Father Gruenes remembered for devotion to his vocations

Categories: Around the Diocese

The Visitor

Among Father Bernie Gruenes’ qualities were “a simple way of turning things in life back to faith in God,” said Father Aaron Nett. “I was certainly moved by Father Bernie’s joy and positive attitude about life.”

GruenesFather Bernard Gruenes, 81, a priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud, died April 16 at his apartment at Country Manor in Sartell. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated April 21 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, with Bishop Donald Kettler presiding. Burial was in Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud.

Father Nett also admired Father Gruenes’ lightness of heart and bright smile. “There is no doubt he shared my grandmother Kate’s smile.”

They were first cousins once removed — Father Gruenes’ mother and Father Nett’s grandmother were sisters. Father Nett is the parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Augustine Parish and Christ Church Newman Center, all in St. Cloud.

Devoted to his vocations

Father Gruenes was pleased to have a cousin interested in the priesthood, said Father Nett, who spent three weeks with Father Gruenes at the parishes of St. Michael in St. Cloud and St. Joseph in Waite Park while still in the seminary.

“I was able to see the man in action and his level of devotion to whatever he had been called to throughout his life,” Father Nett said. “I knew he loved his vocation to married life and family by the way he spoke of it and the stories he shared. However, I also observed firsthand how much he loved his priesthood, and this was very inspiring to me on its own.

“St. John Paul II stated very simply that ‘a priest is a man for others,’ ” Father Nett recalled. “Father Bernie was … a man of respect, gentleness and encouragement to those he encountered. I believe he brought Christ to others in this way and that was his aim.”

Father Gruenes was born Dec. 11, 1933, in Eden Valley, the son of Anton and Anna (Kalthoff) Gruenes. He attended Assumption Grade School, Eden Valley; Eden Valley High School, Eden Valley; St. Cloud State University; and Wisconsin School of Banking, Madison, Wis.

He married Catherine Stang Aug. 28, 1956. They raised their family in Watkins and St. Cloud. He had a career in banking for nearly 40 years and was known for his many leadership roles and generosity to church, civic and community organizations. He was a charter member and founding trustee of St. Michael Parish.

After the death of his wife in 1992, he began his seminary training to prepare for the priesthood. Father Gruenes was ordained by Bishop John Kinney at St. Michael Church Dec. 18, 1998, and he celebrated his first Mass there the following day.

Life of joy

Father Gruenes served the following pastoral assignments in the Diocese of St. Cloud: parochial administrator, Ave Maria, Wheaton, and St. Peter, Dumont, January 1999 to July 1999; pastor, St. Joseph, Grey Eagle, and St. John the Baptist, Swanville, 1999 to 2002; St. Michael, St. Cloud, 2002 to 2010; and St. Joseph, Waite Park, 2007 to 2010. He retired Sept. 1, 2010.

In addition, Father Gruenes also served as a dean of the Melrose Deanery, member of the College of Consultors, vicar for permanent deacons, member of the Diocesan Review Board, member of the Priest’s Pension Board, and chaplain of the Serra Club of St. Cloud.

Father Gruenes is survived by his children, David (Mary) of St. Cloud, Donald (Elizabeth Perrier) of Watkins, Mary Gruenes of Sartell, and Diane Sakach (Mike) of Glen Ellyn, Ill.; grandchildren, Meghan Ericson (Kevin), Jennifer Roy (David), Carolyn, Adrienne, Meredith, Elena and Julia; great-grandchild, Prestyn; brothers, Peter Gruenes (Grace) of Eden Valley; Al Gruenes (Rose) of Colon, Neb., Joseph Gruenes (Anna Mae) of Eden Valley, Anton Gruenes (Mary) of Spring Hill, and John Gruenes (Mary) of Watkins; and sisters, Theresa Stang (Arnie) of Richmond and Marge Gruenes of St. Cloud.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Catherine; two sons, Steven and Robert; and grandson Jordan Karasch.

“Life, in one sense, continually tests our ability to remain hopeful in the midst of adversity,” Father Nett said. “I believe Father Bernie’s joy came from having to search for hope in times of tragedy. He lost his father as a teenager; he lost two sons; his wife from cancer; a dear grandson at an early age; and then finally lost a large part of his ability to minister as a priest. Father Bernie’s lightness of heart and smile were fruits of hope.”