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Boniface Wimmer was a Benedictine priest from the Bavarian Abbey of Metten who came to America in 1846 to establish the Oder of Saint Benedict in the New World, to evangelize the immigrants, and to preserve and strengthen their Catholic faith by providing them with pastoral care and formal education.

The late John Tracy Ellis, dean of American Catholic historians in his day, called Wimmer the greatest Catholic missionary of nineteenth-century America. In his own lifetime Wimmer was widely esteemed both by the American hierarchy for his distinguished pastoral work and by European ecclesiastical and monastic leaders for the crucial role he played in the nineteenth-century revival and development of Benedictine monasticism. Though his work may not have brought him to center stage in the American Catholic Church, he was nonetheless one of the key supporting actors.

Numbers never tell the full story, but it is interesting to note that by 1880, only 34 years after Wimmer and his eighteen companions arrived in Pennsylvania, nearly 900 Benedictine monks and nuns were working and praying in 60 monasteries in the United States. These monastics served 138 parishes where they provided pastoral care for 44,000 souls, operated three major seminaries, six colleges, and 63 elementary schools, and educated an estimated 7,000 students. 

By 1880, Benedictine monks and nuns served in 21 American dioceses and vicariates apostolic (out of a total of 70), located in 20 states and territories of the Union. Most of the Benedictine monks and nuns who carried out this work of pastoral care, evangelization, and education in nineteenth-century America regarded Boniface Wimmer as their founder, their leader, and their inspiration.

In the present-day, American Benedictines who trace their roots back to Wimmer serve in more than 20 American states, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Colombia, Brazil, Taiwan, and Japan.

—Taken from Jerome Oetgen, Letters of An American Abbot


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