The First Pastor to Die in Office
Past Pastors: Fr. Sebastian Siemer, OSB (1922-1934)
Published on May 3-4, 2014 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
After Fr. Osmund Wiesneth, OSB (1874-1951), was called back to Saint Bernard’s to serve as prior, Fr. Sebastian Siemer, OSB, was sent to take over as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville and its two missions in Mercer County, Saint Andrew Church in Harrodsburg and Saint Nicholas Church in Rose Hill. The 1908-1961 liber baptismorum (baptismal register) reveals that he received regular assistance from his confrere, the Rev. Augustine Palm, OSB (1875-1961), who served as pastor of Saint Sylvester Church in Ottenheim and its missions in Boyle County, Saint Patrick Church in Junction City and Saint Francis of Assisi Church in New Austria, from 1922 to 1936. The abbey later sent monks to assist Fr. Sebastian at Saints Peter and Paul and these were charged with the pastoral care of the two missions in Mercer County. He directed at least three such associates: the Rev. Matthew Newman, OSB (1895-1929), who served from 1927 to 1928; the Rev. Norbert Russwurm, OSB (1891-1963), who served from 1928 to 1932; and the Rev. Clarence Meyer, OSB (1899-1987), who served from 1932 until he was appointed the pastor of the two missions in 1934.
The Rev. Sebastian Siemer, OSB, was born on September 8, 1876 in Covington, Kentucky, and received the name Bernard at his baptism. He was the youngest of the five children of Katherine Borges (1837-1915) and Henry Siemer (1824-1885), immigrants from Oldenburg, Niedersachsen, Germany. His siblings were Anna Mary (1863-1942), Frank C. (1868-1925), John (1870-1930), and Josephina (1873-?).
Bernard Siemer went to study at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, before he professed his vows as a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB) on January 20, 1902 at Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, and took the name Sebastian in religion. He taught at Saint Bernard High School while he was studying philosophy and theology in the seminary and also served as prefect of Saint Mary’s Hall for a number of years. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 21, 1906 by the Right Rev. Edward P. Allen (1853-1926), the fifth Bishop of Mobile (1897-1926).
The Right Rev. Bernard Menges, OSB (1866-1933), the second abbot of Saint Bernard’s (1904-1933), sent Fr. Sebastian in 1907 to study at the Apostolic Mission House at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Upon his return to the abbey, he conducted a number of retreats before he was appointed pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Sheffield, Alabama. He served at Saint Joseph’s for thirteen years, from 1909 to 1922, before he was sent to his last assignment as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville, Kentucky.
Fr. Sebastian, OSB, died suddenly in Danville, Kentucky, at 3:15 PM on April 16, 1936, the Friday in the Octave of Easter. He was sixty years old. The Right Rev. John A. Floersh (1886-1968), the Bishop (later the Archbishop) of Louisville (1924-1967), presided over his funeral at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville on April 19. His remains were then brought back to Saint Bernard’s and were buried in the abbey cemetery.