Editor’s note – Lifelong Vincennes resident Bernie Niehaus is an alumnus of St. Meinrad Seminary and Chairman of the Board of the Niehaus Companies. He has published a collection of columns he wrote for the Niehaus Companies newsletter over the years, and many of them relate to his Catholic faith and our Church in Southwest Indiana. From time to time, The Message will publish excerpts from the book. His original columns, the book and this column carry the same name – “Splinters.” The following column was originally published in October 2003.
I spent three years at Saint Meinrad, from 1951–1954. These were the most formative years of my life. The “Holy Hill,” as most alumni call Saint Meinrad, had a tremendous impact on all who went there.
We got up with the bell in the morning at 5:25 with morning prayers and mass at 6. We closed the day with Night Silence, Study Hall, and Evening Prayer. This instilled in me a discipline that helped me through college, the Army and rest of my life.
The many rules of Saint Meinrad were enforced by Disciplinarians. The two I remember the most were Father Amelian and Father Gerard. They each carried little black books in which they kept track of our misbehavior. Father Gerard and I got along great—maybe because my middle name was Gerard.
They certainly kept us busy on the “Holy Hill.” We went to classes Monday through Saturday, and had Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off. Father Dunstan, a beloved, jovial monk, was our athletic director, and he led us in all the intramural sports. Also, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we could sign up to work in the garden, make rosaries with Father Patrick or work at the Abbey Press. Since I hated gardening work, I chose the Abbey Press and making rosaries. These were fun times keeping busy working for the Lord.
All of our classes were taught by priests. My favorites were Father Pamarus for history, Father Richard for biology, Father Kevin for physics and Father Marion for Latin. These were college-level courses being taught in high school, as I found out when I got to college and was way ahead of the other students.
One of my most proud achievements at Saint Meinrad was making the Chancel Choir—more than 100 male voices. We sang for all the big celebrations in the Abbey Church; and on one occasion, we gave a concert in Louisville for the highlight of the year. I owe Saint Meinrad a lot, for it was the best thing that happened to me.
Bernie Niehaus is a lifelong resident of Vincennes. “Splinters” features excerpts from his book of the same name.