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Father Brian is Elected as Abbot at Assumption Abbey, Richardton

"Father Brian is Elected as Abbot at Assumption Abbey, Richardton." Emmons County Record, 10 June 2004, 3.


Father Brian Wangler

The church bells of Assumption Abbey at Richardton rang out a special peal of joy on Friday morning, May 28, as the monks announced their election of Fr. Brian Wangler as the eighth abbot of the 111-year-old monastery.

He had spent the past 21 years as Pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Richardton.

Henry Wangler was born October 19, 1943, to Valentine and Mary Wangler, who farmed near Kintyre. The farm is just a mile inside Logan County. Henry spent most of his secondary school years (1958-1963) in the Abbey schools, before entering the novitiate as Fr. Brian. He made monastic vows the next year.

In his preparation for priestly ordination (1969), Fr. Brian earned degrees in philosophy (BA: St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn.) and theology (Master's of Divinity: St. Meinrad School of Theology, Indiana).

Upon his return to North Dakota, Fr. Brian worked as a college recruiter, a parish priest and within the Abbey as Prior and Novice/Master.

During the years 1975-1978, he studied Catholic Spirituality at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pa., where he was awarded an MA Degree. This prepared him for further work in training the new monks of the monastery at Richardton.

In the summer of 1983, Fr. Brian was named Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Richardton. The past few years found Fr. Brian involved in the renovation of the historic St. Mary’s/Abbey church. He was deeply engaged in the planning and the fund-raising necessary for this monumental undertaking. He also moved the parish offices to the former school building and arranged for the demolition of the 1919 school building.

Assumption Abbey is a Richardton landmark

During his long tenure in this position, his ministry was expanded to include St. Stephen’s Church, rural Richardton, and St. Thomas Church, Gladstone. Although Fr. Brian believes in Catholic education and enjoyed his work with the young people of Richardton, St. Mary’s was forced to close its school in 1998.

The new abbot is now in charge of some 60 monks who make up the roster of Assumption.

As the head of a large, complex organization, Abbot Brian will be called on to exercise his administrative skills, and to oversee the variety of works carried on by the monks. But he is primarily seen as a pastor and father to each member of the community, and he is believed to symbolize Christ in a special way for them.

Since he has lived at the Abbey for many years and been active in its internal affairs, some aspects of the abbot’s ministry are familiar to him. But he and the monks know that important changes in rural society and church will require them to meet new challenges in the years to come.

Kintyre farm

Fr. Brian grew up on a farm near Kintyre. His brother and wife, Frank and Florence Wangler, now live on the family farm. Valentine and Mary Wangler raised their 11 children on the farm, and they were active in the St. Boniface Parish. Mary now lives in St. Vincent’s Care Center in Bismarck, and Valentine is deceased.

Valentine and Mary's children, in order of birth, include: Tony of Wishek, Mark of Wishek, Frank of Kintyre, Elsie Weninger of Minneapolis, Minn., Fr. Brian, Al of Bismarck, Ann (Mrs. Allyn) Wald of
Bismarck, Julius of Grafton, Val of Bismarck, Dr. Jim of Linton and Steve of Bismarck. This picture of the Wangler family was taken several years ago. In the back row are Val, Valentine (father), Al, Julius, Fr. Brian and Tony; middle row, Mark, Mary (mother), Dr. James and Frank, and front row, Ann Wald, Steve and Elsie Weninger

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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