Date of death: July 19, 2021
Saint Meinrad Class: O 1956
Father Bernard Schaefer, OSB, 90, a Benedictine monk of Marmion Abbey, here, died Monday, July 19, 2021.
Father Bernard was born in Aurora on Jan. 13, 1931, the son of Jacob and Anna (Weigel). He was baptized with the name of John at St. Joseph Parish in Aurora.
He attended Marmion Military Academy for one year and then attended St. Meinrad Seminary, graduating in 1950, having completed the seminary’s high school and two-year philosophy programs.
In 1950 he entered the newly established Marmion Abbey in Aurora and professed his first vows on Aug. 6, 1951, and took the name of Bernard.
After studies at St. Procopius Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1956. In the following years he earned a master of education degree and a master of arts degree in counseling.
In his early years after ordination, Father Bernard taught Latin and religion at Marmion Military Academy.
During these years he was also heavily involved with the academy’s annual Fall Festival fundraiser.
In 1969, Father Bernard began to serve our nation as an Army chaplain. During his first overseas tour of duty in 1971, he served in Vietnam.
Between 1972 and 1976 there was a break in his active military service. He studied for a brief time at Bellarmine School of Theology in Chicago.
Beginning in August of 1972, he served in parochial ministry as an associate pastor at three parishes in southern California: St. Nicholas, Our Lady Queen of Angels and Our Lady of Grace parishes.
During this period, Father Bernard survived a serious car accident. It was after this incident that he achieved sobriety, having suffered from alcoholism for many years. He became deeply involved with Alcoholics Anonymous as well as with the Catholic charismatic renewal movement.
In 1976 he re-entered the Armed Forces to serve as an Army chaplain. In addition to serving in Vietnam, he served in Korea, in Kuwait in operation Desert Storm (1990-91), as well as serving tours of duty in Germany, Alaska and Turkey and at various Army bases in the continental United States.
During his Army years, he was always faithful to keep in frequent contact with his monastic community and family by sending post cards from the many religious sites he visited. He served our nation as an Army chaplain for 23 years.
Father Bernard retired from military service in 1995 and returned to take up residence at Marmion Abbey.
He devoted himself to sharing in the work of Marmion Abbey and Marmion Academy as well as serving the Catholic Church of the Fox River Valley area in parochial assistance work.
From 1996 to 2003 he served Marmion Academy as the faculty and staff chaplain. One of his special ministries was aiding people battling alcoholism.
He was a popular retreat master for groups of recovering alcoholics, serving as spiritual director at many retreats. He was active in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Father Bernard was also active in bereavement ministry, often celebrating funerals and officiating at wake services in local parishes and funeral homes.
Father Bernard loved bicycling and fishing. He would often be seen riding his bicycle, dressed in his colorful “bicyclist attire.”
After his annual fishing trips with his brother to Alaska and Wisconsin, he would return with coolers full of fish, which he would share with his monastic brothers.
In his final few years of declining health, Father Bernard was less active due to his physical limitations. Yet, he remained faithful as much as possible to daily prayer and to the abbey’s community life.
One of eight siblings, he is survived by members of his monastic family; his brother Raymond; his sisters Regina Esser and Anne Deutsch; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and by his siblings Albert, Katharine, Frederick, Barbara, Dolores, and Mary Ann.
Father Bernard’s body was received by his monastic brothers and family on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at Marmion Abbey’s Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury. Visitation was in the Abbey Church on Thursday, July 22, and on Friday, July 23, 2021.
The funeral Mass was Friday, July 23, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. Burial followed in the Marmion Abbey Cemetery.