family. One document showed that a memorial Mass had been offered in memory of the two monks after their deaths. They also carried with them a photograph that had been taken when Br. Osmund and Fr. Benedict had returned to Germany for a family visit.

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