Like the stars in the sky, the number of lives touched by Benedictine Father Arnold Weber, 86, are far more than could be counted. He died Feb. 9 at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.
Pam Patnode, a member of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina, where Father Weber served as pastor from 1981 until his retirement in 2003, said her pastor had a “tremendous impact on me personally, as well as my family as a whole.”
“My husband and I were married by Father Arnold, he baptized our five children, and even blessed our home. His spiritual leadership gave us a foundation upon which to begin our family, and a road map to follow as our family grew,” Patnode said. “One of my greatest privileges was working with Father Arnold on the production of his book: ‘Homilies for the Active Christian.’”
Father Weber had “an incredible gift for breaking open the word of God and delivering a message that truly transformed the hearts of all who heard it,” she said.
Doug Cooley, a Holy Name parishioner since 1975 with his wife, Annie, and their children, said there is no adequate way of paying tribute to his long-time pastor.
“Father Arnold taught us how to be a part of and how to build community. He taught us how to worship and have Christ be the center of our lives. He showed us how to prioritize God, spouse, family and work. He showed us how to be generous and to give to those in need,” Cooley said.
The Cooley children were among the many children molded by Father Weber with a sense of values, spirituality and appreciation for life, he said.
“Anyone who has met Father Arnold has had similar experiences and hopefully we will all continue to pay it forward. For our family, that was his legacy; he taught us to want to be a spark plug, an AC, an Active Christian,” Cooley said.
Father Weber was known for injecting his German humor into “phenomenal homilies” that built a faith community centered on the celebration of the Eucharist, Cooley said. “I loved his straight- forward, low-key, down-to-earth delivery; he was a marvelous storyteller and always just fun to be around.”
Cooley said he visited Father Weber several times after he fell and broke his hip in November.
“On one occasion I asked him, ‘What is the one thing in your life you are most proud of?’ and his immediate response was, ‘Building community and the celebration of the Eucharist,’” Cooley said. “I told him that he did that better than anyone I had ever met. He was an amazing priest, pastor, leader, mentor, teacher, shepherd and lifelong friend.”
Parishioner Brenda Coleman said, “Besides the amazing impact he had on all of us at Holy Name, he was involved in many things outside of the parish. That, of course, includes The Catholic Spirit board, serving as president of Benilde-St. Margaret’s [School in St. Louis Park], initiating and fostering the relationship between Holy Name and Ascension parish/school, supporting IOCP (Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners) and supporting Mary Jo Copeland’s ministry at Sharing and Caring Hands.”
Arnold Weber was born in St. Martin. He attended St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville and graduated from St. John’s University in 1948 with a philosophy degree. He entered the novitiate of St. John’s Abbey in 1945, professed vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1946, and was ordained a priest June 7, 1952.
He taught at the prep school and later served as the vocation director for St. John’s Abbey. He was the head of the religion department at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School from 1970 to 1973, when he was appointed pastor of Holy Rosary Church, Detroit Lakes. He served as president of Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School beginning in 1977, until he was named pastor of Holy Name. He retired to St. John’s Abbey in 2003 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
A funeral Mass was to be celebrated Feb. 14 at St. John’s Abbey Church.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at Holy Name of Jesus. People are asked to bring pictures of Father Weber or other mementos to place in the gathering space on that day. Items can be brought back home following the gathering.