The Apostle of North Alabama
Past Pastors: Fr. Osmund Wiesneth, OSB (1919-1922)
Published on April 26-27, 2014 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
The Rev. Osmund Wiesneth, OSB, was born on May 9, 1874 in Kornhöfstadt, Scheinfeld, Bavaria, Germany, and received the name Erhard at his baptism. He immigrated to the United States as a teenager and studied at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In 1892 he went to the Cluny Priory in Wetaug, Illinois, but left before the closure of that ill-fated foundation of Saint Vincent Archabbey. The monks from Cluny Priory later founded the oldest Benedictine monastery in Canada, Saint Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan.
Erhard Wiesneth professed his vows as a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB) on October 28, 1894 at the newly established Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, and took the name Osmund in religion. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 18, 1898 by the Right Rev. Edward P. Allen (1853-1926), the fifth Bishop of Mobile (1897-1926).
The Right Rev. Benedict Menges, OSB (1840-1904), the first abbot of Saint Bernard’s (1891-1904), sent the young priest to study at the Apostolic Mission House at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Upon his return to Alabama, Fr. Osmund traveled trails on horseback and preached from steps of courthouses for four years. He was said to have preached eighty missions and delivered 856 sermons, earning him the title, the “Apostle of North Alabama.”
Abbot Benedict’s nephew and successor, the Right Rev. Bernard Menges, OSB (1866-1933), called him from his missionary work and sent him in 1908 to be the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville. There he established the Altar Society and the Holy Name Society. He also served a station in Hustonville in Lincoln County from 1908 to 1910 and another one in Parksville in Boyle County from 1911 to 1915. His confrere, the Rev. Leo Mayer, OSB (1873-1946), was appointed the pastor of Saint Sylvester Church in Ottenheim in 1909 and assumed responsibility for the two missions in Boyle County, Saint Patrick in Junction City and Saint Francis of Assisi in New Austria. Fr. Osmund had been the pastor at Danville for eleven years when he took over the pastoral care of the two Churches in Mercer County, Saint Andrew in Harrodsburg and Saint Nicholas in Rose Hill, in 1919.
Abbot Bernard, OSB, recalled him to the Abbey in 1922 to serve as the prior. He served as the second in command at the monastery until he was replaced by the Rev. Boniface Seng, OSB (1867-1957) who would later be elected the fourth abbot of Saint Bernard’s (1939-1952). Fr. Osmund returned to parish work in the summer of 1927 and ministered as pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Sheffield, Alabama, for the next 23 years. In Sheffield he became known for his hospitality, regaling visitors with tales of his early missionary work, his violin virtuosity, and his home brew. The infirmities of old age forced his retirement from Saint Joseph’s in 1950. He then returned to Saint Bernard’s to serve as a confessor to his confreres.
In 1959 Saint Joseph Church in Sheffield was merged with the Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Tuscumbia to form the present parish of Our Lady of the Shoals in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
Fr. Osmund, OSB, died at the age of seventy-seven on November 16, 1951 at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. After a Requiem Mass was celebrated for him at Saint Bernard’s, he was laid to rest in the abbey cemetery.