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Abbot Brian of Assumption Abbey Grew up in St. Boniface Community

Burke, Allan. "Abbot Brian of Assumption Abbey Grew up in St. Boniface Community." Emmons County Record, 9 June 2005, 2.


Abbot Brian Wangler

Father Abbot Brian Wangler, who grew up in the St. Boniface community, was one of several priests to participate in the church’s Centennial Mass.

Abbot Brian is the son of the late Valentine and Mary (Wald) Weigel, and he attended a country school that was located three miles south of the church.

He graduated from Assumption Abbey High School at Richardson in 1961. "While I was in high school, I spent summers on my family’s farm and helped out my dad," Abbot Brian said.

He said some of his memories of the St. Boniface community included gliding through the snow in a sled to get to church and riding to church in his parent’s car with chains on the wheels because of the mud and snow.

"We had ungraded dirt roads, so sometimes driving across fields was better than trying the roads," Abbot Brian said.

He said after kids reached a certain age, they were allowed to sit "up front" in the church.

"I was very excited when I was old enough to sit up front, but the church seemed so big then that I worried about finding the car after Mass," Abbot Brian said.

He said the kids from the community attended Sister School during the summer, and he remembers the fun of playing games during the breaks. "Most of us walked at least part way home," he said. "Usually, someone driving in our direction would pick us up and give us a ride the rest of the way."

The first two St. Boniface priests Abbot Brian remembers are the late Father Lawrence Widmann and Father John Bacevicius.

"Father Lawrence gave his sermons in German," Abbot Brian said.

"I have the most memories from my childhood of Father John. He had a reputation for driving fast and taking chances. He never worried or was frightened about driving in blizzards and summer storms. He was afraid of nothing. Father John was a lovable priest, a lovable person. It was just his nature to accept people, and you couldn’t help but like him," Abbot Brian recalled.

After graduating from high school, Abbot Brian attended two years of college at Assumption Abbey.

"I got the feeling that I should join the monastery," he said. "It was a feeling that I couldn’t ignore and be at peace. I decided I had to try the religious life to be sure the feeling was real, and I would have felt guilty if I had not tried it."

Having finished two years of college, Abbot Brian entered the monastery on June 23, 1963, as a brother in the Order of St. Benedict. "Every man in the monastery is a monk, which is a way of life," he explained. "I am still a monk but I decided to also become an ordained priest and have the option of being a diocesan priest or being part of the monastery."

He said as a Benedictine monk, he can do "all kinds of things" separate from being a parish priest. The opportunities include such pursuits as teaching, working at the abbey in a variety of roles and performing administrative work.

After completing his novitiate in July of 1964, he attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where he completed his theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 2, 1969, and graduated from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana in 1970. He served as a recruiter for the abbey’s college until it was closed.

From January of 1971 to August of 1972, Father Brian served as a priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Devils Lake. He returned to the abbey as Director of Formations (recruiting new brothers or priests). He was then named Prior (second in command) of Assumption Abbey. He left the abbey from 1975-78 to earn a Master’s of Art Degree in Catholic Spirituality from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. He returned to the abbey as Director of Formations before serving as pastor of St. Mary’s Church at Richardton from 1978-83.

On May 28, 2004, Father Brian was elected Abbot of Assumption Abbey by the abbey’s monks in final vows. As Abbot, he is the administrator of the abbey.

"My desk is where the buck stops," he joked.

Abbot Brian said he is responsible for the "overall spiritual well-being" of the abbey’s membership and of the community as a whole. "I help make sure all of us at the abbey are living the way we should and that we are periodically evaluating our lives," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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