Fr. David Bellinghausen, OSB, (1939-2013) was last Benedictine to pastor Sacred Heart in Muenster

Jenera Kocks Burgess


January 22, 2014

Photo courtesy of Subiaco Abbey

Father David Bellinghausen, OSB, age 74, a monk of Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas and the last Benedictine priest to serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Muenster, died Dec. 31, 2013.

“He was a kind-hearted person, and he cared about his parishioners, that’s for sure,” said Werner Becker, who, along with his wife Linda,  are longtime members of Sacred Heart.

Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. David was celebrated Jan. 4 at St. Benedict Church at Subiaco. He was interred in the Abbey Cemetery.

Fr. David was born Gerald Raymond Bellinghausen on Aug. 31, 1939, to Hubert and Rosa (Duesterhaus) Bellinghausen in Rhineland, where he was the ninth of 10 children. He attended St. Joseph Parochial School under the direction of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, and Rhineland High School, where he graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1957, according to an obituary written by Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, of Subiaco Abbey. He attended North Texas State University in Denton for a year before going to Subiaco as a candidate for the Benedictines on Jan. 17, 1960.

Jerry Bellinghausen professed his vows as a monk on Aug. 15, 1961, receiving the name David. For nearly two decades Brother David worked primarily as a linotype operator, printer, and manager of the Abbey’s print shop until it closed in 1981. He was also a Christian doctrine instructor at nearby Scranton, Arkansas, and worked on Search programs, Marriage Encounters, and in various retreat programs.

Br. David studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary College near Covington, Louisiana, and Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and philosophy in 1983, he entered the Pontifical College Beda in Rome, while living at Collegio Sant’ Anselmo, the international Benedictine center in Rome. Br. David had the unique privilege of serving as deacon of the Lenten Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1986, at Santa Sabina Church in Rome, receiving the blessed ashes from the hands of the Holy Father, Abbot Kodell wrote in the obituary. After completing his theological studies in June 1986, Br. David returned to Subiaco, where, on the Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1, 1986, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Andrew J. McDonald of Little Rock.

Phyllis Barker of Fort Worth, Fr. David’s youngest sister, said that she and her family felt it was a blessing that her brother became a priest.

“My mother and daddy couldn’t have wanted for a better thing,” she said.

As a priest, he served on Subiaco Academy’s faculty from his ordination to 1989, and as pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Clarkesville, Arkansas, and its mission, Sacred Heart Church in Hartman from 1989-1994. In 1994, he was sent to Texas where he was made pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Muenster, at the time the largest parish staffed by Subiaco Abbey’s Benedictines.

Several Sacred Heart parishioners said that Fr. David became their friend as well as their pastor during the time he was at Muenster. Even after returning to Subiaco in 1997, the priest continued to visit his former parishioners when he came to Texas to visit his siblings during his vacations.

“Several of the people (in Muenster) were talking, and all of us couldn’t believe how lucky we were that Fr. (David) wanted to be our friend,” said Betty Miller, longtime Sacred Heart parishioner. “One of the men at the funeral said he couldn’t believe how many times that was said — that everyone felt so lucky that Father wanted to be their friend. We sure enjoyed him,” Miller said.

Fifteen Sacred Heart parishioners traveled to Arkansas to attend Fr. David’s funeral, including Miller and her husband Robert, she said. Miller recalled one Fourth of July, Fr. David called her to see what she and Robert were doing. She told him that they had just picked 200 ears of corn so they would be spending the morning shucking the corn and putting it away for future use. “‘I can be there by 10 a.m. to help,’ he told me. Then he helped us for a couple of hours putting away the corn,” Miller said.

Many parishioners remembered their former pastor visiting them at home. Lifelong Sacred Heart parishioner Joan Hartman recalled how Fr. David would visit her and her husband Alvin on the farm on some evenings.

“We took him to the farm many, many evenings, and we’d take a lunch out there or sit out there and just visit in the evenings,” she said. “It was kind of his relaxation time. And he really, really enjoyed that.”

Fr. David was Sacred Heart’s last Benedictine pastor before the parish was returned the pastoral care of the diocese in 1997. The Benedictines of Subiaco had served the parish for 104 years. Barbara Rohmer, who has been the director of religious education at Sacred Heart for 27 years, said she worked with many of the Benedictine priests who served at Sacred Heart, including Fr. David.

“He was wonderful to work with, very approachable, outgoing and fun,” she said.

When he returned to Subiaco, Fr. David was appointed prior of the monastery by Abbot Kodell. Serving in this capacity for 15 years, he also assisted with the abbey’s Black Angus cattle farm. In August 2012, he was appointed pastor of St. Mary Church in Altus, Arkansas, where he served until his death.

His sister Catherine Pavlicer of Colleyville said that Fr. David really enjoyed people and parish life and wanted to be in a parish again after serving as prior of the monastery.

“He loved every minute of it. He loved the people and the people loved him,” Pavlicer said about the parish in Altus.

Fr. Bellinghausen is survived by his two sisters, Catherine Pavlicer and Phyllis Barker, and three brothers, Urban of Munday, Alvin of Amarillo, and Charles of Justin. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Ilene Redder, and brothers, Wilfred, Herbert, and William “Bill” Bellinghausen.

Memorials may be made in Fr. David Bellinghausen’s name for Subiaco’s ongoing Monk Education Campaign and sent to Subiaco Abbey, 405 N. Subiaco Ave., Subiaco, AR 72865.

Father David Bellinghausen, OSB, age 74, a monk of Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas and the last Benedictine priest to serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Muenster, died Dec. 31, 2013.

Published (until 12/12/2031)